Power of People

During his inaugural address, President Obama repeated the words, “We, the people,” many times. He evoked a sense of collective and personal responsibility and encouraged
us to use our power to enact change. But too often, we actually feel powerless in our lives. So, how can we change that condition?

First, let’s examine the concept of power. Unfortunately, we’re often confused by the definition of power that we have been taught to believe—that power implies “power over,” that someone or something must always have power over another. Instead, as Brené Brown reminds us in I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t), “The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines power as ‘the ability to act or produce an effect.’ Real power is basically the ability to change something if you want to change it.” While we frequently believe that power in any situation is finite—that the quest for power is a zero-sum game— power is often unlimited. In addition, power can be created as we need it, and it is something that we can build with others. Brown goes on to explain that power requires three components: consciousness, choice, and change. Let’s see how we can use this concept to develop greater power in our own lives.

Before we can create the life we want, we need to be aware of where our current situation falls short. This takes self-examination, a willingness to admit to our true feelings and a methodical evaluation of which area(s) of our life do not feel fulfilling. Tools for this include the Wheel of Life and a list of values (see http://helanefronekmd.wordpress.com/ tools-for-the-life-you-want/). Once we identify the parts of our life that aren’t contributing to a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment, we can begin to make some choices.

When considering the possibilities, it’s best to be open to any idea—from the sublime to the ridiculous. Brainstorming with a friend or colleague can provide us with ideas we wouldn’t have considered ourselves. Don’t be too quick to decide that an idea won’t work—just write it down with the others. If we find ourselves blocked, we can ask how we would want things to be if we had all the power in the world, if nothing were in our way.

Select one or several choices that will move you toward a more fulfilling life. Then, it’s time to change. Since change is difficult, you may want to employ some help. Friends, colleagues, websites such as changeanything.com or a professional coach can be useful in creating a plan, supporting your change efforts, and holding you accountable. Since success breeds success, define several steps along the path to your ultimate goal. Reaching these smaller goals provides the confidence and enthusiasm to continue. And as we consciously look at our life, define our choices and make changes, we will truly become powerful.