Some things are so small that we don’t even recognize them in our daily lives. Take the untold number of cells that make up our physical being. So tiny, yet they have a huge impact on our very existence. The time it takes to blink our eyes is also tiny, yet each blink is necessary for our eyes to function properly.
Another thing that is tiny is the amount of time between a stimulus and a response. Think about how many times each day we are presented with a stimulus that we then respond to. In most cases, the time between the stimulus and our response is extremely small. Sometimes it feels instantaneous, but no matter how small this time is, it is always present. For example, you hit your thumb with a hammer (stimulus) and then scream out in pain (response). The response happens almost instantly, however, there is still a measure of time between these 2 events.
Here’s the part that I think is empowering: in that sliver of time between stimulus and response we get to choose how we respond. We can’t always control the stimulus, but we can control our response.
Take the scenario of being cut off in traffic. When this occurs, we have a choice of how to respond. We can lay on the horn, blurt out some expletive, or offer any number of obscene hand gestures. Sometimes these responses feel automatic, but we always have a choice. Instead, we could choose not to become angry and lash out, or we could also choose not to get worked up by it and overlook it all together. We can choose a better response.
This is one of a number of scenarios we face daily where we can choose to respond in a positive manner instead of defaulting to a negative response. We can choose to be offended by an inconsiderate comment, or we can choose to overlook it. We can choose to respond harshly to a spouse or loved one, or we can choose to extend grace, compassion, and understanding.
Be mindful of these moments where we can decide how to respond to a stimulus. Use them as opportunities to cause something to happen that is positive, instead of automatically responding negatively and see if it doesn’t begin to have a positive effect on your outlook and attitude.