How to Tap into Our Personal Power

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?”

— Marianne Williamson

When have you felt fully present with someone?

Perhaps your breaths were completely in sync or the profoundness of your discussion left no room for wandering thoughts. Sometimes this manifests itself as love — for a partner or child, but it doesn’t need to be so bound. It can exist when you speak as a leader or when you engage with a teacher or a friend.

Our very nature as human beings comes with a force that has impact on other people. We all have different capacities — unique combinations of intellect, energy, charisma, vision, communication skills, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, athleticism and more. The expression of these attributes is unequaled by anyone else.

We possess more potential personal power than we use on a regular basis.

Understanding our personal power begins by exploring how we limit ourselves. Here are five patterns we use to exploit our personal power at the expense of others:

  1. We talk with such certainty and authority that others are fooled into thinking we actually know what we’re talking about. (When was the last time you thought about what you *didn’t* know?)
  2. We try to please others, make them feel good, get them to like us, so they’ll give us what we want. Or we take care of them, secretly hoping that someday, somehow, our needs will be met.
  3. We threaten personal disaster if we don’t get what we want or we don’t say anything, we just take our marbles and go home.
  4. We use our knowledge of people to analyze their psychology and undermine their self-confidence.
  5. We do what they want, but boy will they be sorry later!

We do all these things and more. Yet, there are so many more skillful ways to create working and personal partnerships and to use our personal power in the service of a common purpose.

Related: Moving Beyond Fear: a Conversation with Chris Gatti, the Academic Acrobat

Here is an exercise you can do to identify and build upon your personal power:

  1. Think about a time when you really were in your power as a leader, a friend or a partner. What was the situation? Write it down. For example, the other week a colleague came to me distressed about a career decision she had to make. We spoke for five minutes and she practically jumped out of her seat with happiness by the end of the conversation.
  2. What aspects of how you showed up accounted for your success? What were the characteristics / attributes of your power? The colleague that came to me knew I was no expert in her field. So what made this interaction so successful? What did I do differently? I let her speak until she exhausted her feelings about the decision. I asked her questions about previous similar experiences and results. I asked her what she thought she should do. For me, there are some distinct patterns in my action here that don’t always exist — I didn’t try to ‘solution.’ I listened without judgement.
  3. Think back to when you were fully present, what actions enabled that? For me, this is easy: I am without my phone, away from technology. I am sitting with my newborn. He is sleeping on my chest. I feel him breathing. I can return to that moment always.

With these answers you can start to see patterns to describe and understand your personal power.

What you do with it is up to you.

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were all meant to shine as children do. It is not just in some of us — it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

— Marianne Williamson

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