Ever since I first came across this quote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, it has been one of my favorites.   

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. " - Viktor Frankl

In a nutshell, it means that no matter what happens to us, we have the power to choose our response.  Pavlov proved with the aid of his pooches that responses can be conditioned.  Ring the bell, give the dog food, and the dog salivates.  Repeat this process over and over, and eventually you can ring the bell, skip the food, and the dog begins to salivate.  While on very primal levels, this can work on humans, it doesn't have to.  Now we may have certain biological reactions to certain stimuli, but we ultimately have a choice in the thoughts we think, the feelings we feel, and the actions we take.

Dr. Frankl came up with this new line of thinking within the confines of a Nazi concentration camp, where he and countless others had to endure unspeakable acts.  Through it all, he witnessed people maintaining positive attitudes.  He chronicles the experience in his book Man's Search for Meaning, but the take away point is that even under those extreme circumstances, humans can rise above and choose their response to any given event.

Another way to look at this, I learned from Jack Canfield (of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame) in his book The Success Principles.  In it he talks about a sort of success formula, if you will.

E R = O

This stands for "Event" plus "Response" = "Outcome."  The message I learned from it is that the events in my life, while not insignificant, are not the only determining factor of what happens to me.  It's the combination of the events and how I deal with them.

Here’s another clever take away point.  When we think about being responsible (for our lives, for our outcomes, for our actions, etc), we could use the word for assigning blame.  There is another way to look at the word, however.  “Responsible” can mean the ability to choose ones response, or the ability to respond.  A response would be in contrast to a reaction.  A reaction is what is in our nature, but remember that we between stimulus and response, there lies a space where we get to choose.  If you want better outcomes, learn to utilize that space.  Understand that the choice is possible.  Most times I’ve had a craving for a certain food, my body wants to trick me and play games with me.  It leads me to believe that terrible things will happen to me … that the craving will only get worse and worse until I give in … that it’s okay because nobody has to know … My body does everything it can to make me give in to my craving.  Sometimes, I must admit, I am weak, but there are other times where I can take a step back and look in as though I was a bystander.  I see the situation objectively and am able to make the proper choice.

So, the next time you are faced with a craving or an urge to skip a workout, and you’re being controlled by your hormones and emotions, stop.  Take a step back and look at it like a bystander.  Get an objective perspective and then make your choice.