Have you ever felt powerless? That sinking feeling that your destiny—to the extent you think you have one—is in the hands of others? It’s one of the greatest challenges facing each of us: having a sense of control over our lives and the world around us.

We often associate power with kings, presidents or political leaders: those who have the greatest amount of control over others. We envy the powerful for their education, net worth, large home, physical strength, physical beauty, or position of authority. And so, we emulate the formula we think they are following. We focus our attention—sometimes to the point of obsession—on having more money, more youthfulness, and more symbols of success such as new cars, island vacations, fancy clothes, lavish lifestyles.

And when that doesn’t work, when we still feel that control and power are beyond our grasp, we give up the power we do have—sometimes unconsciously—to gurus, doctors, teachers, therapists, pundits, religious leaders, and politicians, not to mention family members, friends, neighbors, and others, all of whom are perfectly willing to make decisions for us. And the cycle of powerlessness continues.

We even design fast-lane lives because the dizzying pace makes us feel important and worthy; we come to believe that we’re more successful if our time is in demand every minute of the day. We rationalize that if our days and nights are filled with things to do, we must be living a valuable and meaningful life. But these speedway distractions compromise our health and financial resources and handicap our ability to make good decisions. When you’re going so fast—out of control—that you literally can’t think straight, how can you create a future that works? The answer is, you can’t.

You know you’ve lost touch with your personal power when you:

  • Don’t take the time to understand your purpose or vision
  • Have forgotten or given up on your dreams
  • Lack focus and direction
  • Are over-committed, tired, and stressed
  • Don’t plan your day, week, month, year or life
  • Don’t return phone calls, letters or e-mails
  • Are often late to meetings, appointments or engagements

Free Will

Samuel Johnson, the 18th Century writer, once stated, “Power is always gradually stealing away from the many to the few because the few are more vigilant and consistent.” The easiest way to deal with our complex world when faced with too many choices and too little time is to allow others to make choices for us – the kind of mindset that the advertising industry thrives on.

Every time we give away our power or our freedom to make our own choices, we diminish our vitality and our ability to live life fully. This is an important loss because every day we make decisions both large and small that impact our lives and the lives of those around us. We make decisions about our jobs, livelihoods or careers; our significant others, family and children; our finances and investments; our diet and our health, as well as solutions to illness and disease; foods we consume; which prescription drugs and supplements to take; the list goes on and on.

Consider the following questions and reflect on how much control you feel you have over your life and your decisions:

  • Are you always changing your mind?
  • Do you frequently ask others for advice?
  • Do you make your own decisions or let others do that for you?
  • Who influences your decisions?
  • Are you aware when someone is manipulating you?
  • Can you stand up to dominating and controlling people?
  • Do you conform to win approval?
  • Are you doing what you want or what others expect you to do?

It’s Not Too Late!

If you’re stuck in feelings of powerlessness, there’s a way out. It begins with the realization that real power is not about control or looking good or having more.  Real power is about getting in touch with your strengths, skills, talents, and gifts—with your unique purpose and contribution to the greater whole. Real power comes from inside you. Having worked with some of the most powerful individuals in the world, I have been able to observe the qualities and beliefs that such people possess:

  • They know who they are, what they want, and where they’re going.
  • They are aware of what’s right for them.
  • They do what they say they’ll do and are clear about their priorities and values.
  • They stay in the present, neither dwelling on the past nor worrying about the future.
  • They believe in the power of something greater than themselves and/or feel guided or supported by God.

I’ve also noticed that powerful people have learned to choose their battles and causes, are selective in their activities and relationships, and don’t manipulate, bully, or try to control others. They are passionate about making a positive difference in the world.

When we can achieve more mental and emotional balance, we create the conditions for a greater degree of wisdom and self-confidence. The good news is that, at any time, we can turn our thoughts and inner images in a more life-affirming direction and release the ones that no longer serve us.

When you rediscover your own personal power—along with your passion and your purpose—you’ll tap into the wisdom of geniuses and feel energized to create a new life. To reclaim this power, let go of your fear of making mistakes or leaving your comfort zone. Stop worrying about what others think and start trusting your own instincts and experience. As you get used to relying on yourself, your personal power will naturally come alive, and the wisdom that is uniquely yours will reveal itself.