ARE YOU TAKING OWNERSHIP OF YOUR PERSONAL POWER?
I've had the privilege to speak to over 1,000 audiences in my lifetime, but I wanted to share my recent joyful experience working in Asia last month.
Thinking back, I realized that what differentiated the participants were their attitudes. Regardless of whether they owned a home or automobile or lived with bare essentials with only public transportation at their disposal, they entered into my training room with the richness of attitude and gratitude. It sounds simple, and even a bit cliché, but my Asian participants — despite challenges — didn't allow money to be the essential factor in their happiness.
This, in my mind, is the true definition of personal power: the ability to choose how we manage our lives, our attitudes and our perceptions— regardless of circumstances.
I experience people making this basic choice one way or another in my training programs. I watch as people enter the room in the morning and immediately see the attitude they have chosen through their body language. Some people view it as a privilege to learn, and some see it as an obligation — something they are required to do. My audiences in Asia all walked in wanting to be happy, and therefore, they were.
But just like a plant requires water to grow, our personal power needs nurturing to become strong. One of the best paths to shoring up our personal power comes from the lessons we learn through both our accomplishments and failures. When we're able to look and tell the truth about what is and what isn't, we become stronger.
If we gain personal power through an honest reckoning about our successes and failures, how then do we lose it?
Negative Self-Talk: “I can’t do it.” “I’m not good at this.” “I’m not going to get anything out of this.” If you’re not a champion for yourself, who will be? Trying something new requires the confidence that you can fail and still learn something valuable.
External Blame: When people take the attitude that “It’s just the way it is” or, “Blame it on management”, they become victims of circumstance. In his book Get Off Your “But,” Sean Stephenson talks about the toxic effects of external blame. He points out how people will continually use the word “but” to find an excuse and construct a wall of defenses around what is happening to them in their lives. He suggests that we stop talking about the problems we encounter and instead learn to look and talk about them as a “situation”. For example: Instead of approaching your boss and saying, “We’ve got a problem here,” which only exemplifies that there is a bad thing going on, say, “There’s a situation I want to talk about with you.” This puts the emphasis on the personal power you both can bring to resolving the circumstance together.
Entitlement Attitude: I once coached a woman who had recently been hired by a company because of her reputation as a “rainmaker” in her previous job. As a result of her past accomplishments, she arrived with an attitude that she was better than everyone else. What she didn’t seem to understand was that while your credentials may follow you, your reputation does not. That’s something that needs to be earned. Her aura of entitlement got in the way of her personal power.
Failing To Act: The best way to be powerless is to choose not to act. “It’s not my job.” “That’s not my responsibility.” When we fail to look beyond the negatives of a situation to see how we — even in some small way — might be contributing to the situation, or how we can make a difference in it, we lose personal power. People who choose the mediocre stance of standing by and throwing their hands up instead of contributing what they can are often the ones being replaced or overlooked in the rapidly changing business world.
Failing To Learn From Failure: If we are to have personal power in our lives, we must reinvent the way we perceive our failures. People who let their past mishaps and mistakes paralyze them from getting up and taking new initiatives are keeping their potential at bay.
Personally, I celebrate my failures with my successes because I know there are lessons to be learned from both. Embracing our imperfections is an important component of growth. I invite my clients to follow my weekly “Friday night” ritual and that’s to celebrate two things that have happened to them, both personally and professionally, that took them out of their comfort zone, required great initiative and courage and may or may not have turned out the way they wanted. In almost every case, their successes were defined by the lessons learned. So, by celebrating those things that made you grow and pushed you to be better, you gain an overwhelming sense of confidence. If you only celebrate your successes, you’ll be fearful of failing.
Remember, when it comes to personal power, we’re always on stage. Nowhere during the course of the day — with our families, coworkers, boss or friends — do we have the luxury of pulling down the curtain.
I liken this to a recent performance I saw of the musical Phantom of the Opera in Las Vegas. This show has been playing every day, two performances a day for many years. Twice daily the cast comes in, say the same words, sing the same lyrics and perform the same dances — each time for a new audience. Yet, with each performance, they manage to do it like it is the first time — with an unchanged gusto, enthusiasm and passion.
That’s what we need to be like in our personal power: to choose that energy every day and then transfer it to those around us. When we do, it’s not only uplifting, but contagious.
To extend your personal power, look beyond what you do. Think about why you do it — and about those who benefit!
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