A Coaching Power Tool Created by Natalie Hilton
(Stress Coach, UNITED KINGDOM)
The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. Alice Walker
If you haven’t the strength to impose your own terms upon life, you must accept the terms it offers you. T.S. Eliot
Empowered: confident and in control of your life. (Cambridge Dictionary)
To believe and be confident that we are in control of our own lives gives us so much power. It gives us the courage to face our fears, strength to continue when it feels impossible, and inspiration to know what we create is ours.
But this is not the reality for most of us. We are more likely to exist feeling powerless. To feel that there are huge swaths of our lives that are not in our control. That there is so much we cannot change.
The truth is, there is much more in our lives that we can control. That we can change, influence, and determine. And the ability to do this comes from the belief that we can.
To look at control of our lives objectively, it seems obvious. Of course, we’re in control of what happens in our life, we’re the only ones living it after all. We are the only ones in our life day after day, year after year. We are the only ones living it and the only ones experiencing it. But, why then do we give so much control of this life that is ours away?
Generally, we are not taught to empower ourselves. We are not taught to value our value, to believe in our strength, and to drive for what we want rather than what is expected of us. And once we feel powerless it is easier to stay there than to climb out. It is easier to believe that we can’t do anything to change our situation or lives. It takes a lot of effort to move from feeling powerless to feeling empowered.
Reflecting on feeling empowered reminded me of my childhood and how my dad would talk about my future. He always said to me he believed I could be the next female Prime Minister if that’s what I wanted. He even said he would put £10 on it at the bookies. Although not a job I would choose for myself, this absolute belief gave me the confidence that what I did and achieved in the realm of my professional success was totally in my control.
Unfortunately, this kind of messaging is rare or only limited to certain aspects of our lives. As adults, we have experienced years of self-doubt and messages from all sides taking away our feelings of empowerment. Despite this, we can overcome these. We can empower ourselves and support others to do the same for themselves.
It is only us that can truly empower ourselves. Empowerment does not come from an external source. Today empowerment has become a fluffy concept as the train of thought has been around how people can empower others. However, if only thought of as an individual empowering themselves, countering their feelings of powerlessness, and taking control of their lives it becomes a concept with weight again.
As individuals, there are many things that we can do for ourselves to move from feeling powerless to feeling empowered.
Identify when we feel powerless
One of the first and easiest things we can do is to identify when we feel powerless. The key to this is for us to recognize and name this feeling. When we feel powerless we tend to try to avoid or numb these feelings. These feelings are uncomfortable and potentially painful so automatically we want to protect ourselves from them. However, without recognizing and feeling feelings we cannot change them.
One way to do this is to set an intention that you will recognize and note when you’re feeling powerless during the day. This is much like within the practice of mindful meditation noting and labeling thoughts and feelings without any attachment to this practice. No action is needed at this time. By just recognizing these feelings and labeling them we garner some power over them.
Challenging our self-talk
Once we can notice when we feel powerless we can begin to identify and challenge the self-talk that underpins these. The strongest way to do this is to write down the self-talk that is causing these feelings and to challenge or dispute each thought one by one. These thoughts can then be replaced by more realistic, positive thoughts that support feelings of empowerment.
To effectively challenge and replace our self-talk we need evidence. Reflecting on where we have had power over our lives and choices is one way to do this. Journaling these moments and the feeling of empowerment can be a great way to do this. As we generally have a cognitive bias towards negative things, we often don’t recognize the things in our lives that already support our intentions.
We can also actively build new evidence to support us to feel empowered. Identify situations and areas of your life you want to feel more empowered in. Then create your action plan to begin a forward movement in this area, no matter how small it is. Through taking action you build evidence, and through the evidence, you build feeling empowered.
Gratitude and self-praise
The benefits of gratitude are widely hailed at the moment. Generally, advice focuses on being grateful for external things but in addition to this, we can also be grateful for our internal world and ourselves. Through creating a gratitude list for your strengths, personality, achievements and anything else that comes up you will feel more empowered. This act is recognizing the good things that are already within yourself.
In addition to gratitude, we can also engage in self-praise to recognize what we are doing and achieving regularly. We may consider this to be selfish and self-indulgent but when we feel better about ourselves we can contribute more to the wider world. Writing down achievements that you have done every day or every week can illustrate how much you do have control over and how much you can do.
Enjoy your passions
Doing things that bring you joy and happiness automatically make you feel better. Make sure you make time for the things you love as they improve feelings of confidence and empowerment.
As coaches, we are in a unique position to be able to work with clients to feel empowered. This could be in a specific situation or their whole life. Many clients come to us as they feel a certain level of powerless over something. We can provide them with the space to transform these feelings of powerlessness into feelings of empowerment.
It is not about us empowering our clients. As to empower someone is to give them power. This suggests a power dynamic where we, as coaches, hold more power. Coaching is a partnership, we come into the relationship at the same level. Additionally, coaching is about the client, it does not concern the power of the coach. As coaches, we can provide space for the client to empower themselves.
Limiting underlying beliefs
Underneath feelings of powerlessness are limiting underlying beliefs. These are entrenched, untrue beliefs that hold an individual back. They can be beliefs about the individual, the world, or others. Due to these beliefs, individuals impose limits on themselves without realizing this is happening.
During the coaching partnership, we can work with clients to identify, challenge, and replace these underlying beliefs. In doing this the beliefs can be replaced with more real and positive beliefs that empower the client. If an individual has beliefs that do not impose limits on themselves then their feelings of empowerment automatically increase.
In shifting these beliefs clients begin to realize the potential they have, which had been previously unrecognized and unexplored. This can include recognizing that there are choices in a multitude of spaces, where there had not been before. Some areas that this may most clearly appear in is within relationships and finances. For instance, recognizing that interpersonal dynamics are no longer working for the client and the confidence that they can control their repeating patterns to change, end, or not repeat these relationships. There can also be shifts in feeling, such as chronically feeling hopeless turning into feelings of hope.
A shift of limiting beliefs can also enable to client to recognize what they can create in their life, rather than not believing this is possible for them. And more than that, the cognitions combined with the feelings of confident control can enable them to actively create the life they want and to take steps towards this.
Helping clients to take action
Another key application to support their clients to feel empowered is to help them to create action. This can help clients to both challenge their limiting underlying beliefs, through creating evidence against the limiting one and for the empowering one, and to sustain feelings of empowerment.
One of the most effective things to support challenging beliefs is to gather evidence against the limiting ones and for the empowering ones. This is generally done at the moment when shifting beliefs but can be further supported by ongoing evidence gathering. Coaches can support clients in this by working with them to set goals where they find evidence to support empowering beliefs.
Setting goals and taking specific action in itself is empowering. In following through on actions we have agreed with ourselves will build feelings of confidence and control over our life. In a way, this is evidence building for the belief that we are empowered and have control over our lives. With this in mind, coaches can support their clients here through jointly creating specific, measurable, and, importantly, attainable action plans. Attainable goals are especially important as if clients are unable to follow through and complete most actions it could increase feelings of powerlessness, rather than empowerment.
Helping clients to take action also supports them to move from talking about taking action to do. And this can grow a realization that it is in doing activities that we can take control and make change happen. Taking action supports the cognitive change in physically removing clients from their limiting, powerless stories into an empowered reality.
Identifying and feeling feelings
The last two applications have been about taking action and making change, whereas this is being still and recognizing what is there. Identifying and feeling the feeling of powerlessness is the first step to feeling empowered. Only in recognizing this feeling can anyone move through it to feeling empowered.
Through powerful questioning, coaches can help clients to name their feelings, and therefore identify them. In providing a safe, non-judgemental space and time clients can open up to these feelings of powerlessness. When repeated, clients may also begin to recognize that feeling these feelings isn’t as harmful and terrifying as imagined. They may be able to recognize that it is powerful to feel and embrace feelings.
- What situations make you feel more empowered, or powerless? What is it in each situation that makes you feel like this?
- What limiting underlying beliefs exist that are preventing you from feeling empowered? How can you challenge these?
- What actions could you take or build into your daily life to empower yourself?