Power to Choose

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 E. Frankl

A few years ago, we visited St. Louis. As the city readied for the Blues to win Game 7 of the Stanley Cup (for the first time ever) that night in Boston, we saw sandbags still lining curbs, streets along the Mississippi River closed, and other evidence of the devastating flooding the residents had just experienced. The resilience of the city felt palpable.

This image of an overflowing street bordering the river struck me as fitting for the quote because we’re often like that water - busy moving along in our day. Then sometimes a brick gets thrown into the middle of our world. Whether a minor inconvenience like an appointment getting rescheduled, more serious unexpected medical news, or the upending never-before-experienced Covid 19, these various stimulus challenge us all to respond. 

If we rush through life at our usual fast-paced, busy-busy-busy, gotta get stuff done whirlwind, then like the water, we might barely register the brick. We might try to wear it down, get control over it, and get life back to its normal flow. But what have we lost in that process? According to Frankl, we’ve lost growth and freedom.

It’s not easy. Remembering to stop and pause is hard. It’s just not built into our culture. And if we do - it can get really messy in that pause. Just this past week, while working on a video project, Paul gave me feedback on something I frequently say in our presentations that’s always bothered him. I won’t get into details, but needless to say I heard the constructive feedback and wanted to react. Various initial retorts came to mind. I wanted to assert my “rightness.” I wanted to blame him for waiting so long to point it out. All of them had my armor up and me ready to fight.

But I walked away and gave myself time to take it in. His point had some merits. I still had questions about why he waited so long and I didn’t get some aspects of what he said. But the pause gave me a moment to begin to see his perspective. So when we talked again, I asked a few questions instead of jumping on him with my initial reactions that would have gotten us nowhere healthy! 

We’ve had lots of times where we’ve ended up having the same conversation over and over - like the water wearing down the brick. Those have been the mindless ones when we don’t pause. Luckily, this wasn’t one of them. This time, we ended up gaining new insight on each other’s perspectives and grew in our understanding of how we approach this particular topic.

As you continue to figure out the working from home thing with your family and remote working with your colleagues, remember Frankl’s advice and take the space to ask how do I want to respond? Because we have a choice. And in that choice is where we’ll find resilience.