How often do you wake and look at your schedule and think, “I get to do this today, and I get to do that today?” Most likely, it is thought of in terms of “I have to…”, “I have to do this today and I have to do that.”
It may seem like a waste of time in semantics, but the power of the word is important. It is about choice. Intentional choice. There is so much power in a simple choice.
Your freedom and power to make a choice is a fundamental function in the life of being human. Even in the most oppressive situations the power of the freedom of choice can be life-giving. Victor E. Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor stated, “Everything can be taken from a man 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.” In the midst of unspeakable horrors and atrocities done to him and the Jewish people in Nazi Germany during World War II, Frankl learned the power and freedom of choosing his response to his captors and abusers. This is a difficult truth to apply as we can tend to focus on our circumstances and outside factors as what is “forcing” our decisions. As top leaders in our organizations and industries, we have been able to couch this in the belief that we are being “intentional” with our decisions, but are we really? Our words betray us.
When we say, “I have to…” we betray our belief that we are in control of our choice. When we say “I am so busy…” we admit that our schedule (and others) is choosing our actions not our intentional choices. It is easier to do this as we can always defer to something else for responsibility. When someone needs something from us that, if we were honest, we just don’t want to deal with, we shift the burden of relational responsibility onto our true lack of choice; our schedule. “I’m sorry, I’m just so busy. I have to do this, or that…” We are deferring the responsibility to an outside factor. What we are really saying is, “You just aren’t as important to me as my own needs right now and I don’t want to deal with you.” Imagine how that conversation would go over.
We don’t say those things because it would cause a relational train wreck. So instead, we relinquish control of our choices to someone or something else. It is reflected in our words.
What would our leadership look like if we really were more intentional with our power of choice? Instead of saying “I’m busy” (my schedule running me), I say “My schedule is full” (I am in control of my time through my intentional choice to put things in my schedule). That small shift in verbal and mindset choice changes my perspective and stature toward my leadership and work. I am more honest with myself and others. I am stronger emotionally, mentally, and physically. I am more determined and confident. This energy then pours out onto the other leaders I have influence. It impacts them and those they lead.
I have a choice. You have a choice. “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.”
Victor E. Frankl