The space between stimulus and response

By Susan Harrison, Senior Vice President, EXIT Realty Corp. International

One of my favourite quotes was written by Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, “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.”

Long before I first read Dr. Frankl’s powerful book, the concept was introduced to me by Stephen Covey who wrote, “Ultimately, this power to choose is what defines us as human beings. We may have limited choices, but we can always choose. We can choose our thoughts, emotions, moods, our words, our actions; we can choose our values and live by principles. It is the choice of acting or being acted upon.”

With all due respect, gentlemen, that’s easier said than done.  For example, someone says something we perceive to be hurtful, and our knee-jerk response is to react.  Perhaps their words sting our heart and we think less of ourselves, or we deflect them or fire them right back.  That space between stimulus and response can be a fraction of a second long and the part of our brain that wants to protect us kicks in, and before we know it, we’re responding to the stimulus with little or no thought to the space. 

I was that person – the one who gave little thought to the space – so I decided to consciously figure out a way to improve.  

I practice the Miracle Morning™ routine where one of the elements is writing affirmations, so I created two:

  1. I work to widen the space between stimulus and response.
  2. I use the space between stimulus and response to build my good character.

For me, it had to be broken down into two parts.  I had to give myself the time – perhaps a second or two, a minute or two, an hour or two, a day or two – to reflect on the stimulus before responding.  I filled that space with an effective question: What’s the right thing to do?  And in asking that question, I had the opportunity to build my character.

And what do you know, while I’m a constant work-in-progress, I am indeed progressing.  Yesterday I was triggered by something written to me in an email.  The protective part of my brain kicked in and my knee-jerk reaction was to lash out dismissively and angrily.  However, after two years of using these affirmations, I found I was able to pause before replying, breathe and ask the Universe what was really going on.  Why was my stomach tight and my pulse racing? I asked, “What’s the right thing to do?”  I created enough space to form an appropriate and synergistic response enabling me to reply in a much more positive way.

After two years of practicing the Miracle Morning and more than 21 years of working with Steve Morris I shouldn’t be surprised by the power of affirmations.  However, when I experience them actually manifesting for good in my life, it’s a pretty remarkable thing.

If you’re with EXIT Realty, you’re welcome to join EXIT’s Miracle Morning Facebook Community.

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