Sunday, August 3, 2008 1:51 PM
This post is part of a series called Ignite Your Life. For background info on the series, please refer to previous posts on introducing the series and The 5 R's.
In the last two installments of this series we looked at freeing ourselves from the Cult of Personality: freeing our importance, self worth, and self image from the grip of others. We also talked about using your illusion, and creating a self portrait of who you are and who you will become (lots of great discussion in the comments section, so be sure to check those out).
In this installment, we’re going to move on to the last of the Realization topics: discovering your inner power. Now that you’re free and you have your illusion laid out, how do we go about making it happen. There is a multi-faceted answer to that question, but the first step is to claim the power you hold within you; to acknowledge that what you desire is not outside of your grasp or ability.
In our society we see power as being something bestowed on people. Government, police, those born into wealth and inheritance, the popular kids in school. These are all examples of people who hold power that was granted to them, not that they generated out of their own self. Many people fall into the false assumption that power can only be granted to us from some external source:
- You don’t get a promotion unless your boss grants it.
- You don’t get invited to the best parties unless a social group allows you to.
- You can’t land the job unless someone thinks your smart enough.
But remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Nothing external to you has any power over you.”
Power comes not from some outside force, or bestowed from someone in a position of wealth or authority, but from our own inner confidence. It comes from our ability to be comfortable with ourselves first and to love ourselves enough to acknowledge that we have worth and value regardless of what others think of us.
We talked about creating an illusion for ourselves, but in addition to that we also need to declare ourselves. Who are we? What do we value? What is our creed, our boundaries, our source of inner strength? One thing great companies do is hold a vision or mission statement. This statement is a creed that binds an organization to accountability but also defines to others what the company stands for. You can find some great examples at the Man on a Mission blog, which lists the mission statements of various companies. Below is Starbucks’ mission statement:
Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow.
The following six guiding principles will help us measure the appropriateness of our decisions:
Provide a great work environment and treat each other with respect and dignity.
Embrace diversity as an essential component in the way we do business.
Apply the highest standards of excellence to the purchasing, roasting and fresh delivery of our coffee.
Develop enthusiastically satisfied customers all of the time.
Contribute positively to our communities and our environment.
Recognize that profitability is essential to our future success.
We need to declare who we are as individuals, what we value, what we stand for. We need to identify what our source of inner strength is and claim that for ourselves every day.
Now one twist on this: I believe that this statement, vision, creed…whatever you want to call it…needs to be in place for all aspects of your life. If you declare that you will place people and relationships as a top priority in your life, then that has to happen at home with your family, at work with your employer/employees, at the grocery store, at the drive thru, etc. This isn’t about you in business, or you in a specific situation. This is about YOU and what YOU are declaring yourself to be. So don’t take this lightly. Take time to determine what your creed really is and then commit to it. Don’t see it as something that takes energy, but as something that can give energy because you’ll always be able to lean on it in times of self doubt.
Be Comfortable As You
If you want to claim inner power in your life, you need to accept yourself…you need to love yourself…and you need to hold yourself up over all the things this world throws at us.
But what if I fail at something?
Realize that you might fail at something, but you are not a failure. Later on in this series we’ll talk about release and the fear of failure. But for now, understand that life will throw things at you, situations will arise, and some uncomfortable or negative scenarios may rear their head. But regardless, you will still have yourself, your declaration, your values.
I worked at a software company a few years back. We were talking about the idea of creating a suite of applications that would be entirely web based and would be easily distributable on a single web server. I pushed for this architecture without consulting customers, more seasoned developers, or anyone else for that matter. We launched one of the products and it was a horrible failure: the web platform was not the correct one for the application, and the customer was ultimately not happy with what they received.
I ended up being let go from that company, and although there were many different facets to the story which I won’t get into, the bottom line is that I failed. I didn’t understand what the customers expectations were, or what was truly the best interest of the customer. But did that mean that I should stop coding and do something else? Of course not. Because although the experience was a failure, I wasn’t a failure. In fact, I learned a great deal from that experience that I benefit from today.
Nobody gets things right on the first try, and our failures are important to our growth and learning. That doesn’t mean we should be happy about failure, but it does mean that when it happens it doesn’t affect who we are.
But I don’t know as much as other people in my field do. I’m not as experienced or knowledgeable as others.
I absolutely hate the way schools assess students. Its a grade, based on scores from exams, quizzes, and assignments. What we’ve realized here in 2008 is that not everyone learns the same way or can be truly gauged the same way. In college, we had a 6 month co-op term. The employers would judge their potential student hires based on grades. I was not one of the top marks…more around the ‘B’ level students. What we know now is that IT employees need to be more than good coders. They need to be good business analysts, be able to talk to customers and other employees, and work in teams. These were not skills that were tested to determine the final grade we got. Now that I’m a number of years later out of school, I see the students from my class that had lower grades but better people skills excelling while those that had top grades never really met with the success their ‘A’ should have allotted them.
So the moral of this: You don’t have to prove that you’re better than everybody. Nobody external has power over you, including those that have more experience or seniority. One of the great quotes from Rules for Renegades is:
“There is nothing missing from your life that you can’t learn, live, or find.”
Think about it: Someone knows more about something than you do. So? Buy books, watch programs, associate with people involved in that area, maybe even *gasp* talk to the said person who knows more than you about it so you can gleam their insight.
We get way too caught up in this unsaid competition of 1-upmanship. Ultimately, the race is one that we perceive in our head and really has no hold in reality. You are you, and your life will be one of constant learning and discovery. Don’t fear that, and don’t fear those that are already further down the path than you are. Embrace the challenge and the opportunity to better yourself.
Stop Leaking Power
Many of us lose out on claiming power in and over our lives because we leak it. It’s very insidious, but it happens; and it always seems to revolve around relationships.
Think about the people in your life…the ones that you hang out with, that you claim to be your best friends, your closest allies, your brothers and sisters, possibly your literal family members. Now if I were to ask you which of those relationships exhaust you, I’m pretty sure we’d all be able to rattle off a few names. “Oh yeah, they *always* have a comment about what I do in my free time, or how my ideas are a bit out there, or there always seems to be a need they have that they can’t seem to do themselves.” These people are drainers. They are negative relationships that do nothing but suck your energy and do nothing to build up your own person.
“WOAH…that’s harsh!”you say. Is it? When you have people that don’t build into your life, that don’t support you, that don’t encourage you, and don’t genuinely show interest or care for you…well, those aren’t friends; those are leaches who want to make themselves feel better about their lives by making you feel bad about yours. They’re people that can’t see past their own self-inadequacy and need to bring others down to their level so they can feel empowered. These are not the people you want to associate with.
Sometimes, because of family relationships or work situations, its unavoidable. Remember that you are the only person that can determine how people treat you. Make sure that as part of your declaration you set boundaries on what you will and won’t tolerate from people.
This can be difficult, but its also necessary: some people in our lives truly need help and love…but that may need to be of the tough variety, which requires discomfort and honesty. We need to be in a position where we can be of help, and not just enabling their negative behavior.
One last comment on the flip side of this: Don’t place expectations on people. Expectations are simply a way of letting others decide whether you’re happy. You can’t expect people to act in a certain way when you don’t have any say over their lives or their actions. It can also lead to leaked power because expectations also mean that we’re relying on someone else to act in a certain way for us to feel happy, loved, accepted, etc.
Build Power Instead of Borrowing It
Power needs to come from within. It can’t come from anyone giving it to us, or from us leaching it off of others. Power by association is not true power at all. However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t try to associate with powerful people…to learn, to receive guidance, to understand what they went through to get to where they are in life (note: Power does not equal money or wealth or fame). Understand the difference, that you are responsible for your own power alone. Riding on the coattails of someone else is not enabling your own life…you’re just tying your worth and value to that of someone else.
This was a long one, but I think the topic of inner power is a complex and broad one. To sum up:
- Power comes from inside us. We need to declare who we are and what we value, and then commit to living that out every day in every situation. That is our inner core, our center that cannot be compromised. Once we have that, we know how to respond in any situation.
- Be comfortable as you. You have no requirement to prove your worth and value to anyone.
- Stop leaking power through negative relationships and placing expectations on other people. Make sure the important relationships you have are with people who build you up as you build them up.
- Build your power from within, not reliant on the success of another. Borrowing power only leaves us in a vulnerable state where we place our life’s success on the back of someone else.
This brings us to the end of the first R – Realization. Next we’ll dive into the second R: Responsibility. Now that we have self realization, what do we need to do to foster our life and continue work toward igniting it.