Unleash Your Power
William James, considered the founding father of modern day psychology, once today his students at Harvard that most people live in a highly restricted circle of their fullest potential. He cited the number one reason as being a lack of faith in themselves.
James observation aligns with my own: while we all face external barriers, our biggest hurdle resides in our own heads… in the belief that we have about our own capabilities.
Conquer this inner hurdle and we tap into a reservoir of immeasurable power from which we can conquer pretty much any other!
Here are five ways you can help get out of your own way and unleash the extraordinary power that resides within you (and too often lays dormant under a truckload of fear and doubt) to make the changes you’ve been putting off and become the ‘superpower’ of your own life.
Take 100% Responsibility (no blaming, finger pointing)
As Cathy Burke shared on my podcast—as she reflected on 20 years working with the poorest of the poor with The Hunger Project—you have to take full ownership of your life – no matter what. Her words align with those of Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl who wrote:
“Between the space of stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is your power to choose your response. In your response is your growth and your freedom.”
This simple idea is one of the most powerful concepts for personal development and professional success.
It boils down to this. You can’t always choose the conditions of your life but you are always… always… able to choose your response to them. This means that while factors outside your control may have impacted the state of your life – your career/ business, health/ wellbeing/ stress levels, your marriage/family/relationships, your bank balance/finances… or lack thereof — no-one else is responsible for them.
So if there are areas of your life that you wouldn’t rate an A, it may well serve you to take a long honest look in the mirror and ask yourself what you have done or failed to do, that has contributed to the status quo and is stopping you from improving it.
You can’t fix what you don’t own. While it’s highly convenient (and often easily justifiable) to blame your lot on someone else — your lousy boss, lazy colleague, lying (former or current) partner, dysfunctional family/ parents, or your crappy genes, or even the government and banking chiefs — in the end, the bucks stops solely with you.
Yes, blaming others is easily justified. But it also takes the onus off you to do anything about it. But pointing the finger anywhere but at yourself is inadvertently giving away your power to other people (people who may or may not care the slightest about your happiness!)
As I wrote in Find Your Courage: “Responsibility fuels power. Abdicating it, dilutes it. Only by taking full responsibility for the shape of your life and state of your heart, however humbling that may be, can you take the actions to improve it.”
Focus your energy on what expands possibilities
We human beings have an innate negativity bias that makes us predisposed to be Teflon for the positive experiences and Velcro for negative ones. That is, we are far more likely to dwell on what’s wrong or what’s missing or what should be better or should not have happened.
This can leave us living in a ‘mental wheelchair’ of our own making, paralysed from taking actions that will expand and improve our future. Let me explain…
Ten years ago my brother Frank, 18 months older than me, had an awful motorbike accident that left him with paraplegia. I recall the moment, sitting beside him in his hospital bed, about ten days after his accident, when the morphine started to wear off and the brutal reality of his injury started to sink in. As I sat there holding his hand, fighting back my own tears, and wondering how on earth he would ever cope with the loss of mobility that was stretching out for decades ahead of him (he was forty-one at the time). After a few minutes, he squeezed my hand said to me, “Margie, there may be 5,000 things I can’t do anymore, but there are 10,000 I still can, and I want to focus on doing them all. I’m determined not to give this injury the power to ruin my life.”
It was of the rawest yet most inspirational moments of my life. To say that I felt proud of my brother in that moment does not do it justice. After a gruelling period of rehab, Frank went on to return to scuba-diving, to resume his motorbike trips (now with hydraulic wheels), to try his hand at para-water skiing and snow skiing and many other things.
I share this story because it often makes me think about how many of us, whose legs work perfectly fine, get stuck living in mental wheelchairs, focused on what’s wrong with our lives and what we can’t do about it versus focusing on all that is right with our lives and how we can make them even better.
I am sure there’s plenty of things in your life right now that aren’t as you’d like. But every minute you spend dwelling on what you cannot do is a minute you are not actually doing something to improve your situation. So don’t give your power away to what coulda-woulda-shoulda happened.
Doing so just cripples you – mentally, emotionally and spiritually – keeping you stuck in resentment, self-pity, blame and victim-hood – focused on the past and unable to expand your future.
As Leonardo Da Vinci said:
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
What’s happened before is done. Now go out and happen to life.
Embrace life’s curve balls (they’re coming anyway!)
A well-worn maxim in military circles is that no plan survives its first encounter with the enemy. The same is true for life. No matter how brilliant your plans or how adept you think you are at getting all your ducks lined up in a row, at some point your plans will go awry. The sooner you can embrace that life is not linear, that change is a given and that nothing is certain (bar death and taxes), the less stress you will feel and the more opportunities you can seize.
As I wrote in Make Your Mark, when the world as you knew it gets tipped off its axis, it can take time to regain your foot before moving ahead. However, by embracing the discomfort of uncertainty, it liberates us to stop resisting what we cannot change and find opportunities to learn, grow and thrive amid the messiness that life sometimes is. Every setback and struggle is a valuable lesson for living deeper and growing wiser. So while you may not love life twists and turns, you’ll be happier when you lighten up, loosen your control, and lean into whatever’s coming around the next corner.
As I’ve written about before, I’ve had more than my share of unexpected ‘plot twists’ and while they’ve often knocked me down for a while, as I look back already from the vantage point of my life today, I can see that my life is immeasurably richer for the times that life did not conform to my plans! (My next podcast will be focusing on just this!)
Train the brave (and don’t wait until you’re unafraid)
Too often we think we have to feel brave, fearless and courageous before we can make the change or take the chance toward what we most want. Unfortunately, courage doesn’t work this way. The only way to build the courage that you want is to start acting like you’ve got it.
Every time you act in the presence of fear, you dilute its power and amplify your own. So don’t let fear and self-doubt call the shots.
Embrace your fallibility
I’ve been writing in a diary of some sort since I was eleven. While my early ‘Dear diary’ entries were rather superficial, by my early twenties they’d developed into thoughtful reflections about whatever was going on in my life and often my own version of prayer (Dear God, what do you want me to know?). On the odd occasion when I open up an old journal, I’m often bemused to see how many of the things I was wrestling with 20 years ago, I’m still wrestling with now. Wishing I cared less about what other people thought. Admonishing myself for over-committing my time. Unpacking my fears and encouraging myself to rise above them.
In recent years, I’ve come to accept that I will never arrive at some day of having it ‘all together.’ Indeed, I’ve come to embrace the idea that we are all just ‘human becomings’ and that we spend all of our lives shedding the layers of fear and slowly ‘becoming’ all of whom we have it within us to be. This requires practicing abundant self-compassion (a concept I did another podcast about with Dr Kristen Neff) because our greatest power, freedom and fulfillment doesn’t come from flogging ourselves for failing to be the idealized version of ourselves. Rather it comes from embracing our humanity, owning our shortcomings and accepting that we can be wholly imperfect and innately worthy all at the same time.
Too many of us spend too much of our one and only precious life trying to be someone we’re not, putting on our best face, trying to smooth out our rough edges and shore up our shortcomings in an effort to be the person we think we should be. Yet no matter how hard we try, it’s never enough. Well not for long anyway.
Unleashing our power and being the force for good that we are capable of being cannot flow from a place of deficiency and judgment. We turn on the fawcett to our power when we own our innate inadequacy (imperfection and all) and get off our own backs and embrace ourselves as the one-of-a-kind flawsome ‘human becomings’ that we are.
We are each born with our own unique blueprint of passion, personality, talent, strength and yes, weakness too. Living our best lives and fulfilling our unique potential doesn’t require us to get a perfect 10 on every measure. It requires no more than owning who you are (and who you are not!), embracing your humanity and drawing on your fallen moments as opportunities to blossom into the perfectly imperfect magnificence of who you have it within you to be… of who you’ve always been.
Therein lies your power.
May you use it to be the force for good the world needs you to be!