Blog Post

The last of human freedoms

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 27 September 2016



The last of human freedoms
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 195
Posted DateTuesday 27 September 2016 11:39 GDT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen

In 1989, I first read Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and he introduced me to the life and work of Viktor Frankl.

Viktor Frankl was an internationally renowned psychiatrist. In 1946, he wrote the book Man's Search for Meaning.

In his book, he begins with a deeply moving personal account of his imprisonment in Auschwitz and other concentration camps during the Second World War, and his struggle during that time to find reasons to live.

In the second part of the book called "Logotherapy in a Nutshell," he describes the psychotherapeutic method that he pioneered as a result of his experiences in the concentration camps.

At the core of Logotherapy is his belief that man's primary motivational force is a search for meaning.

One sentence in the book stood out for me:

The last of human freedoms - the ability to chose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances.

Credit: Viktor E. Frankl

Stephen Covey expresses the concept a little more fully:
In the space between stimulus (what happens) and how we respond, lies our freedom to choose.

Ultimately, this power to choose is what defines us as human beings.

We may have limited choices, but we can always choose.

We can choose our thoughts, emotions, moods, our words, our actions; we can choose our values and live by principles.

It is the choice of acting or being acted upon.

Credit: Stephen R. Covey

This idea that we have the ability to chose our response to any stimulus in any set of circumstances has had a huge shaping influence on me over the years and I have tried to abide by the philosophy. Not always successfully I might add.

And then much more recently, I came across the work of Peter Block. Peter in his book Community: The Structure of Belonging says this:

The real task of leadership is to confront people with their freedom.

Credit: Peter Block

Peter's ideas have been very much influenced by the work of Peter Koestenbaum

To my mind, we are all leaders to one degree or another, and so it's the task of each and every one of us to remind each other of our freedom to choose not only how we respond to situations but:
  • who we are
  • what we think
  • what we do
  • and how we go about it

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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