That Which Happens

Victor Frankl, authDisguisedor of Man’s Search for Meaning said, “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.”

Events, large and small, happen in our lifetime that play a part in who we are, and become. When something upsetting happens, quite often I’ve heard, “I can’t believe this happened to me!”, or “Why is this happening to me?”. What I have learned over the years is, things do not happen to us, they happen and we are part of what is happening. It is what we do with what is happening, how we let it affect us that makes the difference.

When unintended or unwanted situations beyond our control take place, how we choose to respond to the situation, can bring positive or negative results. We can choose to be upset or angry about what is happening, use it as an excuse to keep us where we are, or, we can use it to motivate us to something greater. Something meaningful, enjoyable, propelling us further towards our growth.

Let’s say you are in the process of starting your own business, you are making many connections, finding there is interest in what you’re offering. The ball is rolling nicely when other circumstances in your life begin to come up. Needs of family and loved ones, personal needs that must be taken care of, etc. Suddenly, you find yourself unable to devote the time you’d like to building your business. This can be very frustrating. What do you do? Give up, or see it as the type of situation that happens in life and know that once taken care of, you will get back to where you were. 

How we respond to that which happens in our lives teaches us something about ourselves. If we pay attention to our response or reaction, we can notice if we are allowing ourselves to grow and move forward, or if we are staying cemented in place. In doing so, it is important to be honest with what is noticed.

What I mean by this is not to simply say, “oh this happened, but I’m fine,” and disregard what is emotionally and intellectually happening. Rather, observethe situation as it has happened or is happening, and notice your reaction. Does the body tense, or nervously move about, or is it relaxed? At the same time, is the mind calm, or is it filled with angry, or sad, or perhaps happy thoughts. There is no right or wrong in what is noticed. It’s what is done with what is observed that matters.

As an example, when the company I worked for was purchased by another, there were quite a few layoffs, including members of my staff. This was the first of 3 more rounds to come, the last of which were my remaining staff and I. Mind you, we saw our team reduced from 9 to 3 over a period of several years, so this wasn’t unexpected. Paying attention to the reactions and responses to this I noticed how some became angry, blaming, expecting others to do something about the situation for them, etc. Others, myself included, though sad and somewhat frightened, saw the positive aspect and began to plan what they were going to do. The difference between the responses is the difference between moving forward and staying stuck.

Though the circumstances were out of the control of those affected, their responses were completely in their control. Taking that next step, or staying still as opportunity passes by.

How do you respond to situations or change? Are you moving forward?

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