“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” – Henry David Thoreau.
Self-empowerment refers to the process that leads people to exert greater control over their lives.
This includes cultivating skills that would ultimately allow them to directly influence certain outcomes and produce tangible results. This is different from merely feeling self-empowered. People may feel self-empowered by listening to a moving speech, but as new research correctly shows, people won’t in fact be empowered unless they’re able to measurably change an area of their lives.
Today I will show you three key steps that will help you experience self-empowerment.
1. Expanding Your Awareness
This might sound like a cliche these days, but I’d like to offer a different view on the idea of expanding awareness. I find it’s best to think of it as the ability to become conscious of the choices you have in becoming who you want to be.
I opted for this definition because I’ve noticed that when people are dis-empowered, they lose sight of what they’re capable of and who they can become. So the first step is to fully apprehend that you do have options. Sometimes these options not immediately within reach, but they’re there. So if you’re unemployed and think you have absolutely no choice, then think about this:
- Are you using your talents, skills and abilities in creative ways to do some freelance work?
- Are you making phone calls every day?
- Have you knocked on every single door and asked for a job?
- Have you considered working for yourself?
The purpose of these questions is not to make you feel bad, but to show you that you do have a choice.
However, you might not be the only culprit in creating your dis-empowerment. There might be other people in your life who keep bringing you down. These could friends, family and even partners. And if you keep letting them have a say over you, then you’re never going to take responsibility for your life. It’s safe to let others direct your life since you’ll always have someone to blame if things go wrong. Stop giving away your power and let go of immature thought patterns. Continuing on this route will only fuel feelings of inferiority, and you’ll believe that you’re “less” than others.
When you feel inferior, you’re going to believe them when they tell you to “accept things the way they are,” and “to just adapt”. They’re going to tell there’s no way out and that you’re stuck, and if you don’t take responsibility, then you won’t make it.
Now, I am here to tell you that you’ve been told to believe a big fat lie. No, you don’t have to live according to other people’s standards.
There are things you can do today to let go and begin a process of positive change.
You first have to understand for yourself how you’ve been conditioned to react to things around you. Are you following a dis-empowering pattern or an empowering one? You need to identify those patterns before you can change them.
- Awareness Exercise: Next time you catch yourself feeling dis-empowered, I urge you to take a step back and observe your mind go through its typical reaction pattern. Let your mind go through the entire rehearsal and observe it as it unfolds. What feelings come to the surface when you’re dis-empowered? Do you feel weak? anxious? alone? Watch your physical reaction. Do you sweat? Does your face turn red?
I suggest that you let yourself experience the dis-empowering emotions that arise in a clam (higher-order) state of mind as though the real you is separate from the mind and body that are undergoing this experience. This might not make sense to you just yet. If that’s the case, then re-read this paragraph when the following thought in mind: “I choose how to experience my life”. You must become aware that you have a choice in responding to your life in accordance with what is good and beautiful. Begin to re-program yourself to take proactive action.
Remember, you’re not an organism that reacts to each and every stimuli. You can rise above your material weaknesses and decide how you want to respond to these thoughts. The first step to becoming self-empowered is to realize that you do have options.
Courage is the second pillar of self-empowerment. It is your anchor for any real and lasting transformation in life. Courage will help you overcome your fears, try new things, to quit things that don’t work, to find new relationships, and to start your first business. Courage will also make you help, love, learn, give back, forgive, start over, to stand up for yourself, to stand up for others, to say yes, and to say no. Courage, in my view, is the most fundamental value.
But you might say, “I don’t have enough courage yet.”
That’s fine. I ask you to focus not on what you don’t have, but on what you can become once you employ your abilities to their full capacity. Don’t hold yourself back by thinking you need to be absolutely “ready” before taking action. The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, said that the most admirable actions are not those that come from the person who does them naturally. Rather, they come from the person who struggles to do them but finds a way to do them anyway. That’s courage.
You don’t have to be ready to do what you have to do. You just have to do it.
3. Paradigm Shift
A paradigm shift in your thinking is a precursor to self-empowerment.
A paradigm is a belief system within which you define yourself and the world in a coherent way. The coherence of these beliefs depends on the web of principles, values, and judgements that you have formed about who you are. In any given paradigm, events are interpreted in accordance with the “rules” of that paradigm and as such derive their credibility from it.
In other words, you think that your beliefs about yourself and the world around you are true as long as they “fit in” the greater scheme of that paradigm.
We all live within paradigms. We all have beliefs about who we are and why we are the way we are. While some paradigms are empowering, others can be dis-empowering. For example, a person who lacks self-confidence might believe that social situations provoke anxiety and such situations must be avoided.
People justify their low self-confidence by appealing to the set of beliefs they have about themselves and about social situations; such as beliefs about strangers, beliefs about social rejection, and belief about awkwardness around new people. These beliefs will make your perception of your low self-confidence level true. This happens because each belief coheres with the rest of the beliefs that are members of that paradigm.
So creating a change in oneself, in my view, has to start with a paradigm shift in your thinking. The self-empowering paradigm that I want to suggest here is a growth-oriented paradigm.
4. Growth Oriented V. Performance Oriented Paradigm
Many of the personal challenges that people experience such as low self-confidence, lack of productivity, certain financial challenges; etc., arise from living in a performance-oriented paradigm. This paradigm contains rigid and fixed beliefs about oneself and the processes of doing something well.
The person that operates within that paradigm is concerned with how they look. They’re preoccupied with how others see them. They’re trapped in a constant evaluation of themselves and their performance. This is an unhealthy paradigm to be in because you will never leave your comfort zone for the “fear” of letting yourself and others down. People who are performance-oriented also tend to be judgmental and are less likely to do well in team projects. I encourage you to let go and to make mistakes. People can be so self-absorbed that they won’t even remember your mistakes.
On the other hand, a growth-oriented paradigm is one in which you don’t judge yourself. You take on experiences because you know that becoming good at something requires working and probably failing along the way. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re not a robot. Focus on growth and learning as opposed to saying: “I should know how to do this, or I won’t try it.” A growth oriented paradigm allows you to take chances, to meet new people, to learn new skills, and to grow your earnings. It allows you to live an exciting fulfilling life.
Elements of a Growth-Oriented Paradigm
- Competency: Having a good sense of your skills and strengths will give you a rough estimate about which of the areas you’re likely to do well and which of these areas will challenge you. Understanding what you’re not good at is both a humbling and exciting. You’re not expected to know everything about whatever you want to do. Trust me, people do appreciate it when you say “I am not really good at this,” or “that’s not my strength.” Approach your weaknesses with a curious mind and focus on learning.
- Knowledge: If you want to embark on a new journey, then you need to identify what you need to know in order to get there. But don’t stop yourself from taking action. Every journey is a process of discovery and it is impossible to know everything you need to know ahead of going through the experience. Learn as you grow.