Stephen Covey once said: “Our ultimate freedom is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.” He was building on Victor Frankl’s experience, coining the description, that our freedom is a consequence of finding time between stimulus and response. It is time made available to choose one’s response.
The challenge most often encountered is to make that space available.
One path helping to find an entrance to that space is based on awareness and spontaneity.
With little awareness but high spontaneity, there is a good chance that the reaction is instinctive. That is, that the stimulus immediately triggered a reaction. The moment is gone before it became available.
When there is preparation, high awareness may meet little spontaneity. It is a deliberate action. What it does is try to outrun the stimulus and make the reaction unnecessary. It requires the ability to plan.
There is nothing wrong with moments in which one is simply reactive or deliberate. It’s maybe also worth reminding oneself that Victor Frankl wasn’t born with the ability to choose if or how his circumstances affect him. What he most certainly did was become proactive and take responsibility for his life.
Our behaviors are a function of our decisions. Since birth, behaviors have been modeled as consequences of our decisions. Most often, these decisions were part of our learning. We learned what worked and what didn’t when trying to address our needs. All subsequent decisions building on the earlier ones.
Reactions are nothing else, than spontaneous executions of these decisions.
Being proactive happens for example through our ability to become aware of our circumstances. It’s also using that awareness to determine the relationship we want to have with these circumstances. It’s choosing one’s attitude. The ability to remain with such an attitude is a result of learning how to subordinate our feelings to our values. It starts with becoming aware of both values and feelings. It continues with an appreciation of the relationship between our values and our circumstances. An appreciation that leads to choices allowing for intentional actions.
It’s indeed a work of life.
There will always be circumstances and situations in which flow, that is high awareness and high spontaneity, isn’t available. But that doesn’t mean that the situation corresponds to our conditions. Reactions can be followed by deliberate actions. Stillstand or stuckness can lead to reflection. It helps to acknowledge the resistance that is embedded in stuckness and become aware of it.