“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom” (Victor Frankl).
When I was teenager, I remember telling my father that a friend of mine had offended me. I said bitterly, “He made me so mad.” After a thoughtful pause, my father looked me directly in the eyes and said, “Remember, son, your friend can’t make you mad. You choose your response. You are choosing to lose your temper and resent him. If you choose to stay angry, you are really choosing to give him power over you, aren’t you?” I will admit that right then, I didn’t necessarily appreciate his advice, but I spent several weeks thinking about the conversation. I decided that choosing responsibility for my circumstances, emotional states and response empowers me.
Victor Frankl was a prisoner of war in the Nazi concentration camps of World War Two. In “A Man’s Search for Meaning,” he writes about how all of his freedoms were stripped from him: the freedom to choose what to eat, what to do and where to go. Often, he even lost control over his own body as he was deprived of the most basic resources: food, clothing, bed and adequate hygiene. Sometimes he was even brutally tortured by his captors. As he writes in his book, one day when the Nazi prison guards had effectively stripped him of everything, he realized that there was one thing that captors couldn’t take from him: Freedom to choose his response. He stated his discovery poetically in his book:
“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” (A Man’s Search for Meaning).
Hopefully, none of us will ever have to experience the horrors that Victor Frankl and others experienced in the Nazi death camps, but all of us have faced challenges and disappointments. What if we did CHOOSE to respond to our challenges and disappointments in a new way? What if we did TAKE RESPONSIBILITY now for our actions going forward? What would happen if we did choose to MOVE POWERFULLY in a new direction? Is there a downside? What happens if we don’t choose new behaviors and attitudes? The decision resides inside us, so let’s TAKE ACTION NOW and make new connections and produce new results!
An ancient philosopher observed that the highest gift that people possess is the ability “to act and not to be acted upon.” As I read it, this another way of saying that there are causes and effects. Until we change the causes, the effects remain constant.
How do we change the causes? That depends. In my case, it meant taking charge of my emotions and choosing to relate to my friend in a new way. For Victor Frankl, it meant finding inner liberty in a concentration camp. I don’t know what it would mean for you, but I do know that taking responsibility for your life and responses can change your circumstances, your emotions and results.
For more resources on how to retake control of your mind and life, you can book an appointment with me at my office in Ogden, Utah, or remotely via Skype: contact me at email@example.com or 801-203-3405.
I wrote this article as part of a continuing education course at www.ModernJedi.com.