Someone asked me not long ago if there had been particular themes or threads throughout my work in personal and professional development over the last 25 years. Several themes came to mind right away, including presence, awareness, intuitive thinking, purpose, direction, and choice. Yet it is the theme of choice that has been particularly present in recent workshops and courses. The power to choose.

During the Soul Mission * Life Vision intensive retreat a few weeks ago in the Netherlands, this quote from Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl landed in my inbox:

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.

Between what happens and our response to it, there is a space of time. When we are not so self-aware, that space of time is often very short, and we react to what has happened without considering that we actually have choices.

In that space of time lies our power to choose whether we will be in reaction or response. Choosing to respond with intention and awareness is a first step in conscious living.

How we choose to respond can open a space for growth and freedom, or can close down possibilities and box us in. Our response will, in turn, have an impact on everyone else involved in the situation. How we exercise our power to choose matters.

Choosing who to be before what to do  

When we think of the power to choose, most of us have been conditioned to think about choice within the context of action. While in some circumstances there may appear to be multiple choices for what we will do, we are often faced with situations in which our choices for action feel limited. As a result, we feel trapped. No place to go.

However, when we broaden our perspective to consider our power to choose who we will be – to choose how we will show up to our situation or circumstance – the possibilities immediately open. We have the power to choose our attitude, to choose from what perspective we will view the situation, to choose the position we will take. In essence, we have the power to choose the quality of our presence. Choosing the quality of our presence impacts the quality of our experience.

Again, words of Viktor Frankl:

When we are no longer able to change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.

 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.

When we claim our power to choose who we will be – the presence that we will embody within a situation – we discover that there is a higher wisdom within us that, in fact, knows the presence to embody and the path to walk. Choosing who we will be makes the choice of what to do clearer. A next step becomes apparent. The key is to pay attention – to pause and listen for the voice of wisdom inside of us and follow its guidance.

It’s a Practice

I fully admit that this is a practice. It may not come easily at first. We may have to dig through a lot of “protections” – protections that we have layered on top of our inner wisdom for a multitude of reasons that at some point may have been important.

Some of those protections – perhaps even all of them – may no longer be relevant. They belong to another time. And so we peel away those layers of protections that no longer serve so that we can get to the wisdom inside of us that is waiting to be uncovered.

In my own experience, I’ve learned that the more I practice consciously choosing who I will be in every moment, the less I feel the need for protections. By exercising the power to choose, I keep getting stronger from the inside out.

The space between stimulus and response. The power to choose. Therein lies our freedom.

~ ~ ~

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