Response

brett-jordan-POMpXtcVYHo-unsplash.jpg“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!

 

 

The Last of the Human Freedoms

man standing in the middle of woods

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

No matter what you are facing, remember this one thing: everything can be taken from you ― your family, your friends, your home, your possessions, your reputation, etc. ― but you still have the remarkable, powerful , transformative, and most of all, inalienable privilege: to choose your attitude. It may not sound like much, but this freedom, the liberty to choose the way in which you will respond or radiate into the world around you, is the most potent and indelible of all your outer capacities.

When all seems lost, when the feeling of emptiness and impotence consume you and seem larger than your ability to overcome the dark, cold void, you can and must let go of the fear for just long enough to admit to yourself that you still have the choice as to how to respond. In this split second, the potent, transfigurative power of love, light, and life will flouresce from within outward. Through this aperture you will maintain your alignment with righteousness and as a consequence, your self-respect.

You need not relinquish your dignity, your honor, and your self-awareness when the chips are down or when the pressure is on you. If you refuse to break down and give in to whatever addictions have tended to control you, if you resist the impulse to go on the attack, and if you spurn the temptation to retreat into the shadows in these critical moments and deliberately choose instead to let love radiate without concern for results, your dignity will remain in tact, regardless of what others may think of you or how things may appear on the surface.

Now this may sound like a tall order, but it really isn’t much more than coming to terms with the reality of the enormity of your being. Remember this: an ounce of reality, of the real and unadulterated, unapologetic, uncompromising you weighs more than all the tons of bullshit (yours or anothers) in the world. Exercising the power to choose how you will respond is what allows miracles to happen, the so-called “light” to “shine.” It’s effect, and the feeling of connection to the very heart of reality that it engenders is unequivocal, deeply comforting, and life changing.

If you don’t trust me, try it for yourself. What do you have to lose?

 

Enrich the Present

You can live to avenge the past, or you can live to enrich the present.” – Edith Eva Eger

On the suggestion of Ryan Holiday, I’m reading Dr. Edith Eva Eger’s The Choice: Embrace the Possible at the moment. It is a remarkable piece of literature and a must-read in conjunction with Viktor Frankl’s Man‘s Search of Meaning. These books detail the depths of human depravity and the triumph of the human spirit, and both provide starting points for overcoming the worst things that life may bring to your doorstep.

What stands out to me this evening is the notion of personal agency. No matter what you might be facing, how you live your life is truly up to you. The decisions you make must of course take into account the people and circumstances at hand, but they need not ever be dictated by externalities.

If you are facing a difficult circumstance, a frustrating person, or a painful memory, rather than fretting, take a moment to ask yourself “How can I enrich this person, place, or thing, here and now? Rather than avenging the ills you perceive, use that energy to build, to thrive.

You are Enough

“To be passive is to let others decide for you. To be aggressive is to decide for others. To be assertive is to decide for yourself. And to trust that there is enough, that you are enough.” – Edith Eva Eger

You will undoubtedly have to face a certain measure of trial and tribulation today. You will meet the unexpected and possibly face the undesirable. No matter how much you plan, hope, or pray, this day will not go completely as you wish it would.

Much of what you encounter will be beyond your control, but make no mistake: you have the clear opportunity – regardless of your particular circumstances – to relax into the assurance of the nobility of your bearing and the strength of your being.

You are enough!

Give us a king to lead us!

“The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness…. This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.”

Plato, The Republic

Our great experiment in democracy need not end in a monarchy, but it will if we are not careful during these times of contention, faction, and tumult.

The Art Of Virtue (Exercise Book)

Yesterday I promised myself that I would prepare an exercise book in the manner described by Benjamin Franklin. He conceived this as a means of developing in himself the habitude of virtue.

In a time where we as a nation and a world are being divided, where brother is being pitted against brother, and where insult, accusation, and blame are the first responders to real and even contrived (aka “fake”) circumstances, I feel strongly that we must unite in the resuscitation and consolidation of individual and collective virtue.

Here it is!

Week one is ready to begin on Sunday, and I’m so excited to share it with you.

Join me?

Virtuosity

Does virtue in others inspire you? Are you desirous of acquiring the habitude of virtue? Do you like working with others to mutual improvement? If so, I’d like to invite you to join me in a 13 week exercise contrived by Benjamin Franklin nearly 300 years ago. It’s quite simple, really, and I’d love to work with you on it.

Here’s how it works. We will work with a list of 13 virtues and spend one week focusing on the mastery of each one. I will distribute a table for you to print and use, so that you may keep track of your progress along the way. All that I ask is that you share your experiences regularly, either directly with me via email or in comments to this and  future posts on this exercise.

If you are interested in moving through this exercise with me, please complete the form below. I look forward to sharing and living more virtuously with you.

One more thing: I encourage you to invite others whom you feel might enjoy doing this with us!