As a kid, personal empowerment was a foreign concept. I had no influence over any sphere of my life.

My summer job was to pull fifty-pound bales of hay on our meadow into piles so Dad could scoop them up with his loader tractor. Mom and my brother arranged bales on the haystack as dad dumped them. When I looked around, there was nothing but miles of bales lined up on the meadow for as far as I could see.

Life on a cattle ranch in Wyoming meant I worked alongside my parents to keep our cows fed and watered twelve months a year. I escaped my dreary world by day-dreaming of how I would call all the shots as an adult. All of a sudden, I found myself buried in a cloud of dust as my Grandmother put on the truck brakes and stopped beside me. She had noticed that my mind was elsewhere and I wasn’t paying much attention to my job.

My Grandmother spent the day in the hayfield as well. Her job was to set the irrigation after the hay bales had been picked up. She was a very practical person; she knew how to rebuild engines and her salad bowls all said Cool Whip on the side.

Grandmother was also the epitome of personal empowerment.  She focused on what she could control, which was her attitude, her work ethic, her willingness to hustle, and her commitment to the ranch. In doing so, she also empowered all those around her.

“Don’t monkey around,” she said to me. “You can complain all you want, but those bales of hay aren’t going to pull themselves into piles.” She left me choking in the dust when she spun the back tires getting back onto the road. I never argued with my Grandmother. Her favorite back scratcher was a toilet brush and she never hesitated using it to spank me either.

Her words reminded me that I needed to get the job done. Right now. Not later, after dreams had been explored, questions asked, and distractions dismantled into small pieces. I needed to take responsibility for the next step.

Personal empowerment is often represented as something we feel about ourselves at any given moment, as if it exists only within ourselves. That’s self-esteem. Personal empowerment, however, is something much bigger. It includes self-esteem and self-respect, but also includes our ability to have an impact on relationships and our social surroundings.

This is why my Grandmother had personal empowerment. She knew how to have conversations that led to real changes and improvements. Recent psychological research suggests that personal empowerment is an interactive process that takes action, gets feedback, makes adjustments, takes further action, and attains real results.

Unless leaders, business owners, and entrepreneurs can have discussions that lead to real improvement, they’re not very empowered at all. To have personal empowerment, they need to find ways to increase influence within their social sphere, both in business and life.

Here are 5 step to personal empowerment:

1. SHOW UP FOR LIFE

Either you control your destiny, or it will control you. Life doesn’t stop for uncertainty or fear. It marches right on. Life won’t stop for your birthday even though you might wish it did. Age and wisdom don’t always travel together; sometimes age shows up all by itself. 

While there are many things that lead to personal empowerment, one of the most effective is to have this mindset: I am willing. I am willing to live the life I want. That means I am willing to stop doing the things that don’t produce life the life I want.

I was unwilling to pile the bales of hay; it wasn’t as if I couldn’t do it. I just didn’t want to. My Grandmother’s kick in the butt jolted me back to reality. When I moved back into action, I didn’t see myself as lazy and unmotivated.

TIP: Dreaming of the future is a waste of time and is always an impediment to personal empowerment. Not because we shouldn’t have dreams, but because we need to take responsibility for what is right in front of us. There will be opportunities to think of the future, but always pay attention to what is happening in life right now.

2. SET GOALS SO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’RE HEADED

A goal is a something that you want and are willing to achieve. This is different from a value, because a value is something we find important. Good goals are related to our values. It’s up to us to set the course of action. For example, healthy living can be a value. Our goals related to healthy living can be a change in our diet or regular exercise.

Bad values are those determined by someone or something else. No amount of goal setting will guarantee you’ll hit your mark. For example, maybe one of your values is to get rich. That goal is not within your control because you are not in control of the stock market, the competition, etc.

Instead, identify a goal that will provide you with personal empowerment. This means your goal will increase your level of influence at many levels of social interaction. For example, if you run a business and face stiff competition, your goal is to win the battle. That is, you need to find ways to maintain satisfied and loyal customers.

TIP: If you run afoul of a relative or friend, your goal is to win that battle as well. Have the awkward conversation that will help you both understand what is going on. Remember, to create personal empowerment, your goal is to have a positive impact on relationships that are meaningful and significant.

3. STOP MONKEYING AROUND

My Grandmother knew I was monkeying around in the meadow instead of doing my job. Personal empowerment happens when we take responsibility for our own life. This is what generates self-esteem. Personal empowerment can be developed, and when it is, self-respect is the result. This requires that we get serious about the pursuit of our goals.

We take action and when we do, it enables us to prove our influence over others. I don’t mean exert our influence because that is akin to manipulation. Remember that personal empowerment is an interactive process where we take action, get feedback, make adjustments, take further action, and attain real results.

Failures are OK. Just remember to fail forward. Each failure should bring you closer to understanding how the setback happened and how you can overcome it next time. Failures often impede personal empowerment at first but they should be welcomed because they contain vital information that will help us fine tune our efforts.

TIP: Answer these questions:

  • How you can measure progress toward your goal?
  • Can you identify specific things you are already doing, or have already achieved, to help you reach your goal?
  • What are the next steps needed to achieve your goal? If the steps are large, you may want to break them into small sub-steps.
  • What do you need to develop, learn, or prepare to take these steps?
  • What can you do today to move forward?

4. ASSESS YOUR IMPACT

Personal empowerment is the ability to make an impact on the lives of other people. Don’t confuse it with being bossy. To have personal empowerment, you must interact with others, not boss them around. Their feedback is essential, so don’t let your ego get in the way of making tweaks and changes to your action plan.

In other words, you’ve got to care about something other than yourself. My Grandmother cared about the ranch and her family.

It’s unrealistic to believe that you will achieve personal empowerment in a few short months. What is realistic is to believe that personal empowerment is a process that might take much longer so you will need the mental toughness to persevere. Once you find yourself able to influence one sphere of your life, expect something to happen that upsets the balance and you find yourself back at square one. Only this time, you’re smarter about how to to proceed; the learning curve is shorter.

TIP: The most accurate way to assess your impact is to ask for feedback from the people with whom you work or associate. They will tell you everything you need to know about how to refine your approach and improve future efforts.

5. EMPOWER FROM WITHIN

Personal empowerment will lead to self-esteem and self-respect, not vice versa. This is what Joan Didion wrote about self-respect: “To live without self-respect is lie awake some night…counting up the sins of commission and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises more subtle, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice or carelessness.”

We can be so much better than that.

TIP: Personal empowerment pushes you to be the best person you can be. Ask yourself, “What if…?” It’s a phrase full of promise and anticipation. Or ask yourself, “What’s next…?” When you are empowered from within, you ignite the hunger that knows how to roll with the punches.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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