• Tommy Cicero

Power in choosing our response

"You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."

- Marcus Aurelius


Life does not always work out the way we would like it to. We do not get to choose how certain aspects of our lives will unfold. We may want things to go one way, but the Universe seems to have other plans for us. Whether it is in our personal or professional lives, we may not like the situation or outcome, but we do get to choose how we respond. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by neurologist and psychologist Viktor Frankl:


"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."


Understanding how we have the power to choose our actions in difficult or unwanted circumstances is what gives us some sense of control over our lives. In Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning (one of the most life-changing books I have ever read), he tells his story of surviving a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust. It's riveting, sad, inspiring and empowering. Frankl learned that the people who ended up surviving their experience and lived to tell their story were the individuals who never lost hope. The people who already gave up in their own minds were more likely to die at the hands of the Nazis.


Photo by Sebastian Hans on Unsplash


Of course, it is not as black or white as that. There were most likely weak-minded people who survived and strong-willed people who did not survive. Frankl is simply generalizing from his account. He also credits his survival to having hope and faith that he would survive, and then lived to share his experience with us. He explains in the book how having something to live for was what helped many of the survivors to not give up on their slim odds of making it out of the camps alive. Essentially, the people who did not give up in their mind and still had plans for a life after the Holocaust, were the people with the better odds of survival. They were more determined to survive the worst experience of their lives.


Whenever I am faced with a situation where the outcome is out of my hands, I remind myself how I get to choose how I respond. I remember that I can look at the situation from different perspectives and reframe my thinking to discover how I can make the most out of unfavorable or unwelcome circumstances. I remind myself it's not the end of the world, and there is always something to learn from it. I don't let the situation own me. I choose to do the best I can with what unfolded in front of me. It's a powerful feeling that helps me to gain some sense of control over how I allow outside events to affect me.


Our minds have the ability to turn an unpleasant outcome into an opportunity to learn and grow, or even survive and thrive (Frankl's book went on to sell more than 16 million copies in more than 50 languages). We may not like what happened, or feel it's not fair, but we don't have to let it crush our Spirit. We can choose to be more resilient and look forward to a more favorable outcome down the road. No one can take the power of our mind from us. We always get to choose our outlook and our response.



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