“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.” – Viktor Frankl
I always go back and re-read one of my favorite books of all time, The Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, from time to time to remind myself of what’s important. Happiness is overrated. It’s a fleeting emotion that doesn’t lend itself to a larger purpose. Meaning is more enduring. And we can control the kind of meaning we seek in life and the kind of meaning we attribute to our thoughts, our stories.
For example, I was thinking the other day about my path – the path that took me here to where I am today. I had a cushy computer science job out of college, but I wanted something more. I sought meaning and a larger purpose, and so I joined the Peace Corps. Most everyone around me thought I was insane for leaving a coveted job to do this, but I knew I wanted to see the world. This took me to the continent of Africa, where I later spent over a decade doing research and working there in various countries. But what if I had never left? What if I stayed in Los Angeles, where I grew up, for my entire life? Again, the choice is up to me to decide what meaning I want to attribute to this chapter in my life. The narrative that I choose is this event led me to where I am today. How so, you ask?
I left the Peace Corps early because I was in a serious relationship at the time. So, I came back to the States, where my ex-boyfriend was attending Harvard Law School and that’s what sent me on a journey of reflection and understanding of global politics and cultures. That’s what propelled me in the direction of anthropology. Anthropology and the sensitivity to different cultures are what lay the foundation for my coaching today. In other words, I wouldn’t a coach today if I had never left for the Peace Corps almost 20 years ago today and then left early to come back to the States.
For a while in my 20s, my thoughts were “what was I thinking making these drastic moves” or “I must seem like a confused wandered to my friends and family.” My thoughts were shaped by how others saw me. But I knew deep down that I had the power to determine my story. Not my friends and family, not society, not anyone else but myself. As I’ve gotten older, the memories in my mind have changed and with greater coaching awareness, how I tell this story has changed as well.
As Viktor Frankl reminds us, we always have the choice in how we respond to events in our minds. In this case, it involved me telling a story of my past and attributing meaning to it. When events happen, our brains are wired to look for the negative. It’s trying to protect us. It’s wired for fight or flight stimuli. But we’re not hunting for food and we’re not running from predators. Much of this is self-imposed drama in our mind. Stories are just thoughts and we have the power to re-write them how we want to. The power is within you and it’s been there all along. Let me help you tap into it and unleash that power, so that you can make meaning of your past and make sense of what’s happening in your life today.