You have more control than you think you do…
You wake up late, it’s raining, it’s dark and you’ve got a meeting today that you really don’t want to go to. You visibly slump, you frown and drag yourself out of bed with the weight of the world holding you down.
At breakfast when you ask your son to hurry up, he seemingly ignores you, and then gives you that ‘look’ the one that screams contempt, that lacks the respect you feel you are owed… and your blood boils.
Both of these examples could be seen as “cause and effect” however in the principles of psychology they are actually “stimulus and response.“
Something happens to you….. and then you react to it.
What if there was another way?
What many of us don’t realise is that there is a “Gap” between the stimulus and the response where we are choosing how to react. You might previously have felt that this was a subconscious process, a space to infinitesimal for a conscious decision, right?
So who is responsible for the action or thought when we respond to a stimulus?
That’s right. You have just completed step one. Realising and acknowledging that we can make a conscious decision if we can find a way to have enough awareness of what we are doing to take action in that space, that gap before our subconscious takes over.
It can be all too easy to wander around blaming events and other people for our mood or situation.
“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 Frankl, Holocaust survivor, author Man’s search for meaning
He suggests that we can grow and change and be different if we can learn to recognize, increase, and make use of this ‘space.’ With such awareness, we can find freedom from the dictates of both external and internal pressures. And with that, we can find inner happiness.
Find the Gap
Ask yourself these two questions.
Is this a situation over which I have control?
How would my best self react?
Personal change takes effort. It doesn’t happen overnight. We have to keep chipping away. We have to be kind to ourselves. We have to notice and celebrate our progress as well as reflect on how we can improve.
Take a moment of reflection this evening:
- Consider the person you would like to be – take the time to create a clear vision of who you would like to be. Make yourself an Avatar, a guide, someone you can communicate with, ask for help, look up to and aspire to be.
- Think about the meaning or origin of your reactions today – were you insulted? why? Were you actually cross with yourself and shifting blame? Are you repeating the mistakes of your influencers? Were you hiding frustration? Why were you frustrated?
- Observe the outcome of your reactions – as an observer (that means without guilt) think through what happened today. Note what the implications of your reactions were. What happened? What wasn’t able to happen?
- Plan a better response – if the same or similar were to happen again. What will you do differently? Even better how can you plan for that situation not to happen again?
- Be compassionate with yourself – now that you have observed, and planned, now you can let it go. Practice understanding, be patient with yourself. If you were trying to teach a child to learn to ride a bicycle and they wobbled and fell off… would you :
- Grab the bicycle, tell them to forget it, they will never be able to learn to ride
- Or would you comfort them, show them how to start again and encourage them?
There is always a choice, and often a situation can be avoidable.
Notice your reactions, spot those little signs of your emotion starting to take over control and at that point say “STOP. CHANGE. THIS IS NOT SERVING ME,” and choose a different reaction.