INSTALL THE SPACE
“Between stimulus & response there is a space. In that space
is our power to choose our response. In our response
lies our growth & our freedom”
If we look at the world then we will realize that there are just people and events and both push each other to achieve a goal. For example, if a building is being constructed then the event is the construction of the building itself and that is pushing the people to work. And how the people work determines how good the building will be and how quickly will it be made. Often, how we behave can greatly influence how the event will shape up. For example, had Newton ignored the apple falling on his head, the discovery of gravity would probably have taken many more years to see the light of day. And sometimes our behavior is mirrored by what we say, the words we use.
This sometimes leads us to believe that whenever an event occurs our immediate response and the things that we say “in the moment” happen involuntarily and without any control. To a good extent this is true. How many times have we used inappropriate and cuss words to justify our anger? How many times have we reacted without thinking? And how many times have we commented, in real life or on social media, on things that needed more understanding? At some point of time in our lives, we have all done that.
But perhaps what’s worse is the fact that we try to justify our “inappropriate response” after we already have delivered it. When an event occurs in the world outside then almost immediately a reaction occurs inside our head. Our sensory system perceives it with inputs from our past experiences, our emotions gets attached with it, and we decide whether and how we need to act in a fraction of second. This decision ultimately forms our response.
While the immediate response is good for an emergency situation it may prove inappropriate when we are sitting in our office taking business decisions or sitting with our family and friends and building up relationships for the long term.
It might sound like what we say is always an immediate reaction and there is barely anything we can do about it. But it is time we understood that it does not have to be that way. All we need to do is install a space between the stimulus and response and then we will be easily able to decide whatever we want to say.
If you have installed a space between the stimulus and response where you have decided to keep your immediate thoughts and emotions to be positive no matter what in non-lethal situations, then your emotional part of the brain will always remain under the guidance of “CEO” of the brain and will perform analysis and creative work for you. When you do this suddenly a whole ocean of options will open up in front of you and you will be able to choose whatever you want to say or how you want to react. The stimulus here need not necessarily determine your action of long-term consequences. In this space, you can decide to remain productive for the future.
For example, on her way to the office Sonali’s car met with a small accident. Sonali has a busy day ahead of her. she has to do presentations, send important emails, meet clients and spearhead a meeting. Now, let us see what happens based on the decision Sonali takes.
This is an immediate reaction and most of us will be inclined to take this route. X person is using bad language against me and therefore I also have to do the same. Sonali therefore gets into a verbal spat and after 15 mins when they decide to go their way, she is in a foul mood and her work gets affected.
She installs the space
Instead of using bad language or shouting, Sonali has installed the space and no w she is thinking. She realizes that there are many things she can do. She can record that persons words in her smart phone and send it to the authority or she can leave the room or she can do a Facebook live. Sonali can even ask the person if they are all right or not or ask the authority to act. Basically, Sonali’s options are now limitless and she can easily choose her course of action after weighing her options. This will nurture her long-term purpose. Therefore, Sonali will choose the response that serves her the best.
Installing the space is extremely important in today’s time where we often say things without thinking. So many celebrities, politicians, and famous personalities have commented or said things that have been deemed with inappropriate or weird. Since communication has become so easy and ubiquitous, it has become our responsibility to think before we say anything.
Let’s look at how this affects a business situation.
Karan own a family business that sells car parts. He business is doing well and he is in fact thinking of expanding the business to include more vehicles. He gets in touch with a manufacturer and they schedule an appointment. The person who represents the manufacturer speaks with a terrible lisp. During their meeting, Karan finds it extremely humorous and lets out a laugh on more than one occasion. This enrages the person and he cancels the deal.
Now, let’s look at what would have happened had Karan installed a space.
During the same meeting Karan would have paused and thought, “I know his lisp makes him look funny but I need this deal. Besides it is not right to make fun of anyone. We all have our own problems.” This very thought will allow Karan to look beyond the petty issues and instead focus on the bigger picture. And by deciding to take this route he will be able to create a major difference in his business.
Here’s another example about family and relationships.
Mehul’s father, Rajesh, has a traditional approach to life and does not want to accept that patriarchy is a poison to the society. But at the same time, he has not restricted his daughters to a patriarchal lifestyle. The daughters who are now adults have freedom as long as Rajesh is okay with the decisions. So, when they wanted to go out for a night show with their lady friends, Rajesh’s reaction was,
“Never! Women from good households don’t come late at night.”
Now clearly Rajesh is the only one who thinks he does not have a patriarchal mindset. In this scenario if he installs the space then his thoughts probably would be something along the lines of, “sure, why can’t they go out? By giving “permission” I am imposing my own patriarchal thinking, am I not? But nights can be dangerous for women. But they will stay together and I must make sure they call me.”
The space which we are talking about here is an imaginary space where we can keep any type of thought that we want. By keeping positive and uplifting thoughts we are ensuring that we don’t fall into the trap of negative thinking. Our job is to basically pause and think about what we need to say or how we need to react. This is an important trait and almost every great leader in the world pause before they say or react.
Why it is important to install the space
We have already spoken about how the thinking gets affected the moment we decide to pause and think rationally. It is time to understand the psychology behind it. When we receive a stimulus to react, our immediate thoughts and emotions are animalistic in nature because we are essentially animals. When we activate the survival part of our brain (the amygdala), we are left with only four options, which are mainly the four F’s ( “flight”, “fright”, “fight” & “fornicate”).
But in between any stimulus if we keep our immediate thoughts and emotions positive then the animal or survival part of the brain does not get activated every now and then. And with the CEO of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex on your side) our creative and lateral thinking stays with us.
It is very important to understand how this works. Our animal instincts are sudden and the decisions taken in such moments are often taken to protect ourselves, a trait that is commonly found in nature. Emotions like “fear”, “attack”, or “flight” are often animalistic in nature. Therefore, when we are reacting against another person who is abusing us without thinking rationally, we are actually protecting ourselves.
In the following example we will consider both animal and people to see how it works.
Sonela who lives in Shimla owns two dogs – Mishka and Kafka. The dogs are never quiet during the night and especially when it starts snowing. Sonela, however, has now learned to live with that. But on one particular night, they barked constantly and Sonela knew there was something unusual about their behavior. They forced Sonela to let them out at around 4:30 a.m. They left their home to investigate and this piqued Sonela’s curiosity. Even before she could open the door, the two dogs pushed it open and bolted out into the frosty darkness.
Later, in the early hours of January, an elderly woman was discovered who lay next to a truck dressed in only a nightgown. The 80-year-old woman had probably lost her way in the darkness and had got stuck somehow. Her family, too, were looking for her.
Sonela later said, “It could have been a tragic outcome had Mishka and Kafka not warned her. I don’t know how they knew she was out there.”
Here Sonela praises her dogs but it is actually Sonela’s thinking that helped save the old lady. Her dogs always bark when it snows and therefore there was nothing unusual about their behavior. It was Sonela’s decision to wake up. It was her intuition that worked. She probably must have thought why her dogs were behaving more weirdly than usual? What if there was something out there that required her attention?
By installing the space, Sonela saved a life. Instead of going back to sleep, she decided to think rationally. We must remember that we have the power to install this space at any time during the day or at anytime during a business meeting or discussion.
Installing the space can also help us become kind and in fact even save lives. We have spoken about the importance of empathy before and one of the absolute best ways of doing that is by understanding the person in front of you. Here is an example:
Depression is one of the worst kinds of illness that can affect an individual. It often eats up the hopes and self-confidence of an individual, leaving them vulnerable to defeat and failure. Over the years, we have seen many celebrities battling depression and while some have successfully fought it, others have succumbed in the form of suicide and death. At times like these all it takes is a ray of hope or a sign saying everything will be all right.
Ruby, a 17-year-old is going through a similar phase. She is a teenager like every other teenager in the country. But she suffers from severe depression, anxiety and anorexia and it has led her to medications, hospitals, rehabs and even suicide attempts for five time! Despite being a lover of dance and ballet and her FB being filled with photos of a beautiful and smiling woman Ruby can’t seem to come out of her depression.
To make matters worse, even her therapy has turned to be bad and to calm herself she goes to her local coffee shop. She was also contemplating suicide but instead, her life changed when she read what was written on her cup.
Instead of her name, the shopkeeper had written “smile” on it. Ruby realized maybe it was because of her feeding tube because she doesn’t get adequate nutrition through eating.
After this incident Ruby decide to live for a better tomorrow.
Now, let’s go back to the shopkeeper who handed her the coffee. In most cases, the shopkeeper hands over the cup and that’s it. But by installing a mental space, the same person was able to create a major difference in the Ruby’s life. Instead of simply “doing her job” she “did her job”. As humans we must understand the person in front of us and that can only be done by installing the space and creating positive thoughts.
One of the best ways of installing the space in our minds is by reading and listening. Both these activities when done simultaneously can help us become more positive.
“The quieter you become the more you are able to hear”
The philosophy behind Rumi’s quote it is that to become successful one must read a lot and listen carefully to things happen around him. Every successful man or woman in the world has mastered the art of listening and reading wisely. Because one must first listen and read before one can talk and write. The world is filled with experiences of different sorts and listening to such experiences helps in the long run. A recent survey conducted showed that almost 90% of successful leaders in the world read a lot and listened to great speeches.
Listening enhances the ability to speak
Whether it be deadlines, communications or instructions, listening helps one understand what is required of him. And only if he listens will he be able to communicate in an effective manner. It is often said that maximum impact can be made with a few words. True. A person who wants to get his message across does not need to say a lot. This is what all great leaders in the world practice.
Reading opens up the mind
Reading on different kinds of topics helps improve the thinking process. Therefore, a person who reads a lot will not sit idle during a brain storming session. And he will not be shy to express his opinion even if they might ultimately be useless. Reading on a vast range of topics like management, history, literature, science helps develop imagination and great ideas are born out of imagination. Therefore, every organization should have a library with a vast collection of books.
It helps increase knowledge
A knowledgeable man is always respected and admired in any circle. It doesn’t matter if that person is from a lower management level. If he knows what he is talking about, it can instantly create a magical effect on his listeners. Plus, reading and listening are irreplaceable skills and do not require effort. One must keep his eyes and ears open and the rest shall follow.
Nothing beats knowledge and true knowledge can only be gained from reading and listening a lot. And it should not be restricted to a particular genre. Any topic is fine as long as one is doing both things correctly. Listening and reading are trademark qualities of great leaders and in almost every organization, a person who does both is highly appreciated.
Installing the space will make you a better leader
Recent genetic studies have hinted out that it is possible that entrepreneurs are born with certain characteristics that make them natural leaders. However, it is quite the contrary. Entrepreneurs are made, not born. That doesn’t mean scientific studies are useless and provide wrong results. It simply means that those who become successful entrepreneurs are hard workers and smart thinkers (installing the space). Both can be achieved through practice and consistency.
Every leader has similar characteristics
If leaders were born, they would have different characteristics. But, across every field, every successful entrepreneur is of a similar breed. They are motivated and their attitude towards life is completely different. Quoting the words of Zig Ziglar, “You attitude, not your aptitude, determines your altitude”. Aptitude is defined at birth. People are either born with it or they aren’t. It’s true in the case of arts and few others that some people who are gifted at birth have a better chance of succeeding than others. But in leadership, entrepreneurs depend on their experience rather than their innate ability to lead.
Leaders from birth tend to be cocky
If you have ever met an entrepreneur who, as a kid, wanted to become the leader at everything, no matter the cost, then it is certain that 9 out of 10 times, he has turn out to be an egoist. It is human psychology. Power rules. For some, the law of the jungle still applies to every scenario in life. Therefore, people who feel they are natural born leaders tend to become over ambitious as entrepreneurs. Whereas, those that achieve the feat through hard work tend to be more understanding and supportive towards those working under him/her. A true entrepreneur understands the importance of every person in his life, be that a janitor or a CEO. Is it a wonder then that one of the greatest American leaders and former president Barrack Obama went around meeting everyone, giving them the respect they deserved? A true leader listens before he speaks. Quoting Rumi, John Barksdale once said that “the quieter you become, the more you are able to hear”.
Entrepreneurs are always made. Those who think they are born entrepreneurs are not. A true entrepreneur or leader understands the needs of those around and under him without being cocky. He is hard-working and over the years hones his skills at dealing with people in the best way possible.