Between stimulus and response there is a space
"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."
-Victor E. Frankl or Stephen Covey (the attribution is debated and could be neither!)
Someone says something to you. You suddenly squeak, clam or miss a shift in performance. You might see a negative news report. A driver cuts you off.
It's may or may not be a big space, but between the stimulus and your reaction, there is a lot of possibilities. It's a magic place where you can choose different paths. What's the "right" response? What will you make of it?
Will you yell, press send or be hurtful? Will you react and then regret it immediately?
Will you breathe and count to ten? Will you recalibrate? Will you choose peace and growth?
Often the person you hurt is yourself, by limiting your capacity to see clearly. Here are guidelines to help when you find yourself in this "gap" between self and world. And how you can 1. widen that space and 2. choose freedom.
- Use your imagination for good. (We wrote about that here)! Our minds tend to exaggerate and skew to the negative. "The conductor looked at me funny. I must suck", or "My friend hasn't texted me back. I must have made her mad."
- Resist the temptation to see yourself as unfairly treated. Is your first reaction to lay blame on the outside world? "I didn't get a cue!" or "I didn't get as many chances".
- Think about the meaning of your reactions. What deeper insight can you find about yourself? "Ugh, I'm always falling short" or "I'm just not ______ enough".
- Imagine a better response. Could you create a calm solution-oriented approach? "I made a mistake, but played the passage with heart and character. Next time I will use a different fingering there."
- Cultivate compassion. Know that you may need to cultivate the skills to be a better "observer" and that stopping to create this space is a powerful act of becoming the person you aspire to be.
- Know what's in your control and what's not!
- Try meditation. Focus on your breath, hear the sounds around you. Stay in the moment and gently bring yourself back to the present when distracted by thoughts.
So the next time you're triggered by outside events, a thought or a stimulus, pause, allow space, and choose your path intentionally!