“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 E. Frankl
I love this quote by Viktor Frankl. He spent many years in a German concentration camp and came to the conclusion that we can choose our response to what happens around us, that is where our power lies. If it was really simple in far easier circumstances then we’d all live much easier lives.
My current preoccupation has been the design of leadership resources, specifically focused on having difficult conversations. Knowing yourself, and mindfulness in the moment features heavily. Catch yourself in the moment and make a choice about how you will respond.
Neuroscience research supports this approach. Any difficult situation is stressful, stress triggers a physiological response in the brain, blood starts pumping, adrenaline starts flowing, and our instinctive fight or flight response kicks in. Before we realise it, our amygdala, the primitive brain hijacks our response, we go into fight or flight.
Mindfulness “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations” (Wikipedia, 2017) is a practice primed to catch the moment our cave man (or cave woman) instincts are about to take over. If we’re present, right there and then, we have the power to make a choice about the type of response we want to have.
This goes beyond difficult conversations.
After writing a book and blogging consistently for years, it’s been some time since I’ve written anything. almost a year actually. It got to the point where I felt I HAD to blog, psychologically there was no space for me to choose. So I stopped all together.
More recently, I started a new job. Shortly after which I found out I was pregnant. And since then I’ve felt the most ill I’ve ever felt in my life. The chronic over-achiever in me is balking that I have no control over anything, and I can’t do anything about it. I’m forced to stop and sit in the present because I simply don’t have the mental or physical capacity to be anywhere else. And any movement either way requires a conscious decision around where best to spend my energy.
I have no choice but to be present. And that’s my new space.