Between our stimulus and response there is a choice. It is in that choice we have the power to influence our action. Thoughts impact feelings, Feelings impact Emotions, Emotions cause Actions. A stimulus causes the chain of neuro triggers – thoughts, feelings, emotions and right before it goes into action there is a space.
It is this space which gives us the ability and time to channel our attention on the 3 causes which can influence the action we take.
These causes are so fundamental that every action is based on these 3 causes.
The Internal Cause – An action is driven by your internal value system. When your internal value system prevails and aligned with the action you take then you feel satisfied. If there is a conflict between the two, then you are left with a hollow sense of sadness. A customer service representative who has honesty and integrity as an internal value system will stifle in trying to sell a product with fake benefits.
In the space between stimulus and response, reflect back on your internal cause. What is your value system? How much are you willing to compromise? What defines “you” as a person?
The External Cause – Every action of ours is due to an external cause. Our actions are influenced by the teachers who taught us. The books we read, the people with who we associate. They are influenced by the peers we work with. Our bosses have their influence.
For many, external causes such as weather or the mood of another person influences their action. An impatient driver on the road exhibiting erratic behavior may be due to a tiff he had at home or at work.
The medication, drugs, food we eat are external causes influencing our actions. This article in a Malaysian daily says spicy food causes aggression. The doctor writes in the article “Road bullies, hooligans, gangsters and drunkards who have consumed hot, spicy food or one that’s high in sodium chloride will find their blood pressure levels rising.”
In the space between stimulus and response, reflect on the external causes. Who is influencing your action? How much span of influence does the influencer have on you? Do you to succumb to the external influence or can you come up with an alternative?
The Ultimate Cause – The ultimate cause is based on the principle that every action we take is due to this body, intelligence, intellect, and senses bestowed onto us by a higher power. When such is the case, our role is to let our actions be “effort focused” and not “outcome focused”. This is profound. The ultimate cause principle says since you are not attached to the outcome you should let your internal cause guide the core of the action. Without an awareness of the ultimate cause, you can fall a victim to the external cause. But, the awareness of ultimate cause, brings your internal cause into the foreground.
Because of this relationship between the ultimate cause and you, the choice you make in the space between stimulus and response, will depend on your internal cause. Of course, you would consider and keep the external cause in perspective.
A response to every stimulus is based on our internal value system. Now, you may ask “Is it practical to pause and think about these three causes before taking an action?”
There are auto-pilot actions we take which do not require us to pay attention to the space between stimulus and response. The auto-pilot actions are based on behaviors – actions we take over time which get reinforced. When I brush my teeth, I’m not thinking about the internal cause, external cause or the ultimate cause. Our parents thought us on the benefits of brushing (external cause), the need to keep good health (internal cause) and be thankful for giving us a good health (ultimate). Over time, these get reinforced as behaviors and put us on the auto-pilot. There are so many other situations though which require us to reflect on the 3 causes and make an optimal choice before taking an action.
The key is we do not let every action in our life get on the auto-pilot mode, which is unfortunately what we do in many occasions. Anger, resentment, frustration and all other harmful actions are due to a lack of reflecting on the 3 causes.
Have any of these 3 causes influenced your actions? Please share your comments.