I was running out of the house this morning to catch a train, grabbed a jacket and jumped into the car. When I got out at the station, I was appalled to realise that I had taken a black jacket to go with my blue outfit. Now, anybody who knows me will appreciate that I can carry off that fashion faux pas with style and panache(!), but how did that happen?
As I thought about the situation, I realised it is a great metaphor for coaching. What I had done was ‘made a choice’ without taking time to think about it. Coaching is all about creating the confidence and clarity to make the best choices available to you.
Everyday we make a thousands of choices about how we will respond as leaders, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, mothers, daughters – about what we think of someone, who will get our attention and who won’t, what we will do with the next minute or thirty minutes, or what to do with that other precious resource, money. Instances that fly by in a second can change our lives forever.
Often, we make choices either unconsciously or out of habit. My brain is hardwired toward excitement when I’m going to meet someone I care about and toward dread when I have to meet someone I dislike or feel threatened by. The more you provide the same response to a stimulus, the more hardwired it becomes into your thinking.
If, instead of immediately grabbing the first piece of clothing that came to hand, I had paused to think about what I actually wanted, I could have spent the day feeling comfortable about my appearance.
The trick is to create space between stimulus and response. And what to do with that space? Think before acting. This means not responding immediately to that email, Or not responding immediately to challenges in a meeting or by your boss – or by your friend or child.
Do you want something different? Do you want to advance the mission of your organization, your department, or your team – or effectively support your friend or child? Do you want to have positive plans and harmonious relationships that can lead to long-term fulfillment?
The next time you get into this type of situation, try something different. Try to pause, to allow a little space. Then try to envisage where that space might lead you. What new possibilities do you see? What new ways of expressing yourself come to mind? What new ways of listening? What new ways of thinking?
What new result did you get?
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.
” Viktor E. Frankl