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Enduring Power Comes From a Focus on Others


 

“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve."

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.


"Throughout history, making a difference in the world has been seen as one of the most crucial and meaningful aspects of human life. Our purpose in life, the specific difference in the world that we are best suited to make, is expressed in this universal experience of power."


When an individual feels powerful, they experience high levels of excitement, pleasure, and inspiration which fuels their intentions, aspirations, and goals with less consideration of the possible risks. However, there is a tension within the human experience of power.


"It can propel the individual forward in one of two directions: toward the abuse of power and impulsive and unethical actions, or toward benevolent behavior that advances the greater good."


While the cost of abusing their power can lead to broken trust, compromise, faltering performance, poor health, and other adverse effects, "when individuals use their power to advance the greater good, they and the people whom they empower will be happier, healthier, and more productive."


The key to successfully maintaining power is to stay focused on others. This means considering the needs, wants, and interests of others, not just your own, and empowering them to be their best and give their best every day. This is enduring power supported by four Power Principles!


Power Principle 9: Enduring Power Comes From Empathy

Before understanding how empathy corresponds with power, we first need to understand what empathy is. The textbook definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Expressed through their facial muscles, tone of voice, and body language, these "emotional expressions provide information about people's feelings, intentions, and moral judgments of the situation at hand, evoke specific reactions in others, serve as incentives in social interactions, and structure our daily interactions."


When we practice empathy, we demonstrate respect for those around us by acknowledging their feelings and are better able to respond to their emotional displays in ways that minimize the opportunity for misunderstandings and conflicts. We can increase our empathy by asking open-ended questions, actively listening, giving others the space to voice their views without interruption by practicing silence, and intentionally seeking their input.


But if we allow the experience of power to pull our focus on others off course, we will abuse our power and ultimately lose it when the feelings, views, and opinions of others are no longer important or valued by us.


Power Principle 10: Enduring Power Comes From Giving

While we can give to others in many ways -- sharing resources, encouraging, affirming, valuing, trusting with responsibilities, etc. -- one of the simplest and oldest methods of giving to another human being is by touching them. Touch can be a handshake, fist bump, high-five, pat on the back, a hug, a gentle touch on the arm, etc.


Now, I'm obligated to say that not everyone enjoys or appreciates touch to the same degree, so use empathy before touching someone unbidden. However, research indicates that humans will literally die without a kind touch from another. In fact, our brains respond to physical touch by releasing oxytocin, a neurochemical that gives a sense of trust, cooperation, and generosity, and decreases our body's indications of stress (i.e., cortisol and high blood pressure). "Warm, friendly touches of appreciation make others feel esteemed, valued, and good. Touch is a powerful incentive within social interactions."


The abusive side of this principle is that rather than giving, we take and take and take, without consideration of the other person and often in excess beyond what we even need.


"The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion

and the will to help others."

-- Albert Schweitzer


Power Principle 11: Enduring Power Comes From Expressing Gratitude

"Gratitude is the reverence we feel for things that are given to us, things that we sense are sacred, precious, or irreplaceable. What is given might be a thing, an experience, an opportunity, a condition of life, or a person. Critically, it must be perceived as something we did not attain through our own agency or will."


Gratitude is linked to improved health and less stress and promotes positive emotions such as trust and generosity. Additionally, expressions of gratitude within our social interactions advance the greater good because they inspire collaboration, spur productive action, and generate contagious goodwill.


But when we turn to abusing our power, we undermine others through our pride and arrogance rather than recognizing the contribution of others and honoring them with our appreciation and gratitude.


Power Principle 12: Enduring Power Comes From Telling Stories that Unite

Good storytelling contributes to the greater good and promotes enduring power because it unites different people through a shared experience that connects us through our emotions -- mirth, joy, surprise, fear, love, etc. -- helps us make sense of our challenges, struggles, and conflicts, and gives us a sense of identity and purpose.


"People who tell more coherent stories about their lives, with clear plot lines, characters, themes, and organizing passions, are physically healthier and find greater purpose later in life. To the extent that our stories have narrative coherence and encourage others, we empower them toward similar ends."


But if we abuse our power, we will distance ourselves from those we believe are beneath us because of the negative stories we tell ourselves and others about our own superiority instead of highlighting our common humanity, unique individual and collective significance, and uniting experiences.


This week, reflect on your experience with power -- at home, at work, in your community.

  • How do you practice these principles in your life?

  • What actions can you take to increase your power?

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