Behold what lies within you!

A young family was seated at the table next to me in a coffee shop. The mother cradled an infant in her arms. Peacefully asleep, the infant would sporadically burst into smiles just as a spring landscape bursts into flowers. The effect of the infant on the crowd waiting to be served was magical. Ice was freshly scraped from the windows of the cars parked outside the coffee shop. But inside, it was spring all over again. Everyone who saw the infant was glowing with smiles. Blissfully dozing, the baby was unaware of its power. It had changed the first cold day of winter into spring again.

Behold what lies inside an infant and inside you. 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 like the infant, asleep and unaware of our great power. It is sad to see power for good go wasted and tragic to see power for evil 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 the 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 the interim government of Afghanistan 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, Phyliss 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 I’m powerless or is it because I THINK I’m powerless? 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 unworth, 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 (1883-1957) 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 (1821-1881) 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 re-energize our personal power and serve others to the best of our abilities.