Flipping the Switch and Finding the Gap
“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.” Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, from Man’s Search for Meaning
When I first read Dr. Frankl’s take on the behavioural void between those things which cause us to respond and the physical response itself, I went physically cold. He had articulated so succinctly what I had been questioning and worrying over for a long time: that our ability to actively choose our behaviour seemed to be wasting away. If that was the case, we would be in danger of becoming a species of drones; instantly responding to stimulus without due care or consideration. Whether at work or at home, the implications of that are significant.
Jez speaking recently at an event
As a speaker and behaviourist working with organisations worldwide, I’ve seen over the past twelve years how individuals in organisations are often faced with obstruction when it comes to personal and professional development which is behavioural in nature. This is because in many cases reflection and thoughtfulness; indeed the very consideration of behaviour, is viewed as inertia. However, the purpose of Flip the Switch is to encourage you to actively choose the right behavior in order to achieve more at work, at home and in your everyday life.
For this to happen in the corporate world for instance, organisations must embrace that corporate identity, mechanics and metrics don’t make a company. Lip service of valuing individuals within organisations only goes so far. We all possess the ability to flip the switch, but if we do not become more conscious of and act on this innate ability now, we are at risk of further narrowing the gap between stimulus and response - to detrimental affect.
"Rapid technological advancement"
The phenomenal and seemingly continual advances in technology have given rise to our ability to access information immediately and to respond to stimulus quicker than ever before. Not only does technology allow us to have multiple conversations at any one time but it also allows us an insight, or snapshot of people's lives. In doing so, this encourages us to pass quicker judgement; offering us the ability to respond and react in an instant. All without considering the consequences of our behaviour. Cue flashback to emails you regret sending almost immediately after pressing ‘send’ and the flippant remark you fire off on a friend’s Facebook post, only to have to handle the backlash.
The result of some of the rapid technological advancement, especially in the field of communication, is a lack of behavioural consciousness and it is endemic. Given how automatic and subconscious much of human behaviour is, it is perhaps unsurprising that we have adapted so well to the affects technology and societal changes are having on our behaviour. However, the fact is that most people are largely unaware of their behavioural choices; the actions they take are less considered and the assumption is that they are more ‘instinctive’. That is to say that less of us take time to think before we act.
Waiting by Edgar Degas
I have spent the past three and half years researching people who have achieved extraordinary things, or led extraordinary lives. My intention was to discover if there was something that we could all learn, in order to exceed our own expectations of what we are each capable of. I was driven by the possibility that this could lead to an understanding of how we could all enhance the quality or quantity of our achievements; perhaps even to feel surprised and more fulfilled by our output. Was there a way in which these people were behaving that was different and which helped them to exceed expectation, which perhaps we could learn from in order to alter our own responses to stimuli? Very quickly a pattern emerged. They were all more aware of the gap between stimulus and response that Dr. Frankl talked about and their choices were generally more considered based on the conscious consequences of their actions.
The result is clear: if we can learn to widen the gap between a stimulus and our response, our behavioural response will be more conscious. As a result, we become more effective not only at responding to the stimulus but at influencing the consequences, too. Perhaps in turn we’ll also take more responsibility for our actions, too.
Pictures courtesy of Jez Rose; event photo by Kay Ransom & Waiting by Degas: Wikipedia