At the very core of our humanity lies our capability for choice.
My chosen belief is this: we can’t always choose our circumstances & we don’t ultimately control what happens to us, but we are always free to choose what we do about the circumstances and how we respond to what happens to us.
It is in this space between stimulus and response that our true power lies.
A book that has had a foundational impact on my way of thinking is Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl, where he, as a Holocaust Survivor, psychiatrist and neurologist, shares his reflections on freedom & living a meaningful life, in spite of the circumstances we may find ourselves in.
If you haven’t read this book, please take the time to take part of Frankl’s sincere reflections about the essence of human freedom and its potential power to create meaning in the darkest of circumstances. Sincere, because he really got to try out the ideas in the most difficult of circumstances.
In the darkest of nights we see the stars shining even brighter.
So, Frankl observed that, in the camp, the inmates would either “remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal.”
But how is this possible?
During the past years, as I’ve studied great people from all walks of life, heroes, people who stood for the dignity & rights of every living being, I’ve come to see some patterns.
Weather it’s Sophie Scholls, Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr… they all practiced their power of choice, before they really “had do.”
They where normal people who made a lot of tiny bold decisions, which, accumulated over time, where to be named greatness.
They where also men and women with great self-knowledge. They knew what they stood for and they “stood for it. All – the – time.”
Even before they got recognised as heroes, they were making heroic decisions… dedicated to there highest ideals, building that character.
My deep encouragement to you is that you begin to make your own heroic decisions in your day-to-day. It’s in this little moment, when you stop, recognise your power to choose and use it to infuse more love, compassion & light into this world… its in this very moment that you are acting heroically.
What are holding us back?
So, as I studied the great men and women who’ve graced the planet, I’ve seen that self-knowledge, matched with the courage to be true to yourself, is the very core quality of a hero.
Back to Frankl, who explains the issue of not knowing oneself in these words:
”No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do, sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead he either wishes to do what other people do (which is conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (which is totalitarianism).”
In other words, if we don’t know where we are going, in terms of who we wish to become and what we wish to do, there are only two options left for us:
1. Conformism – Following the crowd’s values, choices, opinions, actions, expectations, moral standards.
2. Totalitarianism – Simply obeying someone “above you” without considering the moral side of it… This is what we call “Blind Obedience” – Following without thinking.
If you don’t believe in the strength of these two and don’t grasp how serious it really is, then go on to this video about a) The Asch conformity Experiments & this about b) The Milgram Experiment on Obedience to Authority.
They are simply mind-blowing.
The conclusions are that a) Most of us are very afraid of “standing out” from the norm and willing to compromise our moral standard as a result & b) Most of us are extremely adapt to obeying authorities and compromising with our moral standards as a result.
The most important part of this experiment though, I believe, is the fact that everyone did not compromise. Some people stood for what they believed to be right… They din’t give in to fear… They where acting heroically.
These experiments where conducted after the Second World War. Behavioural Psychologists & Sociologists where chocked by what happened in the Holocaust & they were wondering how people could submit to such low moral standards in a modern society…
Take a moment now and reflect where these two are showing up in your life.
* Are you pursuing your dream or someone else’s because you fear standing out and being criticised?
* Are you living your truths or submitting to someone else’s because fear of not being accepted?
* Are you standing for what you truly believe to be right? Or are you simply obeying someone that is putting prissier on you to act in a certain way?
Are you pushed by fear or pulled by love?
Remember: “If you don’t stand for anything, you’ll fall for anything.” – Malcolm X
Choose to act heroically – choose to act out of love, not fear.
YOU. CAN. DO. THIS.
And please know that, this is not something we’re either born with or not. This is a skill that can be cultivated and trained over time. This is a key change of mindset. This is one of the truths that will, really set you free – free to grow & become.
“Love finds a way, everything else finds an excuse.”
– Preston Smiles
Questions? Comments? I’d love to connect.
With great love and respect.
To your heroic nature.