Being aware that there is a tiny little space of time that exists between what happens and the way we interpret what happens, is the first prerequisite to being able to take control of the behaviors that keep getting us into trouble. We simply are not able to move toward the behaviors that will lead us out of the wilderness and into a better life until we become aware of our ability to choose those better behaviors! And the most fundamental choice is the one we make when we decide how we’ll react to something or someone.
How many of us have been outsourcing, to other people and/or to circumstances that are totally out of our control, the responsibility for the way we’ll respond to those people and/or circumstances? That’s a huge obstacle. Awareness is one of the keys to blasting through that obstacle.
Over twenty years ago, Stephen Covey wrote his smash-hit best seller, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. In it he wrote, among many other things, about the experience of Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who suffered unspeakable indecencies and physical abuses (dreadful experimentation and the like) at the hands of the Nazis in Germany’s death camps during WWII.
Covey talks about how, at some point, Frankl became aware of the tiny little space — he became conscious of the fact that he could choose how to respond to the horrendous circumstances of his existence — he realized that although he had literally been stripped of his physical freedom and dignity, he still had the freedom to choose how he would respond to those circumstances. Frankl realized that he could insert anything he wanted to into the space between what Covey refers to as “Stimulus” and “Response” – what happens, and the way we choose to respond to what happens.
“In the midst of the most degrading circumstances imaginable, Frankl used the human endowment of self-awareness to discover a fundamental principle about the nature of man: Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.
“Within the freedom to choose are those endowments that make us uniquely human. In addition to self-awareness, we have imagination – the ability to create in our minds beyond our present reality. We have conscience – a deep inner awareness of right and wrong, of the principles that govern our behavior, and a sense of the degree to which our thoughts and actions are in harmony with them. And we have independent will – the ability to act based on our self-awareness, free of all other influences.
“Even the most intelligent animals have none of these endowments. To use a computer metaphor, they are programmed by instinct and/or training. They can be trained to be responsible, but they can’t take responsibility for that training; in other words, they can’t direct it. They can’t change the programming. They’re not even aware of it.”
When the Psalmist wrote, “Search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life,” he was expressing the need to be aware of what’s going on internally. It starts with knowing – really knowing, deep down – that you really can choose how to respond to the events of life.
Between every Occurrence Event (what happens) and every Interpretation Event (the meaning we choose to attach to what happens), there’s a tiny little space of time within which we can exercise the freedom to choose the most appropriate response to what happens. Unique to all God’s Creation, we’ve been given four very useful tools that, unfortunately, go unused by most of us: the ability to use self-awareness, the ability to use our imagination, the ability to listen to our conscience, the ability to harness our own independent will.
Well, if you weren’t aware of these profundities until today, you are now! If you’ve known about all this, but laziness has set in and you’ve been “outsourcing”, knock it off. Don’t forget about the power of awareness and all the many wonderful choices and the world of possibility and opportunity that opens wide… only to those who exercise this awareness.
Be aware of that tiny little space. Ignoring it is the height of irresponsibility.
[Do yourself a tremendous favor by purchasing and devouring your own copy of Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: http://www.amazon.com/Habits-Highly-Effective-People/dp/0671708635]