“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– Viktor Frankl
This has been one of my favorite quotes lately. Between the principle taught in Quote #54 and the idea behind today’s quote, I think you’ve got a pretty good recipe for success.
We live in a very reactive culture. Our government reacts to things. Our parent style is becoming (as a society) more and more reactive. People take a reactive stance with relationships. Rarely do people go with the long, hard path through growth and personal improvement. Instead they react to things and live trapped in whatever moment is being presented to them. It’s like living life in the passenger seat.
I think everyone has experienced the space between stimulus and response. I still remember some of my earliest encounters with it.
When I was young my brother and I got on each other’s nerves a lot. We would often antagonize the other until he did something that would get him in trouble. I still remember one of the first times I decided I didn’t have to react in the way my brother intended me to. For a moment I was in control of what would come next. I felt the urge of the reaction setting in, but I made a choice instead of letting the reaction happen. I was free.
Surely most people have had an experience or two like mine. Yet we seem to forget that the choice is there. How often do we hear “I didn’t have a choice,” or , “I don’t know, I just reacted,” along with the telling of a story that didn’t go as well as it could have?
Of course, there are situations where reactions cannot be avoided. It is in those situations that preparedness and training become important. In an emergency it can be important to simply react, and as long as you have prepared yourself and received the proper training you can be sure that your reaction can save lives. But without preparing yourself first, an emergency could lead you to react in a way that could get you or other people killed. Fight, flight, or freeze. Those are the natural reactions of a human being in the face of intense stress, danger, or fright. But if you’ve trained for it the training can become instinctual.
Even outside of emergency response a little mental preparation can go a long way. Instead of waiting for your child to do something that shocks you and takes you by surprise, spend a little time preparing yourself for the worst. If you aren’t shocked you don’t have to react. If you choose your response you can prevent making a situation worse.
Regardless of the situation, a controlled response is always better than a knee-jerk reaction. Even with training, a clear mind and calm demeanor go a lot further than an unplanned reaction.