We all experience moments where we doubt ourselves, beat ourselves up over something we did or said, or hold back from going for what we really want.
Inside each of us is a huge reserve of personal power and influence. We can greatly affect our own path, our attitude, and our actions simply by shifting our thoughts. Even more amazingly, we can affect the lives of those we come in contact with as well.
So, how do you empower yourself and tap into your reserve of personal power? How can you summon up the courage and strength to go for what you want?
Power means to “do work or have influence.” So, I look at it as, how can you empower yourself by understanding how you work and recognizing the influence you hold over yourself and those around you?
Believe it or not, studies show that each of us has a very wide circle of influence. We directly influence those we come into contact with each day and it creates a ripple effect. This works with both positive and negative actions. For example, in one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found if a friend smokes, you’re 61% more likely to be a smoker. Even more surprising, if a friend of a friend smokes, you’re still 11% more likely to smoke!
The same holds true for happiness and satisfaction. If a friend of a friend OF A FRIEND is happy with their life, you’re 6% more likely to feel happy with your own life. While 6% may not seem like a huge percentage, if you surround yourself with several happy friends, your chances continue to rise.
Learning to empower yourself means tapping into this personal power and examining your relationship with power. As you recognize, embrace, and grow in your personal power, you have even more influence.
In other words, the more you are YOU, the more power you manifest in the world. The more you’re YOU, the more influence you have on others. The more you’re guided by what matters to you, the more personal power and thus, empowerment you have.
Discovering your strengths, your preferences, your likes and dislikes helps you empower yourself. Many of us aren’t 100% sure what it is we really want out of life. We’ve tried to go with the flow and allow life to happen around us rather than creating the life we want to live.
During our Year of More program, our students take on a weekly assignment where they change their view, examine an aspect of their personality, or explore new ways to elicit action and reaction for those around them. We call the work on these projects, the “assignment way of living” because each day in life, we’re choosing to try something new, work on a new project, and take steps to tap into our potential.
Oftentimes, students discover before they started the Year of More, they weren’t aware of what they really wanted. Yes, of course we all want more money, a bigger house, an attractive partner, lots of friends…but those aren’t exactly what we yearn for. Our yearnings are bigger, deeper, spiritual wants or hungers each of us have.
We may yearn to be loved, to love, to be needed, to feel safe. We may yearn to be seen, to be heard, to be respected. Yearnings are universal and every person has certain yearnings they need to have met in order to feel fulfilled.
Exploring your yearnings also leads to exploring your preferences. What do you like? What do you prefer?
Many of us attempt to read and cater to the wants of the outside world. We think, “What do they want me to be? I don’t want to displease someone else. I don’t want to make someone else mad. I don’t want to upset anybody. I want to fit in. I want to belong.”
These ideas guide our behavior. We don’t want to make someone else upset or uncomfortable, but we’re not asking, “what would really please me? What would satisfy me? What are my preferences?”
One of the assignments we take on during the Year of More is discovering what you like. Each student explores the question, “What do I like? What don’t I like? What do I agree with? What don’t I agree with?” and they learn to voice that more fully. Most of us aren’t practiced in being aware of what it is we really yearn for, what we care about, and what would really satisfy us.
As you think about these questions, dig in a little deeper by adding on “so that” to the end of your wants. For example, “I want to get a promotion, so that I earn more money. I want to earn more money so that I feel more secure about my finances…” In this case, the deeper yearning is to feel secure.
Once you’ve identified your yearnings, start seeking ways to meet those deeper yearnings by asking for them to be met and by recognizing opportunities to address your needs. It all begins by identifying what you really like and what you don’t like. If you never do that, you can’t fully empower yourself to become the person you want to be.
Another tough assignment to empower yourself is to be more willing to displease other people. Now, this doesn’t mean being a jerk, of course. It means learning how to set appropriate boundaries. It means learning how to say no.
Maybe you’re given a really tough work assignment, for example, with an unrealistic deadline. Rather than being a Yes Man (or Yes Woman), it’s far more empowering to know when you need to set the parameters. What if you said, “Woah, I don’t know if I can really do this project. I’m willing to do it, but I need more resources,” or, “Great! I’ll take this on, but I don’t see how I will get it done by Thursday. I can get it to you Friday afternoon.”
What’s the worst that could happen in this situation? Your boss could say, “Nope. It just has to get done.” Possibly, but isn’t it far more likely that when you express your concerns calmly and realistically, your boss will respect your candor and work to facilitate your success?
Learn to negotiate in a conversation. “Okay, I’ll pick up the cleaning, but you pick up the groceries.” By learning not to simply acquiesce, you’re empowered. Your time becomes your own.
Many people operate with loss aversion. In fact, people will often go to greater lengths to avoid loss than to make gains. We’re more afraid of what we’ll lose than thinking of the joy we could gain.
When we think, “I’m afraid of my friend being mad at me, so I don’t want to ask,” we’re avoidant. On the other hand, what if we thought, “Wow! I’m going to be empowered and get what I want?” When we worry about the reaction, we may lose sight of what really matters. We pass up the joy and satisfaction we could obtain.
Instead of avoiding loss by trying not to rock the boat, what if we allowed ourselves to fire up the motor on the boat and move toward what we really wanted? Think of the reward—the joy and satisfaction of getting what we really need, what would really please us in the situation. Empower yourself to move toward the reward rather than being afraid of the loss.
All of us hold mistaken or limiting beliefs. It’s simply part of being human. We’ve carried them with us since childhood. Mistaken beliefs may include thoughts like:
All of these are mistaken beliefs. These come from the belief we’re undeserving, we’re less than, or we have to earn love and support. If we really felt worthy, we’d feel more entitled to ask directly for the things that satisfy us. We’d be more empowered.
Recognize that these beliefs are totally normal and common by telling yourself, “I may not feel worthy, but the truth is I’m a gift. So how should I approach this situation?” or, “If I really knew I had value, what would I say? How would I speak up? What would I ask for? What would I tell a friend in this situation?”
Our mistaken beliefs are often synonymous with disempowering beliefs. The truth is each of us is worthy. Each of us is valuable. Each of us is a gift. When we shift our focus to remind ourselves of our worth, we start to tap into that important personal power.
For more ways you can discover and live up to your fullest potential, please visit us at the Wright Foundation. Join us for our next More Life Training weekend, where you’ll connect with others on their journey. Remember, the power to live a life of MORE is within each of us!
Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach.
She is a co-founder of The Wright Foundation and the Wright Graduate University.
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.