Noodle* on this…
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ~ Viktor Frankl
A Lesson on Choice
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist, neurologist and Holocaust survivor. He was a prisioner in Auschwitz and Dachau for nearly four years. He never knew, from moment to moment, if he would live to see another day. One day, alone and naked in a small room he became aware of what he later called the last of human freedoms. This was the one thing the Nazis could not take away – his power to choose how he would respond. His captors controlled his every movement every day; but, they could not control his self-awareness. He decided how all the pain and deprivation would affect him. Rather than reacting, rebelling or giving up, Frankl responded to the horrors of life in the camps by relying on what he called his “inner hold” – his beliefs, one of which was being able to cope with the challenges of the moment while looking to the future.
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning (1959), he wrote: “Almost in tears from pain (I had terrible sores on my feet from wearing torn shoes); I limped a few kilometers with our long column of men from the camp to our work site. Very cold, bitter winds struck us. I kept thinking of the endless little problems of our miserable life… I became disgusted with the state of affairs which compelled me, daily and hourly, to think of only such trivial things. I forced my thoughts to turn to another subject. Suddenly, I saw myself standing on the platform of a well-lit, warm and pleasant lecture room. In front of me sat an attentive audience on comfortable upholstered seats. I was giving a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camp! All that oppressed me at that moment became objective, seen and described from the remote viewpoint of science. By this method, I succeeded somehow in rising above the situation, above the sufferings of the moment.”
Your Choice: React or Respond?
Some people use these words interchangeably. But, they are not synonyms. A reaction is immediate – it comes without thought. According to psychologist Matt James, PhD, reactions come from your unconscious mind and are defense mechanisms lacking thought or regard for consequences. Reaction often leads to regret.
Although it looks like a reaction, a response comes more slowly and involves both the conscious and unconscious minds. It considers the well-being of all those involved and is based on the responder’s values.
Reaction is normal. You do it all day, every day. When the alarm clock goes off in the morning you react. When your cell phone rings you react. Reaction is normal; it is also called living your life.
In contrast, response takes practice and thought. Making the choice to respond is your right, your opportunity and your source of power. When you automatically react to a situation, you give away your power. It shifts to the person who initiated the situation, and you may bear the brunt of the situation.
Tips for Responding
Your have the power of choice? Use these suggestions to help you slow down your reaction and choose an appropriate response instead.
- Take a few deep breaths to prevent a reaction. This slows down the reaction, gives you time to get your emotions under control.
- It is perfectly OK to say something like, “Give me a moment to think about this.”
- Follow Stephen Covey’s advice: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Ask questions and listen carefully to the answers.” In other words, choose to start a discussion about the situation, not just react to it.
- Notice your language. If you use phrases such as, “There is nothing I can do. Fred did such and such… I will try…” you are reacting. If you ask questions such as, “What are the options? How can we fix this?” you are responding.
- Take a quick mental inventory. Ask yourself:
- How important is this?
- Did I do something to provoke this situation?
- What is my responsibility in this situation?
- Think of someone you admire, living or dead, and ask: “What would that person do?”
Your Noodle Challenge…
No matter what challenges you face in life, you always have the ability to choose how you will respond. You can choose to respond in a way that supports your well-being, growth and freedom. Or, you can react, allowing yourself to be influenced by your surroundings, people, and feelings.
Think about a difficult situation you had to deal with. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Did I react or respond?
- What was the result of my choice? In other words, what did it cost me and those involved?
- What could I have done differently? What other options were available to me?
- What information was I missing and how did that lack of knowledge affect my decision?
- What will i do to prepare for similar situations in the future?
What will you do the next time a similar situation arises? Share your experience or thoughts with us in the Comments section below.
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
Riddle Me This…
Q: Why can’t your nose be 12 inches long.
A: Because it would be a foot.
* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm … then make a plan and take action!
- Got Choice? The FWCH Store.
- A Choice: React or Respond: Jordan Whitt Photography
- Between Stimulus and Response: Pinterest