LEADERS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE SPACE BETWEEN STIMULUS AND RESPONSE AND CONTROL THEIR OWN ATTITUDE
One of the most influential books written during the 20th century was “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. Frankl was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. During that time, he was repeatedly tortured by Nazi doctors who performed a variety of ghastly experiments on his body.
While he was suffering, Frankl envisioned himself teaching his students about his concentration camp experiences. He convinced himself he had an after-war purpose – educating the next generation. As Frankl looked around the camp and observed which prisoners not selected for the gas chamber were able to survive and which succumbed to hopelessness, he had an epiphany.
Those who succeeded in surviving did so because they had a higher purpose. They found meaning in their lives. They identified a reason to survive beyond the war. Frankl realized that between stimulus and response lies a gap. He determined that within that gap lies people’s “last human freedom – the freedom to choose their response.”
Frankl concluded that human happiness is determined mainly NOT by what happens to us, but rather by how we respond to what happens to us. How we respond is ultimately determined by our attitude – the attitude we carry within us each day. This realization reminds me of my favorite poem, which I have shared frequently over the years. It was written by a lawyer and judge named Charles Swindoll:
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.
It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say or do.
It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.
It will make or break a company… a church… a home.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day.
We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.
We cannot change the inevitable.
The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude…
I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes”
I invite you to reflect on the words of Viktor Frankl and Charles Swindoll.
How do you choose to respond in that gap between stimulus and response?
How do you maintain a positive attitude from day to day?