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Pathways to Personal Power Part I

by Louise LeBrun
Author of the book 'Fully Alive From 9 to 5!:
Creating Work Environments That Invite Health, Humor, Compassion and Truth'
Partners in Renewal Inc

Pathways implies more than one way to get where you're going - and in the midst of career transition, you want that kind of choice. Personal means they're all inside you - and who better to depend on? And Power is about the result these internal pathways create: do they enhance your capacity to fully express yourself? Before you move on to unfold the next layer in your career evolution, take a moment to consider that your most powerful messages - like your greatest triumphs and darkest moments - all come from inside yourself. How well is your decoder working?

The notion of 'power' or, more specifically, personal power is one that captures the imagination. The dictionary defines power as the capacity to act. For what purpose? In what context? What exactly does it mean, in terms of quality of life? How do I become a person of great personal power? How would I be different from who I am now? Would I change the way I live my life? And if power is a force, where does that force come from? How would I direct that force and what kind of life would I create for myself and for the people around me?

Have you ever noticed that one of the more interesting things about power is that all of us thinks everybody has some - except ourselves! If you're the boss, you think the employees have it; and if you're the employees, you think the boss has it. If you're the parents, you know the kids must have it because you sure don't; and if you're the kids, you feel the need to fight for it since it certainly rests in the hands of the older generation. Why is it that power remains so elusive for so many? Why do we tend to think of power as something that exists outside of us, that we can earn or simply take, maybe even buy, and then wield like a weapon? How is it that we think of power as something finite, with only so much available and if someone else has some, we may not get enough; that power is designed to be used to make things happen, to do things to something; and that, if you aren't very careful, someone will try to do something to you or make you do something you don't want to do? Or, perhaps, even take your power away? It is as if there were a shortage and we must zealously guard whatever we have for fear of its being taken or simply evaporating if we are not relentless in our vigilance.

Stripped of our sense of personal power - that is, our ability to create for ourselves a life that we want and believe to be worth living - we are left trembling in fear and uncertainty or filled with resentment and rage. We experience a deep sense of loss of dignity and a violation of our personal integrity (i.e. wholeness). If we react so profoundly to such an awareness, is it possible that personal power is a naturally occurring state and one which we hold, at some very deep level, to be our birthright?

The things that occur at very deep levels of the body, and/or deeper levels of mind, must move beyond linguistically structured thought, which is how we have been taught to think. Our cultural conditioning has kneaded and molded us to focus our attention on the words in our heads at the cost of the sensations in our bodies. For generations, and in a variety of ways, we have been conditioned to ignore our instinct and our intuition, and to abdicate to the rules and regulations of home, church and school. By the time we get to work, where we will spend more time than anywhere else in our adult lives, we are well trained. It's a miracle that we can feel anything at all!

By the time we get to work, we have been rewarded for close to two decades for not thinking for ourselves, but for toeing the party line; being a team player; not rocking the boat; and supporting the status quo. That powerful energy that ran through our bodies seems to have cut back to a trickle. And often, we find ourselves feeling flat and lifeless; bored and wondering, 'is this all there is?'; or ........agitated and impatient, not knowing why. Perhaps it's time we went deeper into our own awareness and went beyond what we have been taught to call 'reality' or 'truth'.

In Pathways to Personal Power, we take a journey into places where many people rarely allow themselves to go. We go deep into the self.... inside....where our feelings reside; our greatest hopes and our darkest fears. And we begin to notice that before life happens 'out there', it happens inside first. We begin to ask ourselves questions, such as: If I am so quick to take responsibility (i.e. hold myself able to respond) for the things in my life that are working, why am I am so quick to hold someone else responsible when it's not working? Why it is so easy for me to reach out and grasp the things that work yet so quick to drop the things that don't work, as if bitten by a snake? What if I am responsible (i.e. hold myself able to respond) for it all - the good and the bad; the stuff that works and the stuff that makes me want to crawl back into bed and stay there!

We begin the workshop by taking a journey into the evolution of the human being: how did we get to be who and how we are? We explore how - no matter your gender, your time and/or place of birth, your cultural conditioning, your religious training - there are certain structures and experiences common to all human beings.

The first of these is that we arrive, with the basic design being one of a number of organs, structures and systems in a 'bag' called the body; including a brain and a nervous system. We concede that we have learned more about the brain and the nervous system in the last ten years than we had known in the previous 100. This is not rocket science. You need read only the more popularized journals, like Discover or Macleans or Time magazine, to find articles that marvel at the power of the human nervous system; at how with every new thought we think, the topography of the brain shifts, never again to think the same thoughts the same way. We know today that the brain and the central nervous system are living, breathing, shifting, changing and growing expressions of who we are; that as the tissue shifts and changes, so does our ability to process information. The human nervous system is recognized as the most magnificent bio-computer in the known universe, capable not only of astounding acts of repetition but also of massive waves of creativity and innovation. We all have a brain and a nervous system and as we come to better understand it and make friends with it, our capacity to fully express and create causes the world to be permanently altered.

In addition to having a body, a brain and a central nervous system, there are other things that we have in common, around the globe. For example, none of us is hatched. We all go through a process where we are conceived and grow in utero for, give or take, nine months. We all experience a birth process which is still either vaginal delivery or Caesarean section. We all have initial experiences with Mom and Dad, or our first contact with power and authority; we have extended family, including siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins, etc.; we have baby-sitters, in some way, shape or form; and we have community activities that begin at a very early age, like T-Ball, Cubs, Brownies or Sunday school. Today, we have daycare where children spend more time with relative strangers than they will ever spend with their own families. And then, of course, we have what I fondly refer to as boot camp for Life, or school; and let's not forget Church, or some form of religious structuring And finally, the one place you will spend more time than anywhere else in your life - work. Whether work takes place in the rice fields or on the 45th floor of a downtown high-rise, the effect is the same.

Deep inside us, each of us carries information unique to our structuring of the world in which we live. These experiences, from conception to death, are wired directly into the nervous system and literally shape whom we become. Traditional psychologists believe that our core beliefs - meaning our beliefs about ourselves (good person, bad person); our beliefs about the world (safe, unsafe) and our beliefs about our ability to manage in our world (competent, incompetent) are in place by the time we are five years old. Having had two children and having worked with adults now for close to twenty years, I believe they are in place much earlier. Few of us ever revisit those core beliefs as structured and defined through the experiences of a five year old. Just ask yourself: when was the last time you thought about what you believe, about what really matters to you - not what someone else wants you to believe, or thinks you should believe, but what really matters to you? If it's been a while, you also have to ask yourself: Who's driving the bus?

- END of Part I -

1999 by Louise LeBrun. All rights reserved.


Louise LeBrun is the founder and Managing Partner of Partners in Renewal Inc. (1990) (http://www.partnersinrenewal.com), an Ottawa-based company providing public and in-house programs for personal and organizational change; as well as Certification training in NLP and Quantum TLCtrademark.




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