When You Choose a Self-Limiting State

Stephen Covey wrote about the space between stimulus and response, and he strongly suggested that we take note of the pause between the stimulus and the response, and understand that the pause provides an opportunity. The pause provides power.

The pause provides an opportunity to reflect on the stimulus. It provides an opportunity to respond appropriately to the response. It also provides the possibility of not responding at all, of not being stimulated.

To ignore the pause is to disempower yourself.

The State of Your State

Someone else’s state can be a stimulus if you allow it to be. When someone is angry, short-tempered, or in a generally foul mood, your interaction can be a stimulus. If you allow it, their foul mood can infect you with the same state.

There are some people who walk around in state of unhappiness, as if the only thing that makes them happy is being unhappy. You may know someone who resembles this from time-to-time. Their state doesn’t have to be your state. Between that stimulus and your response is a pause.

You can choose not to allow their negativity to infect your state. Or, you can choose to ask them what is upsetting them and how you can help instead. Or you can choose to be happy and empowered in spite of their disempowered and self-limiting state.

In Tension, Intentions

Some people operate from the belief that other people are acting out of bad intentions. They travel through life always being harmed by other people, regardless of how little the stimulus, the response is always a disempowering state change, usually anger or frustration.

That person who cut them off, well they’re a rotten bastard. The waiter isn’t serving them well because he is incompetent and isn’t even trying.

By assuming bad intentions, by not using the pause between the stimulus and the response, these poor folks allow their state to be changed by the smallest of things. Then, they interact with others in a state that all but ensures they provide a negative stimulus.

You have control over your state. The pause, however short, between stimulus and response, is always available to you.

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