Between stimulus and response, there is this space
“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.”
I have been using the above quote in my talks for many years, and recently, I decided to delve into its origins and unpack its meaning.
For years, I believed the quote was from one of my heroes, Viktor Frankl. Only recently have I discovered that was not the case, which left me asking, “If not him, who?”
- The origins of one of my favorite quotes
- Exploration of the gap between stimulus and response
- The three types of pauses: macro, scheduled, and micro pauses
The origins of one of my favorite quotes
After learning the quote was not authored by Viktor Frankl, I turned to QuoteInvestigator.com—a site that specializes in tracking quotations and the origins of misattributions—and found that the quote was connected to Stephen R. Covey.
Covey is the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, where he often references Viktor Frankl. This fact is most likely the cause of the misattribution.
There is one passage, in particular, I want to share from The 7 Habits: “They could control his entire environment, they could do what they wanted with his body, but Viktor Frankl himself was a self-aware being who could look as an observer at his very involvement. His basic identity was intact. He could decide within himself how all of this was going to affect him. Between what happened to him—or the stimulus—and his response to it, was his freedom or power to choose that response.”
So, that solves it, right? Not quite. Digging further, I discovered Covey referenced an additional inspiration for this mindset he found in a book wedged somewhere in a university library.
Covey cited: “Years ago, as I was wandering between a stack of books at a university library, I chanced to open a book in which I encountered one of the most powerful, significant ideas I've ever come across. The essence of it was this: ‘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.’ That idea hit me with an incredible force. In the following days, I reflect on it again and again.”
This quote continues to be transformational, no matter its origins. It continues to open our eyes generation after generation. The power of choice transcends time.
Exploration of the gap between stimulus and response
If we train ourselves to see the space between stimulus and response, we have the opportunity to choose our response to that stimulus, and this is really powerful.
When circumstances are tough, it can be challenging to see the space between stimulus and our responses, but it’s possible. The only way that we can make this part of our way of being is by developing our mental fitness muscles that allow us to press the pause button.
This fact is one of the core reasons I developed the PIE method, which I’ve written and spoken about often in this space. We need simple tools like that to help us remember to cultivate our personal development and work those mental muscles.
If we do that, we won’t be winded after climbing the metaphorical staircase to the fourth floor to reach heightened awareness of that space. It will be a breeze because we’ve practiced the different types of pauses.
The three types of pauses: macro, scheduled, and micro pauses
These three types of pauses all have a part to play in getting mentally fit, and each one has a plethora of expressions to try.
Macro pauses: Going to a retreat, reading a book, working with a coach or therapist. We are taking time to do the work.
Scheduled pauses: Scheduled moments we can build into our day that allow us the space to exercise our mental fitness—Journaling, meditation, breathing exercises, etc.
Micro pauses: The unexpected curveballs that life throws at us. It’s those moments that will tell us how far we’ve come with our mental fitness from practicing our macro and scheduled pauses.
As a refresher, the PIE Method stands for:
- Increasing Self-Awareness
- Embracing Experimentation
With these core elements under our belts, we’re more equipped to traverse our mental fitness journey and leverage the amazing resources available for personal development.
What have you experimented with recently? How did it change your response to common triggers?
Be sure to catch the full episode for further insight on the PIE Method!