“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
Have you ever thought about the way in which you tend to respond to the stimuli from the world around you, that is, the things people say, the way they look at you, the circumstances you encounter? Do you respond predictably, as if automatically? Do certain people or circumstances “push your buttons” the same way every time you run into them? If so, then you might be trapping yourself unexpectedly in a prison of your own making.
The world around you is constantly changing. No two circumstances are ever alike. Similarly, no person you meet is ever the same as they were the last time you encountered him. Admittedly, people do tend to act predictably for various reasons, but you cannot say without absolute certainly that you can predict with 100% accuracy how someone is going to act or how circumstances are going to unfold.
Think about this relative to someone else considering you: is there any chance that you might act differently than expected, that your perspective might have changed since you last met, or that you might see things differently now than you did in the past? Of course there is, so why not accord others the same possibility, especially those you are closest to, be they your best friends or your worst enemies?
Knee-jerk reactions stifle your creativity and stunt your growth. It doesn’t matter if you are good at reading people or if you feel like you think you know everything about what is going to happen, reacting automatically without measuring your response will likely further restrict your freedom and limit the possibilities for a positive outcome.
Realizing this and understanding that you, like most people, would probably enjoy more freedom were it available to you, it makes sense that you would do everything in your power to optimize your responses to the world around you. The first step in doing this is taking all the time available to you (which is often more than you might imagine is available) to consider your response to a particular stimulus. Don’t rush to judgment or jump to conclusion when the events of the future cast their shadows on the present moment. Instead, observe, consider, and ask yourself this simple question: “How can I enrich this person or this circumstance”, before you respond.
If you give away the power to choose how you will respond, you give away the power to influence. Rather than acting, you will be acted upon. It is for this reason that so many people feel victimized by others or by their circumstances. While it may appear that another person or your field of circumstance or both are imprisoning you, you are only confined if you refuse to choose your response.
Choose your response. Choose which feelings you will back with the full faith and credit of your mind. Choose your words. Choose your actions.
For goodness’ sake, choose!