Ellie works as a shop assistant, she’s been with the company for many years. She is always the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. She feels that she has accrued enough experience to be made supervisor, yet Ellie lacks the courage to ask for what she wants and her employers are happy to keep her where she is. If Ellie were to work on increasing her power then she could challenge management and ask for some recognition.
There is probably not a human alive who does not wish they had more power in their life. They might want power in their job or employment situation, perhaps a little more freedom in their marriage or family to make decisions. Perhaps they want a little relief from the relentlessness of young children. There is, and there will always be something else we would like more power over, but at this very moment a lack of resources, the authority or the confidence to achieve that power is lacking.
Power over whom?
If I were to ask you why you wanted more power, you would possibly tell me that you’d like more influence over your own life, that you’d like to have the power to make choices, and that you’d like a little more autonomy.
In the movies, characters want power for one reason only – to control others. Yet, for the majority of us, we don’t want to control others, we simply want to have more control over the direction our own life is taking, rather than it being under the influence of our spouse/employers/parents. One study supports this – that most of us wish to have power only over our own circumstances, rather than to be under the control of others. The authors of the study write;
“Power as autonomy is a form of power that allows one person to ignore and resist the influence of others and this to shape one’s own destiny.”
The study goes on to show that when some people achieve a certain level of power they no longer feel the need for it and they stop wanting it. Because at that stage they have a satisfactory level of autonomy. We think we want power over others, but chances are that what we actually want is autonomy over our own lives.
Power gets us places
We need power so that people will give us what we want or need, whether it be a job, a promotion, respect or recognition – with the result that we will have the kind of life that we aspire to. But it is not power over others that gets us the job that we want, it is power over ourselves that enables us to do what is necessary to get the job we want.
To get power we could go down the coercion route, using underhand tactics, manipulating and treading on others to get there, but that’s not true power. True personal power is achieving the life we want without treading on others. There is a sense of right that comes with having achieved a position of power through our own hard work, that enables us to control our destiny. No one can take that power away. Yet, an empire of power over others is unsecure and can easily come tumbling down.
Having power is having the freedom to control our lives and our destiny, which above everything else will help us achieve happiness, longevity and health. Having limited power in our lives is stressful because it induces feelings of helplessness. With little power we have little or no control; we simply let life happen to us.
Image credit: Capture Queen – Power
“Mum, I want to be an ice skater when I grow up” I said, in the dark, as she kissed me goodnight. “You can be whatever you want to be my darling, if you wish for it hard enough” My mother’s wise and encouraging words to me as a child, but a series of mini experiments revealed that this was not exactly true. I wished to be an only child, I wished to be best friend and trusted confidant of the most popular girl in school, and I wished to be good at drawing. My faith in my mum’s words dissipated with my childhood freckles. But it turns out that my mum was not far off the mark.
Are you the person you want to be?
At the beginning of each year, we attempt to make changes to our lives because we’re not completely happy with who we are. We cast our nets wide to see which resolution sticks. By the middle of January, these resolutions are all but dead in the water.
Most people are living the life they set out for themselves many, many years ago. The person you believed you were back then is the person you are now. But what if you don’t want to be that person anymore? What if you want to be a non-smoker rather than addicted to nicotine? or slim rather that flabby? or a successful business person rather than a loser? an ice skater rather than a pizza delivery person? Why can’t you be the person you want to be?
We act in line with who we think we are
“The strongest force in nature is the need to stay consistent with who we think we are”, says Tony Robbins in his New Year 2017 talk
Simply put, your brain makes you the person you define yourself to be. So, if you define yourself as a non-smoker, then your brain will seek ways to make that true through your thoughts, actions, feelings, beliefs, values, goals and dreams. This happens regardless of the level of your conscious awareness.
If you define yourself as an ice skater, then your brain will seek out ways via your Reticular Activating System (RAS) – that piece of the brain that lets us notice all the blue minis, or the reverse-bob hairdos, or anything else we’ve decided to focus on – to move you towards being an ice skater. This will happen by making you notice and do anything ice-skating related and eventually the vague and fuzzy vision of yourself as an ice skater will come within the grasp of your reality. The RAS takes instructions from your conscious mind, and passes them on to your subconscious mind. If you define yourself as intelligent, bright and articulate enough to be a successful writer then you will subconsciously work to fulfil that image of yourself, through reading, studying and seeking advice from other writers until that definition is true.
I’m a big fan of self-help books. I’ve used them most of my adult life to help me create a vision of who I wanted to become. Everything I’ve achieved in my life – from my First Degree to being a parent, I’ve done through setting my intent and believing I could and would be successful. I spent years visualising myself as a successful writer, with my own business. I’ve acted as if I were that person, to myself, my friends and potential clients, and I’ve worked hard to get over my imposter syndrome. There were many hiccups and false starts along the way but ever since my identity became entwined with the writer person I knew I wanted to be, I’ve made a good living as a writer. And this definition of myself gets stronger every day.
Define yourself as someone who can run their own business or be a successful freelancer, and your brain will work hard to fulfil that vision, through habits, rituals and seeking ways to move you forward, until the vision becomes your reality.
In an ocean of advice about how to keep to New Year resolutions, this is the only boat you need to cling to, all the rest will have you drowning in failure by the 15th January (the cut off for failed resolutions). Make sure you’re on that boat. If you set your intent and believe you will be who you aspire to be, and you continue to believe it, then eventually it will be your reality.