The Space Between Stimulus and Response

Last week I went to a resilience conference and led a workshop called Stress Management on the Go. I do love to teach other people about how to manage stress. It’s fun. In addition, I always learn something at the conferences where I present. One of the keynote speakers quoted Viktor Frankl

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.”

I was  very surprised to hear the quote because it applied to what happened to me on the train coming to the conference. I was studying t he conference agenda and wasn’t paying close attention when my stop was announced. I realized I needed to get up fast and get out the door before I missed the stop. I hurried to the door of the train and pushed the OPEN button. A man was leaning against the door, with his feet firmly planted right in the zone that is labeled: DO NOT STAND HERE. The door opened about 12 inches and then it closed. He and I both could not understand why it closed without  letting me through. By the time I figured out it was because he was standing in the NO STAND zone, it was too late. The train moved forward and I missed the stop. I sat down and my mind started de-briefing. I got mad at the standing man and I got mad at myself for not figuring it out sooner. I began to strategize my choices: Lash out at him for making me miss my stop; tell him nicely to not stand there because people could not open the door; suppress my anger and pretend all is well; complain to the person next to me, etc. I had a choice to make. After I weighed all my options, I decided to “just let it go.” And honestly, that felt fine. I truly did let it go. Then at the conference, when I heard the Frankl quote, I realized that between the stressor (missing my stop) and the response (choosing to let it go), I experienced “growth and freedom.” It was great. Instead of responding immediately and letting my reflexes take over, I paused and weighed my options and really forgave the standing man, and continued with a positive attitude and had a great day, wishing him well. So my bottom line learning was that we always have a choice about how we respond to stressors. Take a breath before we respond. It feels good to be the captain of our own ship.
Here are a couple of other awesome Viktor Frankl quotes:

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.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

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