It feels like your ability to decide – your autonomy – has been stripped away, by the closing of the economy, by racial tension, by people with different politics. The circumstances around you are crazy: Covid and quarantine, social change, and the Presidential election. And everyone keeps using that word: “Unprecedented.” That word makes it worse because it removes the comfort of retrospection. No one can predict the future, but at least when it rhymed with the past, we could contain it within a few scenarios. The future is always a question. But it’s usually a multiple-choice question. Now, it’s an essay. 

An essay would be great if you got to write it. Not so great if you are written by it. Will monetary and fiscal policy, debt, deficits, and the value of the dollar do us in? Will the recovery be V-shaped, U-shaped, or nonexistent? Will whoever gets elected (if we can even figure out who won) make it worse or better? Will the stats from this MLB season matter? Will you remain sane?

All unknowable, except the last one. You get to decide what affect all of these events have on you. It doesn’t seem like it, but in the onslaught of unknowns and uncertainty, you still get to decide how you will respond.

Remember what Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.” It feels as if events cause emotions; they don’t. There is a space. But when unprecedented events are unnerving us, it’s hard to believe there’s a space. Remember what Frankl said, but also remember the context. He was a Nazi concentration camp survivor. And his wife, parents and brother did not survive the camps.

You get to decide, not how events will unfold, but how you will respond. First, make a distinction between responding and reacting. Reaction comes from being unaware of the space. Responding comes from using the space to decide.

We love stories about people who beat the odds: The athlete who walked-on and won, the entrepreneur who worked-up and prospered. Those stories are great to hear but grueling to live. In the bad times, when the outcome is unknown and uncertain, the pressure can smash events and emotions so tightly together that the space is imperceptible. Cortisol shuts down our ventral medial prefrontal cortex, where response lives, and we’re left with the dorsal raphe nucleus, where reaction lives.

Prying events and emotions apart, under pressure, is what separates the triumphant from the broke and broken. You don’t get to tell your great story, later, if you react, now. You do if you respond.

Maybe this is the grueling part of your great story. There are tools and tactics, researched, validated, and proven, to help you and your team thrive through the torrent. 


Engaged Banker eXperience delivers these and many other strategies, from behavioral science, to all of your bank’s employees, in bite-sized bits, in every learning style, using spaced repetition and synchronous communication. In other words, in a way every person can easily absorb and immediately apply, to their individual success and to the success of your bank.