Creating Space for Happiness
“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 Frankl
Every once in a while, I suppose when it’s most needed, this quote pops into my awareness. Recently we at MindPT have been immersed in the sharing of the power of happiness with you, and today while I was walking my dogs, I spontaneously thought of this quote. It jumped out at me because I had recently hired my favorite neighbor kid to care for my pets while I was on vacation, and unlike in the past, this time the work fell short of my expectations. It doesn't matter what happened, really, it's "that" it happened. Instead of rushing out and confronting him with angry accusations, I took some time to let my emotions cool. I am not one for conflict anyway, and I genuinely do like him - but I felt that one of my pets' welfare had been neglected. I waited for him to contact me and then, in as measured and calm way as I could, I explained that I was very upset, and why. I had to give myself a chance to chill my emotions and I'm glad I did. He's a good kid. He screwed up. Now, I'm giving him a chance to own it, and once he does, we're good.
In that space between stimulus and response, we can choose the response that makes us happiest but even before we make that choice, we can choose to be happier now, so that our response is automatically more positive.
I know, I know, easier said than done… but is it impossible? I don’t believe so. It does take practice but it’s a worthwhile skill to learn.
Before I responded to what had happened, I thought about the genuine affection that my pets receive from my pet sitter. They really do love him! I thought about how blessed I am to have someone I can count on, at a moment's notice. I thought about how I've also made mistakes in the past, when my efforts didn't measure up to expecations and how I had let people down - and in my embarrassment, didn't own my actions. I feel for him, I really do!
If you allow yourself that space - a brief pause - you can invite happiness and peace into that space. So what if your answer isn’t within micro-seconds of the question? So what if your re-action doesn’t follow instantaneously? So what if you give things time to unfold? Snap reactions don’t always end up with the most desirable results! What if you were to pause, and imagine the other person’s point of view? What if you were to take a few seconds to choose a loving response?
Practice a couple of questions that you might not remember in the heat of the moment, but in time, will train you to create the space between stimulus and response. Think about some recent (or ancient and memorable) conflicts you’ve had and ask yourself, as if you were still in the moment:
1. Will this matter in the long run?
2. Is it more important to be right, or to be at peace?
3. What can I learn here?
4. Can I change my perception of the situation and see things from another perspective?
5. Do I want to retaliate and hurt the other person (just as I feel hurt) or can I choose the higher road?
6. What is my role in this situation? What can I own?
7. Does my response come from a place of love?
8. Am I being a victim by allowing someone or something dictate my feelings?
Take a few seconds to breathe. Think about what you could have done differently in these past situations, if your words and actions were snap-reactive. Think about situations when you did take the higher road and you chose your response carefully and lovingly.
Which scenario left a better memory? Which one led to a more agreeable resolution?
I asked my pet sitter to own the situation. That is all. Just to acknowledge that he had been negligent about this one thing, and show understanding that I am not out for revenge or anything, I just want him to own this "fail." If I get that, all will be well between us. No bridges burned, no hard feelings. I will respect him, for owning his mistake. I will not walk away from the situation seething in anger that only eats me up inside. I will walk away giving him the benefit of the doubt next time, knowing that we all screw up sometimes.
In any conflict, make the space. Pause, breathe, and choose happiness and love. Just looking at the situation from a place of happiness - that is, an inner happiness independent of any external circumstances or people - can help you shift your perspective from an ego-driven “poor me” reactive state to an empowered, loving and graceful state that is intent on restoring harmony and peace.
That doesn't mean you condone. It means you are willing to forgive and forget. I don't condone what happened but... if he realizes that even if he thought his work was up to par, if the customer isn't satisfied, the right thing to do is swallow his pride and do what's necessary to make it right. And that's all. I hope it's a valuable lesson for him. And, it was a valuable lesson for me, to ask for an explanation yet be firm about my position, instead of flying into a rage over it even though I was rage-worthy upset. What I want most is for him to learn, and for both of us to put this behind us... restore harmony and peace.
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