Every now and then, life throws a family/ health/ career curve ball that challenges us from the top of our head to the tips of our toes. In an interview with Jen Gouthro (Toronto), I have some observations about cultivating inner strength and personal power that I’d love to share with you … with a dash of humour, of course!
Q: Mildred Lynn… as a mentor and life coach, have you found that inner strength and personal power are common stumbling blocks?
ML: Yes, I’ve certainly seen this happen with almost everyone, so much so that it appears to be a natural part of waking up to life. During the life coaching process, after all the excuses, stories, explanations, hesitations, hiccups and resistance dissolves, many clients realize that they are feeling empty or disappointed in some area of their lives because they’ve given away, compromised or neglected their personal power. This is often a delicious “ah-ha!” moment that has the potential to awaken a renewed appetite for life.Enter inner strength. It’s a magical ingredient that helps people sustain their new taste for life because awareness coupled with motivation means change; change means shift; shift means pattern; and pattern often means entrenched.
Needless to say, the business of un-entrenching is not for the faint of heart and often requires lots of inner strength … and T.L.C.This is where some people stumble, others flounder and a few run for the hills! I am always intrigued by these three scenarios because, like a light bulb that is switched on, once the connection between inner strength and personal power is made, it is just a matter of time before a person stands up, dusts off and begins again.
Q: What is the connection between inner strength and personal power? Aren’t they the same thing?
ML: Inner strength is about “being”, while personal power is about “doing”. For example, I’m always inspired by the two large marble lions, “Patience” and “Fortitude” at the New York Public Library. They are magnificent! Looking up at them, you can almost feel the inner strength of their being; while at the same time, you can imagine that these mighty lions are able to quickly spring into action from a dynamic place of power. For me, the two lions model the inner strength/personal power equation: the magical place where the “being-ness” of inner strength sustains the “doing-ness” of personal power. In turn, the “doing-ness” of personal power sustains the “being-ness” of inner strength.
Q: What sorts of experiences tend to wake people up to the importance of personal power?
ML: This is a great question, and one that revealed an answer that I didn’t expect. Often we hear stories about ordinary people, who upon experiencing a life-altering curve ball, stop in their tracks, take heart, and then press the re-set button in their lives. Although these stories are inspiring, I have found that what really moves people from inspiration to action is observing an everyday peer or contemporary take up the personal power baton. Why is this? Perhaps because it prompts the inner dialogue: “Hey… if Fred, who I eat lunch with everyday, can do this, I can do this too.” In addition, observing Fred wake up and greet each day from his place of personal power provides the repetitive nudge needed to help shift old patterns and build up new ones. So, take a look around at the people in your life and ask yourself, “Is anyone I know standing in their power?” If yes, invite them for coffee and follow their lead!
Q: Was there one particular experience that required you to summon your inner strength?
ML: No, my personal inner strength experience unfolded step-by-step, like a set of Lego blocks. There was a lot of building, dismantling and rebuilding. So much so, that over time, the goal became irrelevant and the learning of how to work with my inner strength process became the focus – and a source of play, fulfillment and delight!
I do remember making a choice early on that helped me leap through the rough patches – at that time, I said to myself “no matter what happens I trust that my higher self will never let me down. I choose my higher self.” In retrospect, that moment was very freeing and liberating for me because it became a pivot point of personal inner strength … and the core of a healthy, self-nourishing belief system.
Q: Where do self-love and self-acceptance fit in?
ML: It’s all about perspective. For example, I read a story about a class of Grade 6 children. The class included white children and children of Native American heritage. They were all invited to draw a picture of themselves. Most of the white children drew a wonderfully large picture of “self”. Most of the Native children drew a picture of “self” that included nature … in proportion and to scale. I found this a fascinating piece of learning because it inspired a new way for me to observe self-love and self-acceptance.
This was my discovery: self-love and self-acceptance are directly impacted by how a person chooses to define the boundaries of their being. For example, if a person’s innate sense of self includes nature, others and the world at large, then their self-love and self-acceptance tends to be expansive and inclusive. In short, “me/them” duality goes away; self-love and self-acceptance thrives. Conversely, if a person’s innate sense of self-love and self-acceptance does not include nature, others and the world at large, their self-love and self-acceptance is often restricted and exclusive.
Suggestion: Just for fun, grab a piece of paper and draw a picture of yourself. Once complete, explore how well you fit into your world. Is it a comfortable, relaxed fit or do you feel like you are walking around in a pair of tight, pinchy shoes? This is an excellent starting point to explore the concepts of self-love and self-acceptance. Enjoy!
ML: Your question reminds me of a poem attributed to Mother Theresa called Anyway. The last three verses go like this: “The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it is never between you and them anyway.” Three verses of a simple poem capture the essence and beauty of real personal power.
Q: There is a fine line between confidence and conceit. How do we walk that line without falling on our face?
ML: First of all, what is the fun in life without falling on your face? I do it all the time – and would highly recommend it, sprinkled with laughter of course! Confidence… let me see… it is anchored in the heart, inclusive and taps into the trust and respect you have for your higher self or the Creative source. On the other hand, conceit is based on the illusion of a “me/them” duality … and to feed its hungry appetite, you need to constantly compare and measure yourself to everything and everyone (gasp!)
How to walk the fine line? The next time you are playing with these two concepts, notice if your thoughts and feelings are coming from a place of warmth, trust, quiet knowing, expansiveness and connection (this is the vibe of confidence). Alternatively, if you find yourself mentally comparing, keeping score, judging, feeling territorial or just plain smug, you might just be in the arena of conceit. Time to let go and lighten up because you just might be taking yourself (and life!) a little too seriously.
Q: Is it possible to be self-critical and personally powerful at the same time?
ML: I don’t feel that self-criticism and being personally powerful go hand-in-hand. This is because self-criticism is not a life-supporting energy vibration. On the other hand, self-monitoring is a life-supporting energy. For example, one of the first things I invite clients to do is shift their inner dialogue from self-criticism to self-monitoring. It seems subtle, yet makes a huge difference in the area of nourishing your personal power.
Another great tip is to learn how to stand back and observe yourself from the vantage point of saying “that’s interesting.” (This is similar to counting 1001, 1002, 1003, etc.) The third tip is to learn to laugh at yourself – a lot.
It is extraordinarily easy to fall into a trap of self-criticism because we live in a time where we’re bombarded with messages that we are never enough. If we are not careful, we can start to measure ourselves by standards that are not even relevant to our lives. Here are two questions from the heart: “So what?” and “Who cares?” Try them out the next time you catch yourself eroding your personal power by being self-critical; you might be surprised by where you land.
Q: Let’s say I want to go left and my friends and family prefer I go right. How will inner strength help me when I know I’m potentially hurting the ones I love?
ML: This is the pivotal question that holds people back from following their heart’s passion. For example, I recently spoke with a COO of a high tech firm who secretly yearns to be a massage therapist. She holds back because she’s paralyzed by the fear of letting people down, letting go of her identity, rewards and validation, disappointing family members and friends. The net-net is that for each minute of every day, she lives with angst and gut-wrenching stomach knots because she knows that she’s moving against the stream – her internal stream, that is – the one that is connected directly to her heart and spirit.
This is what life experience has taught me: if you have a heart-centred passion that is in alignment with your highest purpose, it does not go away. The first step is to make peace with it. If you choose to fight with yourself, it is a losing battle. Embrace your heart’s passion.
The second thing that I’ve learned is that there is always a way to incorporate your heart’s passion into your life. It does not have to be all or nothing… although it could be. You need to get a handle on how much your fear is colouring your perspective, and then look for opportunities to blossom using your heart as your compass.
The third lesson I’ve learned is that if people love you, they genuinely want you to be happy. That’s it. Sometimes it takes them a while to get used to the “new you”, but eventually, they will notice how happy, healthy and alive you are – and want some of that happiness for themselves!
Lastly, it is up to each person to choose what they make things mean. If you follow your heart’s passion and your loved one chooses to make it mean something hurtful, it is important to know that it is really about them and not about you.
In the final analysis, depriving yourself of the gift of your heart’s passion because you may or may not hurt someone is really an excuse to stay plopped right where you are; it is choosing to deny that you came into the Earth plane to experience the joy of being alive!
Q: Marianne Williamson wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” Why are many of us so resistant to the idea of being powerful? How do we get past it?
ML: Hmm… if we acknowledged that we are powerful beings pulsating with boundless, vibrant life force energy, what would that mean? It would mean that we would have to be 100% accountable and responsible for the gift of life on the Earth plane. To do this, we would have to wake up and be alert.
I feel that the “wake-up” portion of the equation is where most people tend to de-rail and disconnect from their personal power. The comical part is that when you think about it, waking-up is as natural to us as breathing. We do it every morning, the sun does it every morning, and the Earth does it every morning. In the course of a year, we wake-up at least 365 times, so I’d say that we are pretty good at waking up! How can we take this daily wake-up process and apply it to all areas of our lives?
My guidance is to keep a three-day list of people and things that nourish you and a three-day list of people and things that drain you. As you start to identify the people and things that drain your life force energy, observe your feelings. The goal is to gradually increase the nourishing list and decrease the draining list. As you progress, something magical happens. You wake-up one day and realize that you are becoming empowered by your choices.
Just imagine – if you decided to take a small step to improve one aspect of your life each day, at the end of 365 days, you would be at least 365 steps ahead of where you were when you started. Very powerful wake-up medicine indeed!
Q: Do you have a personal mantra that helps you to stay in your power?
ML: My personal mantra is “next time I’m coming back as a Shih Tzu!” Just kidding, although I do find the Shih Tzu a bundle of joyous, playful energy!
The personal mantra that keeps me centred and in my personal power is actually a question: “Is this choice in alignment with my highest purpose?” I find that it covers just about everything. How do I get the answer? I quiet myself, take a couple of deep breaths and listen for the wisdom whispers of my inner voice. I know when I am listening to my inner voice because it always is accompanied by a feeling of warmth, inner peace and serenity … and sometimes humour!
Jen Gouthro M.Ed. is an educator, Reiki master and newspaper columnist. She has been teaching and practicing Reiki in the Toronto area for several years and is working towards completing her certification in Co-Active Coaching™.