Are you thoughtful and kind? Then I’d like you to become rich and powerful.
For some people, power is almost a dirty word. The same goes for money, a form of power. As if being poor and powerless is morally superior to being rich and powerful. “Blessed are the meek” etc.
This resistance power leads many good, kind people to disown it. It leaves them helpless and the world stripped of their gifts.
Saffiyah Khan faces down far right “English Defence League” protester in Birmingham, UK
“Your playing small does not serve the world.”
Imagine there’s an advancing army about to attack your country and the national guard is readying a defence. Would you prefer the defence to be weak or strong?
Guess what? There is an advancing army. There are plenty of greedy, selfish, unkind, wasteful people destroying things you hold dear: Your happiness, the environment, other people’s wellbeing.
And there is a national guard that could stop them. You’re in it. Giving away your power by resigning yourself to defeat is not enough.
Bill Gates has used his vast wealth to more than halve deaths from malaria, saving millions of lives. Would it have been better if he had been poor?
If you are a good, kind, thoughtful person, have something beneficial to bring to the world. The world needs it. And the more power you have, the more you can bring.
To do that, you need to clear your baggage around it.
Power to Make Things Happen
People often reject their power because they confuse power over others and power to make things happen.
Power is neither good nor bad. It’s an amplifier of whoever wields it. Some people wield power to subjugate others – the power of coercion, violence, aggression, selfishness and greed. But if you’re a good, kind person, you becoming more powerful brings more of that goodness into the world. Expanding your power is a good thing both for you personally and for the world.
Power isn’t coercion. Coercion is just one, often unhealthy, expression of power.
Power is the ability to get things done. Power in a car pushes it forwards. Power in a light bulb makes it glow. Power in your life means you can make things happen. Power is the freedom to create more of what you want.
Your power is like a powerful gushing hose. Most commonly people fall into one of four categories
Leaking: You fear power and don’t want to handle it so you start to switching it off or cutting holes in the hose so your power leaks out.
Suppressed: You’ve been told power or money is “bad” so you step on the hose to block the flow until your power is reduced to a dribble.
Tantrum Child: You abdicate responsibility, let go of the hose and allow your power to spray randomly like a deranged writhing snake. Lots of power but no direction.
Martial Artist: You hold the hose and learn to direct its power where it will be most useful. As you become more skilled, you’re able to handle increasingly powerful flows.
Power isn’t bad. You just need to direct it.
Decide to Drive
If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
Imagine you an evil mastermind has locked you alone in a runaway car with the accelerator stuck down like in the movie Speed.
You didn’t create the situation, but it is now your responsibility to control the careering car.
Trying to duck responsibility by refusing to grab the steering wheel doesn’t fix it. The car is still hurtling ahead out of control. Now you’re responsible for choosing not to control it. The car is going to go somewhere. If you don’t steer, it’s unlikely to be somewhere good.
The car is your life and the stuck accelerator is time passing.
If you continue as you are now, where do you think you will end up? Is that what you want? If you don’t, you have to steer.
Shouting at the evil mastermind won’t stop the car either. And the more time and energy you’re putting into cursing the circumstances that got you to this point, the less attention you have left to grab the wheel.
That’s not always easy to do. If you’d like some strategies to get better at beating the blame reflex, try my short Break the Blame Trap e-book (get a Kindle version on Amazon).
See Your Power
Many people are blind to power they already have because they’re only thinking in terms of forcing people to do things, the power of coercion.
Instead, come back to power as “the ability to make things happen” and include all its various forms and so you can begin recognise the power you already have. For example:
Your social power: Connections, networks and relationships to spread messages, find information and opportunities
Your financial power: Money or other assets you can swap to buy things or get other people to do things for you
Your physical power: Health, strength, sleeping well
Your power within yourself: Self discipline, concentration, patience, the ability to choose useful attitudes to your life situations
Your skills you can use to make things happen: Influence, communication skills, technical skills, practical skills.
What sources of power do you have in these areas?
What other sources of power do you have?
How can you use them?
Use Your Power
You have more power than you allow yourself to use. We jail ourselves in imaginary prisons of our beliefs.
It’s called “learned helplessness.” Researchers have seen it in rats, dogs, humans and other animals. You give subjects a non-functioning tool such as a lever or button that fails to stop an uncomfortable electric shock or loud noise. Most subjects try pressing the button and find it doesn’t work. Later, you put them in different experiment with a button that works. But they don’t press it. Based on their past experience, they assume they have no choice and just tolerate the noise, even though this time the button would work if only they pressed it.
When have you felt powerless in the past?
What are you able to do now that you weren’t able to do then?
What power are you currently disowning based on your past experience?
How could you start to use it?
Exercise Your Power
I like that to ‘exercise power’ has two meanings:
To put your power into practice
And to build your ‘power muscle’
If you’ve been ill or haven’t done any training for a while, you get weaker. It’s normal. If you’ve lost some fitness, you’re not going to suddenly run a marathon or lift huge weights. But as you start to do more, your muscles get stronger.
It’s the same with your power. You can build your power by
a) exercising the power you have and
b) developing more of it.
Looking at your previous power list, what sources of power do you have that you haven’t been using? How could you use that power today?
And what source of power could you develop more of? For example, to increase your social power, you could make sure to catch up with some acquaintances or colleagues you haven’t seen in a while. To increase your financial power, you could contact a client to see if you can help them, find a cheaper energy supplier or start making coffee in a flask rather than buying it every day.
Grow Your Power
As a tree grows, it becomes more powerful in the amount of carbon dioxide it can photosynthesise into oxygen. The bigger it becomes, the more it can photosynthesise and the more oxygen there is for us all to breathe.
If you have something to offer the world, it needs you to become more powerful. The more powerful you are, the better for everyone.
If you’d like more on this, have a look at my Assertiveness from the Inside Out programme starting on Monday to improve your thinking, courage and assertiveness skills, particularly if they don’t come naturally to you.