Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing
: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given
set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
These are the words of a man who has inspired my life for decades – Viktor Frankl – who wrote the book Man’s Search for Meaning.
What he is saying here is that whatever anyone does to me or says to me, they cannot destroy me. I am in control because I can choose how I respond. They can try to take away my reputation; they can try to take away my dignity; they can deprive me of food and water; they can cut off my income, but they cannot take away from me the right to choose how I respond to all those situations.
Before you go on and say that is fanciful, you need to hear Frankl’s story if you don’t know it.
Frankl was a Viennese psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a concentration camp in World War 2. He was deprived of every basic human freedom, yet it became clear to him “that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision and not the result of camp influences alone.” While many died in those camps, Frankl chose to survive, chose to respond positively and constructively to the experience, chose to stay in control of his thoughts and feelings. After leaving the camp, he developed a psychotherapeutic approach to teach other people how to do what he did.
What Does This Mean For Us?
If someone is critical of us, we can choose to argue and debate or we can become angry and abusive or we can withdraw into negative self-doubt or we can be open to the criticism, listen to the person’s perspective and even thank them for their comments.
If we don’t get a promotion and someone with far fewer qualifications and less experience than us got it, we can become very angry and confrontational with our manager or spread malicious gossip about the chosen candidate or treat the person with derision and be very negative towards him. Alternatively we can tell ourselves that this was not meant to be the job for us, pro-actively move on determined to do everything we need to do to get the next promotion, congratulate the person on their success and work constructively with them to achieve the organisation’s goals.
We get to choose how we respond. Some responses will enhance our reputation and others will devalue it further. Some responses will demonstrate well-developed soft skills and personal leadership skills. Others will indicate that we need to do a lot more work in developing them.
So my motivational challenge for this week is to begin to consciously think about and choose our responses to situations.
Be the biggest person we can be in every situation. Don’t let ourselves get caught up in interaction with our lowest self.