Anyone who has traveled on London’s Underground subway has seen the ubiquitous “Mind the Gap” signs. It is a reminder to stay aware of the gap between the edge of the passenger platform and the opening to the subway car door. Being mindful of the gap, travelers know to remain aware as they take their step.
There is another gap that calls for our mindfulness – and is the place in which, in the words of The Power of TED*, shift happens. It is the “choice point.”
This gap has arisen in a couple of conversations over the past several weeks. The first was with Enid Moulder, managing director of the UK’s Harmony Partnership. The second took place just a few days ago with Donna Zajonc, TED’s director of coaching and practitioner services (and my wife).
In the conversation with Enid, we were exploring how TED helps equip individuals to be mindful when facing a choice point. She often makes the connection between TED and Stephen R. Covey’s “Proactive Model” and his observation that between stimulus and response there is a gap in which we have the freedom of choice – that is the choice point.
When we experience an unpleasant person, condition or circumstance (the stimulus), we can either react from the Victim Orientation or choose to respond from a Creator Orientation. We can react in one of the roles of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) ™ of Victim, Persecutor or Rescuer, OR we can make shift happen into the more empowered and resourceful TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) ™ roles of Creator, Challenger or Coach.
We have that capacity to choose – if we “mind the gap.”
The challenge is that the gap for choice, I learned from Donna, happens blindingly fast. She had just returned from one of Portland State University’s classes in Interpersonal Neurobiology – part of a series she is studying and applying to the TED work. The class topic was on mindfulness. The instructor cited the research of neurophysiologist Benjamin Libet in the 1980’s that indicates that the gap between stimulus and reaction/response may be as little as .03 seconds (that is 300 milliseconds!).
It is in that blink-of-an-eye that we have the chance to catch ourselves and become aware that we have the freedom to make a choice in that moment. Upon becoming aware of the opportunity to choose, we can slow down and consciously determine how we will respond. As a Creator, we must be diligent to mind the gap between stimulus and response before we choose and take our next step.