Viktor Frankl was a dead-set legend. He not only survived the horrors of Auschwitz but went on to write a book that had a profound influence in helping others to find happiness and meaning in their lives.
In ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, he points out that many of us act without a great deal of conscious thought. Mostly, we don’t deliberately choose our behaviours, rather we simply respond in the moment and act them out. Frankl’s view though, is that we would benefit if we choose to acknowledge these reflexive reactions and learn to see the ‘space’ that exists for all of us, before we react.
“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”.
In Frankl’s model of the world, we can grow and change and be different if we can learn to recognise and make use of this ‘space.’ Armed with such awareness, we can find freedom from the downsides of both external and internal pressures resulting in richer, fuller lives and a path towards happiness.
I would have liked Viktor. And he would have had plenty to say in this COVID-19 world. We’ve seen the toilet paper hoarders and the punch-ups in Coles and plenty of generally poor behaviour. It’s a vivid – and sad – reminder that in times of crisis, the arseholes become arseholier (I know that’s not really a word, but you do know what I mean, right?).
It’s true that for all of us, when we’re under pressure, our internal resources focus energy reserves on dealing with that pressure and there’s only so much energy to feed our processing capacity. When pressure is applied, we’re much more likely to act reflexively, without considered thought, without wilfully and consciously choosing our responses. And we’re much less likely to be mindful of the opportunity to pause and choose our responses thoughtfully and deliberately.
Today and tomorrow and for many days to come, many of us are going to feel pressure. There will be frustration, fear and uncertainty for so many people in our respective worlds. Our challenge is to take a moment to choose how we respond and for those of us with the privilege of leadership, to do it with purpose and compassion.
So, here’s to Viktor and to everyone who sees opportunity in difficult moments – those who can find a way to shine a light and to show a way through for all of those whose own light has been dimmed by the pressures of the moment.