I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon that often occurs when people devote themselves to continuous self-improvement, whether in the arena of health, career, success, relationships or money: they lose themselves. They abandon their inner wisdom, their genuine longings and their inspired impulses and, instead, place all of their trust in the formulas and processes taught by outside experts.
In effect they give away their power, which is why I think of it as abdicating the throne. They’re stepping down from the throne of their own life and following the path of another.
This is actually a culturally-sanctioned habit in a world that reveres research, systems and formulas. We’re actively encouraged to turn to outside experts rather than learning how to recognize and develop our own inner genius. We devalue our intuition and deep inner knowing. We conclude that others who have succeeded in an area where we haven’t must have all the right answers.
And while it’s true that those who have succeeded have gained tremendous insights and knowledge, and we can learn wonderful things from them, it’s important to remember that self-improvement “experts” are expert at what works for them, and we owe it to ourselves to become expert at what works for us.
Of course, when we want to thrive in an area where we’re not yet thriving, we’ll need to learn things we don’t already know from other people. In fact, we thrive in the very process of connecting with others and allowing ourselves to be supported by them.
But there’s a crucial difference between enlisting support or being willing to learn and giving your power away to others’ ideas, programs or formulas. That’s your crown: your inner power and authority to create your success, your way.
Wearing your crown and choosing to take in someone else’s advice is saying, “Wow, this is just what I need right now to help me get where I want to go!” Not wearing your crown and following someone else’s formula is saying, “If I don’t do this the right way I’ll fail.”
One arises from a sense of empowerment, enthusiasm and inner alignment. The other arises from fear.
And operating from fear will never lead to fulfillment.
I remember a long-ago conversation with my former coach, Tama Kieves. I was wrangling with some advice I’d received from a marketing guru and trying to sort it out with her. To put it more bluntly, I was actively resisting the expert’s advice. It just didn’t feel good to me. But, hey, she was the expert making gazillions of dollars and I…wasn’t making gazillions of dollars. With a heavy heart I’d concluded that I would just have to force myself to do this thing I didn’t want to do. I thought Tama could help me work through my resistance to doing it. And she did, but not in the way I’d expected.
She said to me, “There is nothing you have to do to succeed.”
Whew! I felt immediate relief. She was, in effect, giving me permission to do what I wanted to do, which was to ignore that particular advice. So there was nothing to resist! That was easy.
I know what you’re probably thinking: But then what? How did you learn to market?
She and I didn’t sort that our in our conversation. The truth is, I’m still learning. I’m learning what I’m willing and not willing to do, and I’m learning what works for me. And in the years since that session with Tama, I’ve come to appreciate what she was really saying:
True success in any endeavor doesn’t come from doing all kinds of distasteful or burdensome things only to reach a certain milestone and declare our accomplishment. It comes from a sense of being true to ourselves and growing in ways we genuinely want to grow. It comes from courage and a willingness to own our dreams. It comes from a sense of aliveness. It comes from living in this moment rather than putting off living until some future date.
In Tama’s elegant words, “Success comes in the middle or not at all.”
Of course we’ll be challenged to learn new things as we grow. But the impulse for growth comes from within, and we need to stay connected with that inner impulse in order to grow in ways that are true to us. We honor ourselves – we retain our power – by listening deeply within and heeding our own counsel.
As soon as we think we “have” to do something or else we will fail, we’ve abdicated the throne. We’ve given our power away to the experts. And it’s not even about the specific thing they’re suggesting. We could choose to do that same thing and still be standing in our power. It’s about our reason for doing it.
Feeling forced or resigned to do something because of a belief that it’s the only way to avoid negative consequences saps our energy. It’s like pushing a big rock uphill, and we continue to push out of fear that if we stop we’ll be crushed. This is hardly the recipe for a fulfilling, empowered life.
Choosing to do something from a genuine sense of willingness or courage is empowering and self-validating. So is choosing not to do something because it feels inauthentic. The power is in knowing we have a choice, and trusting that there is never just one “right” way to create or experience the essence of what we want. There are countless ways, and countless opportunities. There will never be a time when opportunities for fresh choices simply dry up.
Without the fear-based pressure that we have to make the “right” choice, we can relax into exploring what feels like the right choice for us, right now – knowing that we can choose differently as we evolve.
I’ll be the first to admit this isn’t always easy. There have been plenty of times when I felt the weight of the world – my world – rested on making a particular decision and getting it exactly right. I gave my power to the “thing” I was deciding about, rather than remembering that I had the power to choose again and again. And I had the power to customize my own solution rather than merely deciding between two less-than-appealing options.
You have that power, too. Pay attention to how you feel as you move through whatever self-improvement process you have taken on, whether it’s to create work you love or find a life partner or lose weight or become more prosperous. Actually, see if you can stop thinking of it as self-improvement and see it as the area in which you’re ready to grow into new levels of fulfillment. The less you see yourself as “needing improvement,” the more empowered you will feel.
Let your feelings of frustration, resignation or resistance guide you to pause and check in with yourself. Have you given your power away to someone else’s formula for success that doesn’t feel good to you? Is there an impulse you want to follow that you’ve been ignoring? Have your needs or desires changed? Or perhaps you feel good about the approach you’ve taken, but you need some support in moving through your fears.
Be curious and willing to explore. Those uncomfortable feelings are indicators that you’ve somehow given your power away and they’re calling you to take it back. They’re reminders that there is always another opportunity and there is always another choice. Choose with love as best you can right now, and keep listening within as you move forward.
Wear your own beautiful crown. You are more powerful than you know.