The Gift of a Gap
In my first year teaching, a student of mine had been working on some organizational tasks in our class workshop during his lunch period. While I sat with a couple colleagues eating lunch in the faculty room, the student came in and asked a question; I had an immediate response for him and the kid left right away. One of my colleagues with me, my department chair, said that he was impressed by my decisiveness.
There’s something about decisiveness that feels and looks powerful to me. There seems to be value in knowing the right response, and there seems to be value in acting on it immediately, with little space between the stimulus and that response.
Recently, a different student of mine finished Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and he reminded me of a quote:
“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.”
In a high-stakes, high-speed situation, quick decision-making is very important. In a classroom, or when with our kids or spouse or other people that matter to us, quick decision-making can actually be detrimental.
The more in tune I am with my created intentions (described in Living with Integrity), the more quickly I can safely act. But we all nearly always have competing intentions within us, especially if we haven’t consciously created what our intentions will be in our interactions with others.
The remedy to this common problem of our actions not aligning with our best intentions:
Take a moment each morning to create your intention(s) for the day. This can take less than a minute, and I suggest writing these intentions down somewhere so you don’t have to keep them in your memory.
Take a moment prior to scheduled activities to create your intention for that activity. Before a meeting, before a class starts, before spending time with your kids, before any specific activity, think for a moment of who you’d like to be for others or what talents, skills, or commitments you’d like to foster or live from in these activities.
Take a moment, and put a gap between stimulus and response. Maybe take a breath, maybe count to 3 in your mind. Whatever it takes, put a gap between things that happen and your response. Allow yourself an opportunity to then respond from a worthwhile, created intention, and not whatever default intention your psychophysiology awakened in that moment.
In case you're looking for ideas, here are some of my go-to intentions: compassionate, curious, enjoyment, engaged, at ease, in action, patient, unconditionally in love, and fully alive.
Have an intentionally profound day. ❤️
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