Context for the “Space”

I posted before about our ability to create a space between stimulus and response. This is of course not Nobel Prize submission material, yet it’s one of those truisms that is so often taken for granted.

What I want to say here is that a practice of creating that Space will be a difficult one to implement, or maybe even impossible without a context for your life.

By context I mean a story about you, who you are, what your values are, and what you’re creating with your life.

If you’re not clear on what your goals are in life and therefore how your colleagues at work, your family at home, your neighbors and members in your communities all fit into your life, you’ll have difficulty making the proper choices about the many possible reactions you could make to any stimulus from a person or situation.

This is the stuff of ambition.

Consider this example:

Mary is a deeply religious person and has created her main goal in life to save as many souls as possible. This is the context within which she lives her daily life.   In any interaction with people Mary gets to choose responses that further her goal.  So when an angry man pushes her on the bus, Mary suppresses her knee jerk reaction to say something angrily in response, and considers the man.


Since she is very clear on what her life purpose is, she can immediately place this man in that context and assess that he is a candidate to be saved.  She can make the man’s push mean that it was a signal from God to have her intervene in his life and take action.

Her response is then based on the meaning that she chose to give to what happened, and the meaning she gave it came from her context, her story about what she’s up to in life.

Sam, who has no such clarity around his life’s purpose and has no goals for his life, might have taken the push personally, said something nasty and an argument or fight might have ensued.

No Space.

So this comes full circle back to the examined life.  What are you up to in life?  Who are you?  What are your personal ethics?  What are you creating with your life?  What is your ambition? Great questions for the life practitioner.  It might take you years to evolve the answers that work for you, and it is essential to have at least some work-in-progress answers now if you’re going to make good use of the Space.

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.