In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown says “we have to pay attention to the space between where we’re actually standing and where we want to be”, which she describes as minding the gap.
What, exactly, is this gap?
[It’s the] space between our practiced values (what we’re actually doing, thinking, and feeling) and our aspirational values (what we want to do, think, and feel)
In short, do your actions reflect the values you say you adhere to? For example, do you say you value honesty and integrity? Do your thoughts and actions reflect those, or do you find yourself taking shortcuts or justifying deviations? Let’s say you were shopping and the cashier accidentally gave you the incorrect change. I bet if it were too little, you’d immediately say something. If it was too much, do you quietly walk away, rationalising it away, “well they make plenty and it wasn’t my mistake”. There’s the gap, right there. Your small, in the moment, choices can add up to big consequences, especially if you’re a parent. If you’re teaching these values to your children but then they see you not living up to them yourself what are you really teaching them?
Often they are unconscious actions on our part because we haven’t thought deeply about our values and how to live them. Becoming aware that there’s a gap is the first step. During my daily evening journaling I try to reflect on my day and identify where I have fallen into the gap and what actions I should have taken to intentionally live out the values I strive for.
As Viktor Frankl said, ”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”. Self control is one of the most important Stoic principles that we must train ourselves in to close our values gap. We don’t have to be perfect; just engaged and committed to aligning action with our values.