The Space Between Stimulus and Response

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions – Stephen Covey

When I was about 10 years old, I saw Stephen Covey speak. Being part of the same faith, he happened to be in town on business and gave a talk to our local congregation.

I think it was then that I fell in love with all things self-help. 

He taught that between stimulus and response there was a space. 

In that space lived CHOICE.

We do not choose our stimulus. Our stimulus is set. It is our circumstances. It is the “facts” in our lives. It is the stuff that is unchangeable  – or at least not easily changeable.. 

Most of us attribute then the results in our life to whatever circumcumstance we are handed. If we are lucky, we get good circumstances. If we are unlucky, we get bad circumstances. We are at the mercy of the circumstance. 

Even my 10 year old self recognized that that was true. 

Until I heard him say “Between stimulus and response is choice”. 


I had the power to CHOOSE what I wanted my “response” to be? 

What? My choice could influence the result? 

I slowly started to understand that I could not always control the stimulus, but I could control my CHOICE.

This was such an interesting concept to me, but it was not until much later in my life that I learned that my choice also included what I chose to THINK. 

All my choices started from thoughts in my head. 

Those thoughts that I can freely choose trigger certain feelings in me.  Based on those feelings, I am motivated to do or not do certain things. 

The things I do or not do then lead me to the eventual result: my existing life. 

My existing life is not dependent on the circumstances!

It was only years later that I saw that it was a concept that Viktor Frankl taught. He said “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”.

Stimulus is not directly linked to response. 

There is a space. And I get to fill it.  

Choose wisely. 

Powerful stuff.