give yourself the space

It’s not uncommon for us to have heated arguments and ugly fights in our life. We are humans and driven by emotions after all. But it’s not an excuse to not work on this aspect of our life. If we choose, we can train ourselves to remain calm during those times when we’re tempted to express the negativity within us. 

Take a few moments and think about the last fight or argument you got into with someone. Did they say something bad? Did they do something that hurt you? And then, put the spotlight on yourself: What made you upset? What feelings were you going through? How did you react? What did you say or do?

Now as you are replaying those moments in your head, conjure up an alternate scenario. When they tried to provoke you, if you had given yourself space to pause and detach, could you have responded in a better way?  Could you have controlled your reaction and stayed calm when they tried to instigate you and shower you with any rude or condescending remarks? Could it have been possible to still keep a cool head on your shoulders and turn a deaf ear to all the toxicity around you?

In his bestselling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey included a discussion of Viktor Frankl who was incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps during World War II:

“They could control his entire environment, they could do what they wanted to his body, but Victor Frankl [Viktor Frankl] himself was a self-aware being who could look as an observer at his very involvement. His basic identity was intact. He could decide within himself how all of this was going to affect him. Between what happened to him, or the stimulus, and his response to it, was his freedom or power to choose that response.”

Covey reiterated this idea, which he learned from a book in one of his visits to a University library in Hawaii, in his 1994 book First Things First, “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.”

This is what we’re learning to do in our journey of personal development and philosophy; we are training ourselves every day via reading, writing and reflecting to improve our default response in those scenarios.

In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote, “You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

Let other people give in to their negative emotions, not you. Let other people get rattled and freak out, not you. No matter what happens, by consistent practice we can learn to have a grip over our emotions, and not let them dictate our behaviors and actions. This is where our pursuit of daily improvement comes handy — to reinstate the power over our mind to ourselves, not outside events.

As James Allen eloquently put in his book As A Man Thinketh, “Self-control is strength. Right thought is mastery. Calmness is power.”