“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
Have you heard of Viktor Frankl? He was a neurologist and psychiatrist from Austria who survived the gruel life in a concentration camp during WWII. Frankl wrote about his experience in the international bestseller “Man’s search for meaning”? If you haven’t read the book – it’s a highly recommendable read! It gives a deep insight into how Frankl approached life in the concentration camp and what helped him to survive.
The space between stimulus and response
One of the key learnings he shares in his book is the idea of the space that lies between stimulus and response. He’s talking about the time that passes between something that happens and your reaction to it. Often enough, we simply do that: react. And with that immediate reaction we might say or do something we regret later and hurt others and ourselves.
How to change from reaction to response
So, instead of reacting he asks us to respond. This means, to take a moment and use the space between stimulus and response fully. This way, you give the part of your brain a chance to respond that is responsible for reasoning, empathy and logic. In contrast, if you give into your first immediate reaction, be aware that it is fired out reflexively. This reaction is a hard-wired attempt to safeguard your survival as if you were fighting a saber-toothed tiger. Of course, in the heat of the battle it might be hard to stop ourselves. However, what you and everyone can do is to practice. And with practice comes mastery.
Next time, you feel there is something that excites, angers or bothers you: first, try the good old count to 10. Second, try to breathe slowly in and out. Third, stop a moment. And last, not least, put yourself into the shoes of the other person. See what this does to you, the situation and your relationship to that person.
It’s your decision to use that space for yourself and for others. The power to choose your response will make you grow and feel free.