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« Script for Personal Liberation | Main | Writing Your Own Script »

Script for Self-Empowerment

I must confess that I have held the term self-empowerment in contempt ever since it evolved into a popular buzzword like paradigm shift, core competency, or globalization.  It always seem like false bravado to me or, at the very least, a petulant little protest by a whiney little crybaby, like “Hey, that’s not fair!”  Or, “Nobody every pays any attention to me!”  

As it turns out, this impression is spot on, which is why a new script is absolutely necessary.  Someone has written a script for you (or maybe you did it yourself!) that defines you as inadequate and incapable of producing a credible result.  The script has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You failed to succeed, or you failed to even try because, in your mental assessment of the task, you were never programmed to succeed in the first place, everybody is against you, you never get dealt a good hand, God hates you, yada, yada, yada.  Thus, whenever you contemplate a major project, an unmanageable sense of inadequacy shapes your mental imagery long before it materializes on paper or in real life.  

Tackle a job that you never thought you could do.   

In the genre of mother-in-law jokes, behind every successful man is a surprised mother-in-law.  This may be class-deprecating humor, but I find it useful because it illustrates the point.  If you internalize someone else’s negative opinion of you, you will always confirm their expectations and disappoint yourself.  But, the reason you internalize their appraisal of you is because you have empowered them to define you!  Think about it.  Do you care what a Chinese man who lives 10,000 miles from you thinks about you?  Of course not.  You don’t know him and he doesn’t know you.  Neither do you care what a woman whom you’ve never met thinks about you, even though she lives around the block.  You don’t give these people the power to influence you.  

To whom do you give this power?  You give it to people who know you (friends), people related to you (your mother-in-law) and people you respect (your coach).  Sound reasonable?  It’s not!  These people are only acquainted with a narrow slice of your life.  There’s much more to you than any of them see.  They do not see your dreams, your aspirations, and your ambitions.  They may be unaware of your successes at school, on the job, on the baseball diamond or in your one-on-one relationships off their radar screen.  The point is that their opinion of you is based on limited and insufficient data.  And, even though you may have made some glaring mistakes, it’s ludicrous to allow your life to revolve around them. 

Back to David.  Why were his older brothers so dead set against their kid brother going out against Goliath?  Were they afraid that he would be killed?  Not so much.  The real reason revealed the complicated internal workings of a dysfunctional family.  

“David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”  When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”  “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?”  He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before.” 1 Samuel 17:26-31 (NIV)  

David’s brothers applied a totally different template to him than any other would-be challenger to Israel’s enemy.  Look at their negative attitudes they held towards him:  anger, resentment, low esteem, mockery, ridicule, hatred, condemnation, accusation, and more.  Besides that, they may have been nervous about a kid brother’s courage showing up their cowardice.  The basis for their negativity may have been David’s birth status.  Some Bible scholars believe that David’s statement in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me” was an admission of an illegitimate birth.  David’s own father, Jesse, was dismissive of him when Samuel came to anoint one of his sons to be king.  At any rate, David was targeted by his brothers for resentment and cruel treatment.  His response indicates that he refused to let them have this kind of power.  Had he internalized their assessment of him, David’s history—and Israel’s—would have been vastly different. 

Empower yourself.  Do something that your script says you can’t do.  Tackling a “job” doesn’t have to refer to making a living.  It is anything that beckons you to come and conquer it.  Do it.  Bring your best effort to the table—your problem-solving skills, your artsy flare, your wildest imagination, your courage to commit, your indefatigable energy and your highest level of endurance.  Bake a cake.  Experiment with a new recipe.  Sew a quilt.  Be a mentor.  Volunteer at a hospital.  Help out in a day care.  Serve in a soup kitchen.  Take a class.  Teach a class.  Blow glass.  Mold a piece of pottery.  If you don’t play the piano, learn.  If you already play, learn a much tougher piece.  Re-decorate a room.  Plant a garden.  Compose a song.  Install a new kitchen.  Dismantle and rebuild an engine.  Act in a play.  Paint a picture.  Compile a history.  Coach a team.  Acquire expertise on a computer.  Remodel a house.  Build a house. Learn a new language.  Write a book. Find out how investments work. Start a business.  Do something—anything—worthwhile, something that will make a difference in your life and the lives of others.  

Accept a challenge that you have always avoided. 

When challenges come, whether they gradually appear on the horizon, or suddenly rise up in front you, or track you down as you run from them, they put you on the spot.  What are you going to do?  Ronald Reagan said, “We must never lose the sense of adventure that thirst for knowledge or that determination to explore the outer limits of our own abilities.”  One of the most inspiring speeches in American history centered on a formidable challenge.  President John F. Kennedy stood behind the podium at Rice University in Houston, Texas and said:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

“It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.

“However, I think we’re going to do it, and I think that we must pay what needs to be paid. I don’t think we ought to waste any money, but I think we ought to do the job. And this will be done in the decade of the sixties. It may be done while some of you are still here at school at this college and university. It will be done during the term of office of some of the people who sit here on this platform. But it will be done. And it will be done before the end of this decade.

“I am delighted that this university is playing a part in putting a man on the moon as part of a great national effort of the United States of America.

“Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.”

“Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”

Choosing which job to tackle originates out of your own mind and heart, but accepting a challenge originates out of your environment.  You can choose your job, but you can’t choose a challenge.  It’s voluntary versus involuntary.  It just comes at you, sometimes without warning, and usually without instructions.  You have to improvise, guess and react instinctively to whatever it puts up.  Four paths are possible:  you can accept it and win, accept it and lose, avoid it and regret it or avoid it and breathe a sigh of relief.  In any case, if you always avoid your challenges, your life will remain an unopened package.  As Frank Crane wrote, “The human heart is an undiscovered country; men and women are forever perishing as they explore its wilds.” 

You should also note that the overwhelming majority of success stories in history are the result of people refusing to avoid challenges. Abraham Lincoln (Sixteenth President), Buzz Aldrin (Astronaut), Jim Carrey (Actor), Princess Diana (Princess of Wales), Ludwig Van Beethoven (Composer), Mike Wallace (News Anchor) and Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister) all suffered from mood disorders.  Vincent Van Gogh (Painter) and Sir Isaac Newton (Scientist) were epileptics.  Agatha Christie (Novelist), Albert Einstein (Scientist and mathematician), and Alexander Graham Bell (Inventor) had dyslexia.  They are just a few of many famous people who faced down the challenge to just get up in the morning and function, not to mention the phenomenal achievements credited to their names.  Wise King Solomon said, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  (Proverbs 13:12)  Their hopes were not about to be dashed by their disabilities.  

Has a chance for a better job just surfaced?  Are you in line for a promotion that may demand more out of you but will kick you into a higher salary range?  Have you just learned of an investment opportunity with an element of risk but promises to be extremely rewarding?  Obviously, I’m not recommending a foolish move; all the factors in any decision must be sensibly weighed.  But, if it’s the same old cold feet syndrome that always nixes your challenges, then you will cheat yourself once again.  Don’t let another challenge paralyze you into inaction.  

Embark on a venture that has always struck fear in your heart. 

Fear is an adversity of a different stripe.  You may know how to do a job, and you may not be avoiding a challenge, but you still cannot move forward.  Your problem may be an irrational fear that stands between you and your achievement.  It may even cause panic attacks or other anxiety disorders.  Psychologists call these fears phobias, and have identified scores of them, like claustrophobia (fear of being closed in), acrophobia (fear of heights), agoraphobia (fear of marketplaces or open spaces), xenophobia (fear of strangers), etc.  Treatment usually involves some form of cognitive psychology like reality therapy.  The important fact to remember is that there are great success stories out there in which people have confronted their fears and scored huge triumphs in a host of fields. 

Alan Sheppard could have cut short an amazing career by succumbing to the fear of a physical problem.  “Alan Sheppard is known as the first American in space and the second worldwide. Shepard had a fulfilling career which was at its peak when he was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear which also affected the famous painter Vincent Van Gogh. Meniere’s disease causes nausea as well as dizziness and disorientation, so Sheppard could not go into space anymore and was assign a ground position. However, as the other famous people in this list, he did not let his disability to ruin his life: some years later, after having suffered an operation, he was able to resume his career and get back in the space, being the oldest astronaut in the program (at 47) when he was named commander of Apollo 14.” 

A sampling of websites indicate that fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias that prevent many people from advancing in their careers.  Is this your problem?  Are you afraid of taking tests?  Flying?  Failure?  Loneliness?  People?  The list seems endless.  The single, most important step you can take to confront your fear is to identify it and admit that it is keeping you from happiness and success.  A rational analysis of the problem reveals that nothing else prevents you from doing what you want to do except this inexplicable fear.  You are smart enough.  You are skillful enough.  You are strong enough.  You are capable of success in every way.  Now, you have something substantial to work on.  As long as your desire to succeed is greater than your fear, you can overcome. 

The phrase “fear not” appears sixty-three times in the Bible.  For example, we read in Genesis 15:1, “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” Also, we read “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”  Deuteronomy 31:6 (KJV).  This is highly significant in that the premise of “fear not” is that fear is something you can control.  If you cannot stop yourself from fearing, the scriptures would not admonish you not to fear!  Therefore, do not allow your fear to assume omnipotence or rise to dominance in your life. 

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Reader Comments (1)

Wow. Powerful.
Thank you.

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTim Garcia

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