Up until recently, I rarely thought about or discussed the idea of power. I don’t know about you, but my friends and I didn’t sit around the table sipping frappuccinos, asking “do you think you’re powerful?” In fact, the word ‘power’ used to make me cringe, evoking images of warlords, politicians, and corruption. Power wasn’t something I wanted, nor was it something I believed I had.
But a year ago, as I woke up in my small NYC city apartment and stared at the ceiling, I started to notice my normal internal dialogue was ridden with self-doubt. I didn’t believe I was good enough at my job, I didn’t believe I was smart enough or pretty enough; I didn’t believe I was a good enough writer or a good enough friend. In essence, I didn’t believe I was powerful.
This realization shook me to my core, because growing up, I believed I could do anything. At some point, however, amidst societal expectations of success, academic and career disappointments, and self-perpetuated fears, my inner power had dimmed. So, I began the journey to get it back, and the first step to getting it back was realizing that power is something each of us inherently has.
Regardless of whether we believe it, each of us if gifted with power. Power is merely the ability to make changes in this world, big or small. We can all do small, yet powerful acts every day—supporting friends and family when they’re struggling, making people laugh, utilizing our talents in sports or in the arts or doing a random act of kindness. If you don’t think you can positively affect people’s days, take a moment to view power inversely. A mean act or insult can so easily negatively impact our day. When we use our power to criticize or insult someone, we are exercising our power to bring pain and suffering upon others. When we unleash our power to pursue our goals or to improve a friend’s day, we bring joy into the world.
It is easy to feel powerless in a world where so much needs to be done. During times when we feel this way, we can reharness our power by focusing on what I call the 5 P’s of Power:
1. Passion: What are you passionate about? What activity makes you lose track of time? What brings you pure and unhindered joy? When we reconnect with what brings us joy, we find ourselves attuning with our inherent creative nature, which, when unleashed, empowers us. Passion ignites creation and creation is an act of power.
2. Personal Strengths: What are you good at? What traits, as seemingly trivial as they appear, make you proud? Maybe it’s your ability to listen, run long distances, take beautiful photographs, or make delicious food. Maybe you’re a wonderful motivator or extremely organized. When we focus on our positive attributes, we can better visualize our purpose in the world, which helps us tap into our power.
3. Push: Push the boundaries. An easy way to diminish our power is by placing self-imposed limits on what is possible. We do not live in confined boxes; the world is full of endless and vast opportunities and experiments. Take some informed risks, and I’m not just talking about bungee jumping or skydiving. Reach out to someone you admire and ask to meet them for coffee. Take a road trip to an unknown place. Host a dinner party and invite people you just met. Create a blog. Read poetry at an open mic night. Write an article on an issue you’re concerned about. Take that small step outside of your comfort zone to share yourself and your gifts with the world and watch how things unfold.
4. Perseverance: Some things (most things!) don’t come easy. This is okay. We stumble upon obstacles that set us back; we face criticism that lead us to doubt our power; and we struggle financially. This is all part of the process. Disappointments don’t mean we should stop moving forward, but rather that we need to refocus on taking the tiny step in front of us. Power lies in the subtle decisions—the decision to get up earlier in the morning; the decision to make a few phone calls asking for help; the decision to keep going despite the voice inside ridden with doubt.
5. Patience: Actualizing our dreams and goals can take time. There are times when we so badly want to catalyze a change and it doesn’t happen in the time frame we want. Instead of feeling frustrated, we need to carve time out to take a breath and let things unfold as are. Becoming frustrated will only waste energy. Save that energy to create, refocus, and move forward. Breathing in fresh life and perspective to our goals ignites a dim spark of power into a fiery flame.
Each of us has inherent power. The easiest way we gave it up is by denying that we have it. The question then is not “are you powerful?” but “how are you going to use your power?”
Photo credit: http://www.trendsnow.net/2011/12/cihan-alpgiray.html/cihan-alpgiray-04