You’re the CEO of your own life, and maybe even of your own business, so you often have to deal with power. As we go through life and meet people, we learn about power—specifically who has it and who doesn’t.
You’ll always be dealing with people who have (or think they have) power over you to some extent, yet I want you to be able to have power too—to know where it starts and where it stops, and to exercise it responsibly and compassionately over others. But how do you get it? And what, exactly, is it? Is it money? It is position? Is it prestige? Is it the ability to influence? I learned most about power by seeking out, and hanging out, with powerful people.
As an Executive Coach I see many people fall into a familiar trap: they choose power/money/self-esteem-by-association because they don’t think they can create it on their own. They think they’ll get a “contact high” from being close to power instead of by wielding it themselves. Then they’re left powerless when the job/role/title changes, the relationship sours, the association withers, or the bank balance plunges.
Build It Or Borrow It
What kind of power do you want in your life and over your life? Do you want power by association–with someone or some place? Or do you want to build your own power? We can’t soar in business and life until we untangle that relationship, claim our power, and start creating with it. Make the choice now to have your own power. Then no one can take it away.
When you give your power to your company or your title, you define yourself by the work you do rather than your innate self-worth. If the job goes b’bye, so does your self-worth. I’ve been there. It’s not pretty. So the question to ask yourself becomes: Are you borrowing power or building it? Here’s how to tell: if you feel challenged, if you feel like you’re growing, learning, and stretching each day, if you are acquiring new skills, trying to be the best you possible, if you are being honest and courageous about your blind spots and working on them, you’re building power. If you were to lose your job tomorrow, you know you’d find a new, better gig. You’re not wasting time kissing up and playing office politics, you’re investing time building your skill set, finding out who you are, making your life an amazing adventure.
And that is where the real power is.
I didn’t become truly successful in business until I made the decision to stop giving away my right to feel powerful – whether it be to a person, or a title, or even my company of the moment. Power meant that supreme self-confidence that I had seen in people like Bill Gates so many years ago. Power meant that I didn’t have to grovel any longer, because I brought enormous value to the table, in many different ways, all on my own.I’ve seen too many people borrow power, instead of creating it for themselves.
Your Power Play
Maybe we don’t know how to create it, don’t think we can create it, or we let ourselves get shut down by society or the people in our workplace or family. But this is the quest – to find our own power and then keep it and grow it. I did it through my career,spirituality, friendships and volunteer work; others do it through raising their families or their role in their communities. Either way, start where it feels easiest and then expand your personal power to the other realms of your life.
It took me decades to find peace and power in my life. Whenever I got wobbly I’d get in trouble because I’d start looking for power outside of me instead of within. You’ve got to look inside alone. That’s where you find yourself. And that kind of power no one can ever take away.