Originally posted on elephant journal
I believe everyone is powerful.
I wince a little as I say this because I’m a life coach, and telling folks “I believe you are powerful,” without knowing anything about them, is a complete life coach cliche.
It’s exactly the sort of cliche that gives people the impression that life coaches are all about being cheerleaders, and filling people’s heads with unfounded optimism, to fluff up their self-esteem.
That’s not what I’m about, but nonetheless—I say it. Because even if they can’t see it, I can see how a person’s power is playing out in their lives.
It’s my job to not buy into the stories of powerlessness that they’re selling themselves. (But I have to admit it: the cheerleader-types are on to something.)
Everyone is powerful. We all have the power to create our lives in perfect alignment with our beliefs, our fears and our desires.
It’s just that the “You-are-powerful” folks often leave out the most important part: When we think about personal power, we think about our power to accomplish. We look at desirable accomplishments as evidence of power.
But what about all the undesirable accomplishments?
What about when we use our power to reinforce self-defeating beliefs, create emotional wreckage with those we love, and convince ourselves not to follow our purpose? Essentially we sabotage ourselves.
How many of us can agree that we seem to be great at self-sabotage? I know some folks who have quite the talent for it! That’s because they’re powerful, and unfortunately they are using their power against themselves.
Here’s a really simple example: If I drank poison every day, instead of eating nutritious food, would I accuse my body of powerlessness because drinking poison made me sick? Would I say I was sick because my body didn’t have the power to be healthy?
No, I wouldn’t blame my body. After all, I’ve been pouring poison down my throat. The quality of my health depends (in this case) on what I choose to consume.
The intrinsic power of our bodies to process all that we put in them is precisely what allows poison to make us sick or nutrients to bring us health.
So what I’ve found, through working with clients who feel stuck, is that it’s not that we need more power. It’s that we need new beliefs and perspectives.
We need to put our power behind our desires and passions, instead of using it to back our fears. (In other words, we need to stop drinking poison and eat some vegetables instead!)
But often, in order to know which of our beliefs are poison and which are nutrients, we need a massive perspective shift.
Depending on our perspective, letting fear keep us from action can either look responsible or terribly irresponsible. Following a passion can either look inspired or fool-hearty.
Perspective makes all the difference.
When I work with people, the first agreement I ask them to make is to open up to the possibility that there is an entirely different set of perspectives they could begin to view their lives through.
Embracing new perspectives could be entirely life-changing! We agree that I may tell them when I see that they’re holding a damaging perspective. In turn, they’ll keep an open mind to replacing that perspective with a new one.
How many of us have listened to someone speak about why they believe something is impossible for them to achieve? I believe we’re all familiar with that feeling. For many of us, we can sense that the reasons they give aren’t the real reasons for why they don’t have what they want. Of course, even if we told them that, they wouldn’t really be able to hear us because they are attached to their perspective.
Maybe it’s that they realized they were unhappy at work and decided they wanted to start a new career. However, all they talk about are the reasons why they can’t do that. For instance, they’d have to go back to school, or they’d have to take too big a pay cut, or the job market for that career is already flooded. Maybe they want to start their own business, but of course, 80 percent of new businesses fail, so that’s not an option.
When we see it in others, it’s obvious: They have put so much energy behind creating excuses for why they can’t have it, that there’s no energy left to create it!
We think to ourselves, “It’s not as complicated as you’re making it! There’s no reason why you can’t have it.”
Yet when it’s ourselves, all we can see is that we are uniquely unqualified to have what we want. Against all odds, we’ve managed to convince ourselves to stay put where we’re unhappy. (And let me tell you, it takes a lot of power to make a human being to go against their very nature, which is to follow things that interest and excite them.)
When we think about how often we’ve seen others taken hostage by their perspectives, we have to acknowledge it must be happening to us too. We just can’t always see it when it’s us!
I have a ton of practice seeing it in others, yet my coach still consistently points out when my perspective is holding me back.
Still, there are ways to detect it on our own! Whenever we catch ourselves complaining about our circumstances or thinking we’re incompetent (in other words, whenever we feel powerless), it’s a clue that our fears and limiting beliefs have hijacked us.
It’s never simply our circumstances, and it’s not just that we’re just incompetent people. The power we think we are lacking is already within us. It’s just that with all the fear we live with, and all ways we don’t believe in ourselves, that power is siphoned off.
Finding our power isn’t a process of building, but of stripping away. It isn’t a process of personal growth, it’s a process of personal reduction.
It’s about clearing all the gunk—the debris, the fear, the shame—and personally defeating beliefs that stand between us and our birthright: Being brilliantly and powerfully alive.