Personal Power

February 15, 2013

“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

This is The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, widely recognized because it is used by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step recovery programs as an encouraging and guiding principle.

Actually, it’s just the first part of The Serenity Prayer. Most people probably don’t even know there’s a second part. I imagine it’s because the first part easily speaks to people of many faiths, and the philosophy can even be applied by people of no faith. The second part isn’t as universally accessible because it’s specifically Christian.

The point of The Serenity Prayer is to understand personal power and use it effectively. Personal power is about your ability to direct and influence yourself, your environment, and other people (in a respectful and open way).

Personal power includes your ability to exercise your executive function. That’s an aspect of your mind that allows you to take in information from the world around you, evaluate it, make decisions, and make them happen.

Personal power also includes your ability for self-regulation. This means being aware of your drives, emotions, and urges, and understanding what purpose they serve. It means using them as messages signaling to you what’s going on with your body and your mind so you can mindfully consider what they’re saying and what you’re going to do about them. It means choosing and acting with intention instead of being directed by them or even pushed around by them.

Personal power includes social intelligence. That is your ability to understand other people through your empathy so you can see life from their point of view. It is your ability to understand how their drives, emotions, and urges are influencing them. It is your ability to understand that people have different beliefs and values so you take the time to learn about a person before making inaccurate assumptions.

Personal power includes the ability to delay gratification. That means you can compare the value of a near-term gain with the value of a long-term gain and compare the cost of a near-term sacrifice with a long-term gain. Delaying gratification is saving money over time to be able to make a down payment on a house, getting the long-term gain, instead of spending the money right away for a short-term gain. It’s also giving up free time and taking on a challenging goal, like finishing a degree, which involves near-term sacrifice, for the long-term gain of more opportunities.

Personal power includes the very courage that is requested in the prayer. It involves developing your abilities and continuing to push yourself outside your comfort zone so you learn new things and become more capable. It involves learning new skills and taking on new challenges so you can experience more things, understand more things, and master more things.

Personal power means being clear about your strengths and talents and developing them, because you understand the things you will do best are the ones that rely on your strengths and talents. It means being clear about your values, knowing what you value and why, so you can make choices that align with them.

You develop your personal power through self-exploration, self-discovery, self-development, and self-expression. When you do that, your core self becomes your guiding compass and your internal source of energy.

That means people who have personal power are core driven.

Isn’t it beautiful how these two qualities come together? I love it!

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