What is it that lies at the core of our being? A great power. The power of creation and transformation. Ralph Waldo Emerson pleaded with us not to forget this fact when he wrote, “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” Regrettably, some of us are asleep and unaware of our great power. It is sad to see power to do good go wasted and tragic to see the power to do harm used unintentionally. If we are unaware of our power to bring joy into the lives of others, it goes wasted. When we are unaware of our power to hurt others, we may do so with criticism, complaints, and cruel remarks.
So, it is important for us to be aware of our power. What distinguishes us from stones is our capacity to act. What distinguishes us from animals is our ability to act willfully, or as we choose. Merely to be is to have potential, but action is potential realized. It is by our actions that we create ourselves and change our world. Our power is to be used, not abused. It is not for controlling others, but for reigning over ourselves. And we gain control of it through self-discipline. Our personal power is the wind beneath our wings. It enables us to soar to new heights.
As a writer, do I have any power? Not without an audience. If I could perform surgery, would I have any power? Not without patients. You see, another aspect of power is that it is a transaction, an exchange. We need each other to share power. So, power is not about competition. This is what warring governments must keep in mind. For, as President Woodrow Wilson said, “There must be, not a balance of power, but a community of power; not organized rivalries, but an organized peace.”
Let’s leave politics and return to our own lives. What are some of the steps we can take to manifest our power and gain control over our destiny? We can begin by discarding limiting beliefs. When we were children, it might have been appropriate to believe “I can’t.” But now, as adults, it’s time to recognize “I can.” In fact, it’s time to go beyond that and say, “I will!” After all, to say can is merely to state you have potential, but to say will is to take the first step in actualizing that potential by taking action. Until she was 37, Phyllis Diller was a cleaning woman. But after reading Claude Bristol‘s book “The Magic of Believing,” she let go of her limiting beliefs and starting saying “I will!” And she did! By the way, this is the same book that inspired Liberace.
To reclaim our personal power, we need to apply critical thinking. We can do this by being skeptical and by questioning our thoughts. Are you unhappy with your current state of affairs? If so, ask yourself, is it because you’re powerless or is it because you think you are? What do people who think they are powerless do? They give up! What do people who believe they are powerful do when they’re in unpleasant circumstances? They look for ways out. And what happens to people who look for solutions? Bingo! You’re right! People who look for solutions, find them! Don’t regurgitate the negative thoughts that others spoon-fed you, but follow the examples of those who are in charge of their lives. Feed yourself positive thoughts, recognize your own power, and set out to accomplish whatever inspires you.
Mahatma Gandhi, who weighed as little as 107 pounds when he was fasting, said, “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” His words are a reminder that our problems are not due to a lack of power, but a lack of will. Although it’s said that knowledge is power, true power arises from the will to act. Robert Lindner describes it this way, “What a person wills and not what they know determines their worth or unworthiness, power or impotence, happiness or unhappiness.”
If we are not yet what we wish to become, how can we become so without changing? Change involves effort or discomfort. We need to step outside our comfort zone. This is the primary purpose of personal power. Life is not a walk in the park. It is a walk in the bushes. As we move forward, we get entangled in thorns and thistles, stumble over rocks, and get scratched as we squeeze through tight places. But the exhilaration and joy that the journey brings makes the struggle eminently worthwhile.
The Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis wrote, “I said to the almond tree, ‘Friend, speak to me of God,’ and the almond tree blossomed.” How better to know God than to blossom? For when we blossom we do His work. What work is that? We empower others as He empowers us. And we serve by example, for the greatest power for good is the power of example. Also, we grow flowers in the garden of life by inspiring, encouraging, and motivating others so they burst into bloom too.
The world is our home. So, naturally we want to improve it. That’s why we improve ourselves. Ultimately, the proper use of personal power is a duty. For as Henri Frederic Amiel wrote, “Our duty is to be useful, not according to our desires, but according to our powers.” In his January 20, 1989 inaugural address, President Bush said, “There is but one just use of power, and it is to serve people.” So, what are we waiting for? Let’s reenergize our personal power and serve others to the best of our abilities.
Yet, Despite Our Power Some Feel Powerless
What are some roadblocks that prevent people from unleashing their full power? One of them is an unwillingness to let go of the familiar and leap into the unknown. Before a caterpillar can turn into a butterfly or a grub into a beetle it must become a pupa. Although the pupa may appear to be hibernating, inside its hardened exterior, the body of the insect disintegrates into a pasty substance that slowly reforms into the shape of the adult. If we wish to undergo a major transformation, like the larva or grub of an insect, we must be willing to let go of all that we are to become all that we can be. In spiritual terms, we must die before we can be reborn. To some that is a frightening thought, but visionaries aren’t satisfied living as caterpillars or grubs. They insist on developing wings and gladly do whatever it takes to succeed.
Still others fail to release their power because they don’t realize it is often disguised as hard work, patience, determination, conviction, commitment, flexibility, open-mindedness, positive thoughts, good habits, and self-discipline. An acquaintance of mine is an example. He bought a self-help book to help him overcome a personal problem. While we were having lunch, he pointed to a couple of paragraphs on page two of his new book and said, “I don’t think the author knows what he is talking about, so I probably won’t bother to read the rest of the book.”
I checked the paragraphs he pointed out, but the only problem I could find was my friend’s attitude. He was looking for an excuse to stop making an effort. Patience? Hard work? Open-mindedness? Commitment? Determination? No, thanks, he would have no part of it. All he wanted was a cure, and he wanted it now, without any effort on his part! He didn’t want a new book, he wanted a silver bullet. He didn’t want to see a counselor; he wanted to meet with a magician. But our power resides in the real world; in order to access it, we need to leave the world of fantasy and make-believe and come back to reality.
Yes, it’s true, some would rather play the role of a victim than accept responsibility for their actions. Their argument is, “Society screwed me up, so society owes me. I’m entitled to special treatment and shouldn’t have to work as hard as others.” Unfortunately, by blaming others and ducking their responsibilities all they succeed in doing is perpetuate their problem.
Two more roadblocks to overcome before we can experience our power are procrastination and rationalization (justification of our irrational behavior). Here, Eric Hoffer describes the artful manner in which some people fool themselves: “It is a talent of the weak to persuade themselves that they suffer for something when they suffer from something; that they are showing the way when they are running away; that they see the light when they feel the heat; that they are chosen when they are shunned.”
Let’s not fool ourselves by thinking we are powerless. Our power never leaves us, even in the most adverse circumstances. True, we don’t have the power to change the direction of the wind, but we can trim our sails. We can adapt to and make the best of any situation.
Power is not about controlling others, but about serving others. Why shouldn’t we be happy to do so? After all, it is impossible to create a better world without reaping the benefits, just as it is impossible to create misery without suffering the consequences. Don’t be like a dull knife that is useless. Rather, empower yourself, and become an instrument to help the world.
It is not necessary for us to perform mighty deeds or to carry out magnificent achievements, for many small acts of kindness have the power to reduce great suffering. The purpose of having hands is to give those in need a hand, and the purpose of developing our power is to give it away, or empower others. Seneca taught that “All cruelty springs from weakness.” So, when we empower, encourage, and recognize others, we reduce the amount of cruelty in the world. Never underestimate the power of your actions. And let’s use our power wisely, for the measure of a person is how they use their power.
What Can We Do if We still Feel Helpless?
We all have flashes of insight and bright ideas. But of the countless number of inspirational moments we’ve had and already acted upon, how many of them have we pursued to the end? How many of them have we realized? Ideas are seeds. Locked within them is great potential. Yet, what good are seeds unless we plough, harrow, and fertilize the soil, and follow that by planting, watering, and looking after the seeds until they sprout? Great ideas often lead to good starts and bright beginnings. But good starts aren’t good enough, for brilliant ideas are no better than poor ones, unless we follow through.
A good idea and follow-through is an explosive combination. It is the material that is used to transform lives and change the world. The detonator of this highly charged package is commitment. It is also called determination. Commitment means no matter what! And determination is a refusal to allow obstacles to stop us. Here is how this idea was expressed by the man named “Coach of the Century” by ESPN, Vince Lombardi, “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.” Similarly, Victor Hugo wrote, “People do not lack strength; they lack will.” In both cases, the word ‘will’ refers to commitment or determination.
Commitment is like an icebreaker going through an ice floe; it is unstoppable. The whole world steps aside when a committed person passes. Such is the power of deciding to follow through. Determination brings freedom and control. No longer buffeted by the winds of fate, committed people are guided by the power of their will. They understand that it is not faith or belief that moves mountains, but determination. “Determine that the thing can and shall be done,” said Abraham Lincoln, “and then we shall find the way.” The difference between the impossible and the possible, then, lies in commitment. Anything is possible for the determined because they reject the very notion of ‘trying’ and insist on doing.
Despite the jeers and skepticism of their friends, some young people move to Hollywood with the dream of becoming a star. Even for those who are committed, however, not everyone will make it. You see, it is not always true that “Where there is a will there is a way,” but one thing is certain: where there is no will, there is no way. So, I admire those who set out on grand adventures and wish them well. What is the harm in trying? When shooting for the stars, they may have overreached, and ‘merely’ land on the moon. But isn’t that a lot further than most of us venture? The problem we have is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it. Yes, not all the dreams of committed individuals will come true, but rest assured neither will any of their nightmares come true.
When we commit ourselves to a cause, project, or relationship, we embark on an adventure, so how can we lose? A successful outcome is not predicated on the task as much as it is on our character. By remaining determined, we live by design, not by force of habit. Let’s look at a few things that may prevent us from making a commitment and experiencing the joy we were meant to have.
1. Disappointment. A certain amount of negative feelings are inevitable, even necessary. But don’t repress them or get bogged down in them. Instead, experience them, work through them, and learn from them. For example, don’t allow disappointment to halt your progress. Disappointment is just a message or feedback telling you that things are not going according to plan. So, instead of quitting, find out what went wrong and what changes need to be made.
2. Lack of confidence or low self-esteem. Your experiences in early childhood may have caused you to lose confidence in yourself. If so, that is a fact, not an excuse. It’s time to let go of the past, acknowledge you are an adult, and accept responsibility for your own actions. Stop chasing after self-esteem because it is not a goal, but a result. It is something you win each time you reach a goal. So, stop refusing to act just because you may fail. Who cares if you fail? You don’t have to win every battle; you just have to win the war. And you do so by remaining determined and plodding ahead, no matter what.
3. Rebellion. Stop rebelling. Stop getting in your own way. Stop fighting yourself. Many of us are stuck in the ‘resistance syndrome.’ That is, when we were forced as children to yield to the will of an adult, we expressed our autonomy by rebelling. Each time you tell yourself you should be doing something, you remember the commands you received as a child and automatically resist. You need to change your self-talk. Rather than saying, “I should go to night school to complete my degree,” say “I want to go to night school to complete my degree because I will be learning new things, making new friends, feeling great about my accomplishments, and improve my chances for future advancement.” Recapping, should’s create resistance while want’s dissolve resistance. Don’t forget to give power to your want’s by adding because plus the reasons for your choice.
4. Here is another point for us to think about: follow the path of wisdom. Your life is too short to experience and learn everything by yourself. So, learn from the wisdom passed down to us. For example, consider the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero, “What one has, one ought to use: and whatever he does he should do with all his might.” Are you using what you have, your talents, and using them with all your might? To bring this point home, let’s add the comments of Orison Swett Marden, “The greatest trouble with most of us is that our demands upon ourselves are so feeble, the call upon the great within us so weak and intermittent that it makes no impression upon the creative energies; it lacks the force that transmutes desires into realities.” If we make only half-hearted efforts, why are we surprised by half-hearted results? If we’re not ready to do our best, someone else is, so we’d better be prepared to be left behind.
“Nothing great will ever be achieved without great men,” said Charles De Gaulle, “and men are great only if they are determined to be so.” How about us? Are we determined to be great men and women? Are we determined? Are we committed?
- The Magic of Believing by Claude M. Bristol
- Wake Up and Live! by Ms. Dorothea Brande
- Unlimited Power: The New Science Of Personal Achievement by Anthony Robbins
- The Personal Power Roadmap: The Ultimate 7 Step System to Effectively Solve Problems, Make Decisions, and Reach Your Goals by Marjory Harris
- PERSONAL POWER (All 12 Volumes) by William Walker Atkinson
- What All the World’s A-Seeking: The Vital Law of True Life, Personal Greatness, Power, and Happiness by Ralph Waldo Trine
- Brian Tracy: 10 Keys to Personal Power
- Personal Power: How Personal Power Creates Success
- Marcus Child: Personal Power