Did you know that midlife women can face over 25,000 choices in a single day? Some are small, some are large, and some are life changing.
Every choice begins with a stimulus, calling us to respond.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.
And in our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
God is in that space – widening the space to slow you down, giving you the time to make a thoughtful decision.
The “dark voice” is also in that space – scrunching it tight, getting you to react precipitously, making hasty choices. Often poor ones.
Stephen R. Covey, in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,* points out four critical principles of choice making that reside in the space between stimulus and response.
Self-awareness. Imagination. Conscience. Independent will.
My client, Sarah,* and I used this model as she worked through some sticky wickets with her adult daughter Janis*. (Names have been changed.)
Sarah found herself making suggestions to Janis about the way the grandchildren were being raised. There were issues about household chores, eating schedules and the amount of after school activities. Janis heard these suggestions as criticism. As a result, she was backing away from her mom.
Sarah was willing to do anything to re-establish her once close relationship with her daughter.
I asked her to consider the word “responsible” as “response-able.” She is able to choose her own response.
She first considered self-awareness.
As humans, we can stand apart from our own life and observe it. We can even observe our thoughts and name our feelings.*
Sarah had been a single mom and admitted to over investing herself in Janis. She realized that she was now feeling left out of Janis’ life and was attempting to be included by trying to make helpful suggestions. Unfortunately, this was having the opposite effect.
Imagination is the ability to envision something entirely different from one’s past experience. One can envision or imagine a far better response, one that would work in both the short and the long term.*
Sarah began to imagine a relationship with Janis where they could spend time together woman to woman. Not parent to child. She had many female friendships, and they were not laden with advice. Maybe Sarah could be that way with Janis. She imagined that would be a better way.
The ability to evaluate what you observe about your own life is key to choosing well. A strictly human experience. Conscience gives us not only a moral sense but a moral power. We ask ourself, “What is the right thing to do here?”*
Sarah admitted that Janis was a thoughtful, caring mother to her children. The fact that Janis chose to raise them differently from her own upbringing did not mean she was parenting poorly. Just differently.
With this new understanding, Sarah saw it was time to exercise her independent will.
The power to take action. Just do it!*
Sarah made a coffee date with Janis and confessed her struggles with letting go. She and Janis decided upon a small loving gesture that Janis could use to signal her Mom to back off with the advice. They toasted each other with their latte’s and celebrated a new beginning.
PS: Sarah says she is slowly stepping into her role as loving grandmother and relinquishing the problematic advising mom role. Janis now initiates some of their time together. And Sarah is putting more effort into spending time with her female peer friends!
How could you incorporate these four principles into your choice making? With which of these principles do you get stuck?
When you choose the behavior, you choose the consequences. Choose well. Choose life.
Call me at (707) 473-8278 for a free 45-minute conversation on how we might work together to clarify and strengthen your choice making. Especially with your adult children.
OVER TO YOU: In the comment box below, please tell us about any choice making that you are working on. Any obstacles in the way for you?
P.S. PASS IT ON: Loved this post? Then send it on!
Until next time, this is Carolyn, Your “What’s Next?” Coach!