It's important to frame up just what it is the questions and the model are designed to do. The first thing is to create space between a stimulus, something we're thinking about ourselves or the world around us, and our response to it. When there is no space, we are living by default. We react automatically and often in ways that don't serve us. We tell stories that may have been formed as a child, in school, or watching the media. So often these stories do not serve us or those we live and work with.
I like to start with three quotes from one of my favorite people, Viktor Frankl. He was a psychiatrist, and during World War 2, he was in the concentration camps. This is what he said in his book, Man's Search for Meaning written after the war had ended:
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
It is fascinating that this could be his perspective in the middle of the most atrocious conditions anyone could possibly imagine. Yet, through his time there, he found a way to retain meaning in his life.
Once the meaning of suffering had been revealed to us, we refused to minimize or alleviate the camp’s tortures by ignoring them or harboring false illusions and entertaining artificial optimism. Suffering had become a task on which we did not want to turn our backs. We had realized its hidden opportunities for achievement, the opportunities which caused the poet Rilke to write, “Wie viel ist aufzuleiden!” (How much suffering there is to get through!).”
It is stunning that this was his experience in these concentration camps, and what he learned in the process. And the thing that's so fascinating about this is we're looking at somebody in the most egregious conditions possible and still he was able to find meaning throughout that experience and through the rest of his life. Most importantly, he recognized the value of adversity and not trying to ignore it or try to find a positive way to feel better about it.
And then the final quote, commonly attributed to Viktor Frankl, but actually uncovered by Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the one that really I think is most important for our work is:
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.
Consider the number of times we react without any space between stimulus and response, only to regret our behavior with ourselves or those we deal with. When we increase that space, we allow ourselves the room to be curious and understand from a more holistic point of view what is going on and how to respond appropriately, and in a way that serves us.
Please use these quotes as a baseline as you go through and learn about the questions and the model. This is because, regardless of the situations you've found yourself in through the course of your life, you will realize that you have the ability to respond in ways that serve you, even with things that happened years or decades ago. When you do, you create more space between stimulus and response and stop living by default.
More importantly, as you practice the questions and the model, you also have the ability to create more freedom in your life. Think about how we are captives of thoughts that don't serve us. The more space, the more likely you will respond in ways that serve you and more often than not, will serve those you interact with. And that is the most fundamental freedom. As you explore Oh The Stories We Tell, consider how you might be able to create that space in your life as you move forward.
Here is to creating that space for yourself, your growth and your freedom.