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One of best illustrations of power of "inside-out" came to me when I was a child. I went to see movie Papillon. For those not familiar with this story, Henri Charriere was a Frenchman who was convicted in 1931 of a murder he did not commit. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he spent 12 years in penal colony of French Guiana. After eight unsuccessful attempts to escape, he finally got away to Venezuela. More than 20 years later, when he was 60, Charriere wrote his story, which became an international best seller and was made into a movie. One scene from movie has stuck with me all these years. Charriere was locked in a dark, small cell in solitary confinement almost 24 hours a day. The only living things sharing tiny prison cell with him were roaches. He chose to make these roaches his "friends" and actually looked forward to seeing them on occasions when a beam of light would come into his cell so he could see.
Now, if you're like me, I was taught that roaches were not my friends. This scene in movie taught me a very important lesson in life: It is not our circumstances that make or break us, but rather our response to those circumstances. Jack Canfield illustrates this beautifully in his book, How to Build High Self-Esteem, by sharing this simple equation: E (experience) + R (response) = O (outcome).
In Charriere's case, experience was that he was imprisoned in solitary confinement in a very small roach- infested cell with little or no light. The response was that he chose to think of roaches as welcomed guests in his home -- his way of honoring his own value of having companionship in his life. The outcome was that he was able to maintain his sanity by inviting roaches to provide him with companionship he so desperately craved while in solitary confinement. Had Charriere's response been different, I'm certain he would have experienced a completely different outcome. As I recall, movie paralleled Charriere's life with that of another prisoner in same penal colony. Although two prisoners shared similar experiences, their responses were quite different. The other man ended up losing his sanity and dying during an attempt to escape.
Although we may never find ourselves in Charriere's circumstances, I believe most of us are mentally imprisoned by our own response to experiences in our lives. When we experience emotions like fear, anger, and jealousy, we have chosen thoughts that put us in smallest of jail cells. These emotions completely paralyze our freedom of choice.
We have ability to be completely at choice about how we see things, how we feel, and what we do as a result. In Stephen Covey's book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he explains how these things are all connected: Our paradigms -- lens through which we view things -- inform our thoughts. Our thoughts inform our feelings. Our feelings inform our response. Our response affects outcome. This explains how two people working from different paradigms can experience same event and yet experience completely different outcomes. To illustrate, Stephen Covey tells of an experience he once had:
Mr. Covey was sitting on a New York subway one quiet Sunday morning when a man and his children got on his subway car. The man sat down next to Covey and closed his eyes, while his children immediately began yelling back and forth, throwing things, and even grabbing people's papers. Although children were being very disruptive, father made no attempt to control his kids. It appeared that he was oblivious to situation. Covey grew more irritated by minute. Clearly everyone else on subway felt irritated, too. So Covey finally turned to man and said, "Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn't control them a little more?" The father lifted his gaze as he became conscious to situation, and he said, "Oh, you're right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don't know what to think, and I guess they don't know how to handle it either." At this point, Covey shifted from feeling irritated and judgmental to feeling compassion, concern, and empathy. In other words, as Covey got more information, it shifted his paradigm, which shifted way he thought about situation, which shifted his feelings about man and his children. And all of these shifts helped Covey to choose a different response, which changed outcome for both Covey and other man.
Kathy Paauw, a certified business/personal coach and organizing/productivity consultant, specializes in helping busy executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs declutter their schedules, spaces and minds. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at http://www.orgcoach.net and learn how you can Find ANYTHING in 5 Seconds --Guaranteed!