Few things in the world are as disheartening as feeling powerless: when you know that something needs to be done, but for whatever reason, you feel as though you just can’t make it happen. It’s a frustrating feeling to be sure, but today, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: you never have to feel like that again. Never again do you have to feel like there’s “nothing” you can do. Because today, we’re going to talk about the power of one.
The power of one
It’s the stuff of embroidered pillows, self-help books, and inspirational movies: you are more powerful than you think you are.
If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I’ve heard this advice plenty of times, but I haven’t always taken it in. Sometimes, I distrust the source I hear it from. Sometimes, I’m just not in the right mental state for that kind of pep talk. And sometimes, it just seems like it can’t be true. I couldn’t possibly make that much of a difference. . . could I?
But then, every now and then, I catch a glimpse of what I’m capable of. I look at my family, at the company I’ve built, at the challenges I’ve overcome, and I can’t deny that much of what I’ve accomplished over my life is because I set a goal, made a plan, and stuck to it. I’ve made things happen for myself and for the people I care about.
There is power inside me, and I’ve harnessed it before. I’m sure the same is true for you. You, the creative people of the world, have already contributed more than you realize. You’ve already created so much meaning, so much happiness, for yourself and for others. If that’s not “power,” then what is?
Clearly, we have power. So why can’t we access it all the time?
What holds us back
I know that for me, there are plenty of things that hold me back and leave me feeling like I’m powerless—no matter how much evidence I have to the contrary. And I know I’m not alone. Here are some of the things I hear about often that hold me and others back.
Perfectionism is dangerous. Not because you shouldn’t always give things your best effort, but because it sets an impossible standard. Especially for creatives (whose work is, more often than not, subjective), it’s not possible to create something that is completely, inarguably, perfect.
And yet, it’s something that many creatives struggle with. In fact, it’s one of the biggest problems (in scope and in seriousness) that I see with creatives today.
Perfectionism is ultimately stifling, silencing, and restrictive. If you settle for nothing less than perfect, you’re going to produce less. You’re going to be unnecessarily hard on yourself and others. You’re going to limit your power—not because it’s not there, but because you’ve convinced yourself that even your best efforts aren’t good enough.
Perfectionism does its very best to kill our personal power.
Another thing that tends to hold us back are new challenges that seem to present the exception to the rule. “Yes,” we think, “I could handle that problem. But this problem? This is too much.”
When we’re actually facing a new challenge, it can seem insurmountable. We might not have any idea how to move forward, so it seems as though it’s the problem that’s beaten us. Instead of getting curious and creative about potential solutions, we succumb to the difficulty. We admit defeat, because we convince ourselves that it’s our only option.
But we can and do overcome. Every challenge you’ve ever overcome was once a new challenge. Everything you’ve ever faced was, at some point, completely foreign to you. And yet, you’ve overcome those challenges.
But still, when we’re facing something new, it feels like this is the thing that’s finally going to bring us down. And if we let them, these new challenges can certainly make us feel powerless.
Our world is the perfect breeding ground for burnout. Everyone is set up to be constantly “on,” constantly available, constantly stimulated by a screen or a podcast or a work project. Alerts and notifications are built into our days, reminding us (sometimes incessantly) that it’s time to check this, time to post that, time to call that person back.
Everything is set up to demand our attention. Companies want our attention so they can advertise to us. Influencers want our attention. . .so they can advertise to us. Politicians want our attention, as do our bosses, our families, our jobs, our email accounts.
What our world is not set up for is rest. It’s up to us to build that in for ourselves. And if we don’t, burnout is the inevitable result. It’s happened to me, it’s probably happened to you, and it’s happened to millions of others. In fact, the World Health Organization has officially recognized burnout as an occupational phenomenon.
Burnout can lead to procrastination, dread, physical tiredness, and irritability, among other things. One thing I experience when I’m burned out is a “stuck” feeling—or powerless feeling—that makes it seem like my life is never going to progress beyond where it is right now.
When we’re burned out, we’re going to feel powerless. We aren’t going to recognize the power we have inside ourselves.
Being asleep at the wheel
I recently wrote a post about being asleep at the wheel. I define this as going through the motions, without really being aware what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. Some people might think of it as survival mode.
Being asleep at the wheel can leave you feeling a little dead inside. I know when I’m asleep at the wheel, it’s easy for me to feel like I don’t have any purpose or direction. And perhaps even more damaging: I don’t know how to wake myself up. It feels like I’m just surviving, and that I’ll be “just surviving” forever. It’s a terribly frustrating situation to be in.
Have you ever felt (or are you currently feeling) any of these things? What is making you feel powerless right now? And better yet: are you ready to do something about it?
Tips to help you harness the power of one
The power of one is real, but it can be hard to access. Here are some tips that can help you harness your personal power and start living the meaningful life you want to live.
Discover your purpose
Most creatives I work with regularly set goals or make plans (both of which are important), but few of them actually have a deliberately defined purpose.
What is your purpose? Why do you do the things you do? What motivates you and keeps you going even when things get hard? What do you want to have accomplished at the end of your life?
Answering these questions and defining your purpose is going to infuse new power into your life. When you’re doing things not because you have to or need to, but because they serve the purpose you’ve outlined for yourself, you’ll be able to find greater meaning in your day-to-day life. You’ll be able to harness the power of that purpose to make things happen.
Make a plan and set goals
Told you they were important! Yes, an overarching purpose is an important thing to have, but it’s also important to have a concrete plan with specific, measurable goals that can help you move toward that purpose and actually use your power.
When you apply your power, your power grows. Set goals, make plans, and follow through. You’ll build confidence in your abilities and you’ll come to know yourself and your personal power better.
Take care of yourself
“Self care” is a phrase that’s become almost meaningless in recent years, simply because it’s used so often. Even so, taking care of yourself is vitally important if you’re going to be able to access your power of one.
Self care helps you avoid burnout. It rests your body and your mind. It recharges you so that you feel capable of handling the next thing that comes your way. Self care looks different for everyone, but make sure that whatever you do to take care of yourself, it actually recharges you, instead of just numbing or soothing you.
For example, I can watch an episode of my favorite show on Netflix and walk away feeling recharged and lighter. Or I can binge several episodes of a show I don’t even like that much, leaving me feeling superficially “rested.”
Embrace your optimistic side
There is power in optimism (especially stubborn optimism). Choose to look on the bright side of things. When you do, you’ll feel more confident in your ability to harness your power and apply it to your life. Try to catch yourself in negative thought patterns, and challenge them. You can be optimistic, but you have to choose to be.
The power of one is inside of each one of us. Whether you’re going to change the world, change your family, or just change yourself, the change you can make is significant. You can make a difference in the world, simply by working through your blocks and tapping into your personal power.
The life you want is yours for the creating. Claim your power and go for it.