How to Work on Yourself | 3 Key Strategies for Personal Empowerment

In the pantheon of self-improvement buzzwords, ‘empowerment’ feels among the boldest. To empower is to literally give power to yourself. It feels intimidating in its grandiosity – as if the act of personal empowerment requires a life-changing act (or something to remember, at least.) It may feel difficult, then, to actively push for a personally empowered life. However, misvaluing its importance in the grand self-improvement scheme of things is an error not worth committing. To personally empower yourself allows you to organically grow confidence as you can firmly say yes, I did choose myself today. Achievements become more likely when you instil empowering levels of confidence in your mindset.

How to Work on Yourself | 3 Key Strategies for Personal Empowerment

It doesn’t need to be a sweeping action either. Personal empowerment comes in micro-sized portions – you might choose to holiday by yourself to avoid the chaos of group planning, for example, or simply choose to not get out of bed at 7 am. Personal empowerment is all about seizing control of your life and making positive decisions that are tailored to your wants.

Remember this famous quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Personal empowerment is all about embodying that spirit.

Yes, people and situations can influence the way you feel and experience life, but you have power in your hands. Here are some strategies to wield it efficiently.

Setting and pursuing meaningful goals (to empower you to take action/stay focused)

In the long run, giving yourself the best possible environment to make positive decisions requires a closer look at the bare bones of everyday life – goal setting. Before pursuing anything, it’s worth remembering what it is you’re going for in the first place. Misplaced, poorly set goals waste time and can lead you astray – terrible conditions for personal empowerment. For goal setting, take from the S.M.A.R.T plan:

  • Specific: Goals can’t be too generalised or too broad. The less specific your goal, the less achievable it becomes. For example, writing a novel is a huge undertaking, but writing 500 words a day is more attainable. That way, you know in the direction you’re headed.
  • Measurable: While it’s all well and good to have a goal, how do you measure your progress? It’s important to know how you’re doing otherwise it’s easy to get lost in the process.
  • Attainable: We all have high expectations for life. However, letting your mind wander can lead to unrealistic goals – the crux of every person looking to personally empower themselves. When setting goals, make sure they’re challenging but within your capabilities. Stretch yourself (but not too thin).
  • Relevant: Of course, any goal you set must serve what you want out of life. This in itself is incredibly empowering, as it provides a compass for navigating the rough seas of life.
  • Time-Bound: It’s easy to push large goals off into the distant future. If it’s not pressing, why should it matter now? To avoid goals getting lost in the time stream, set an end date – a time you’d like to have accomplished your goal.

Overall, the key thing to remember is that you can’t go around setting any old goal. You’ll waste your time and there won’t be any empowerment taking place. Make sure the targets you set are right for you.

Once you’ve figured out how you’re going to set the goals, it’s time to understand how to pursue them.

For starters, it’s worth keeping in mind the power of motivation. It’s the fuel that keeps the engine chugging along – the force that elevates you out of bed and into the day. On this, the Guardian reported the work of psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik. She’s famous for – you guessed it – the ‘Zeigarnik effect’- the idea that “we remember things we need to do better than things we’ve done.” Zeigarnik notes how her theory stems from observing waiters only able to recall orders before service. In other words, “Maintaining motivation to pursue goals requires gratification.

Gratification comes in all shapes and sizes. Regarding the perpetual pursuit of goals and subsequent personal empowerment, look at your to-do lists. Simply ticking off completed tasks is a tried and tested way of rewarding yourself with a sense of achievement and motivation.

A study from professors at Wake Forest University highlighted the anxiety-relieving benefits of simply making a plan for completing incomplete tasks. In the study, participants underperformed on a task when they couldn’t complete a typical warm-up activity. However, when they were allowed to create plans to finish the warm-up activity, the participant’s performance on the next task dramatically improved.

Essentially, it’s all about following through – setting and pursuing goals that put you in control and breed positivity.

Building self-awareness

In modern society, self-awareness is one of the most useful, potent skills you can have at your disposal. John Duffy, a clinical psychologist, says most people aren’t as self-aware as they think and often struggle to understand emotional states:

“In effect, self-awareness is the recognition of one’s own emotional state at any given point in time.”

When you can recognise it, you can manage emotional states and consequently take more control over other elements of your lives.

Building self-awareness starts with your ability to look at yourself from an outsider’s perspective: to see yourself as others see you. How would you react if you were listening to a friend saying what you are? Would you support them or have a negative reaction? The ability to remove yourself from the moment and look at how you’re portraying yourself is one of the most personally empowering acts you can do. Think of building self-awareness as you consciously putting your hand back on the wheel. NBC reports the work of Michal Strahilevitz, a consumer psychologist and marketing professor at St. Mary’s College of California. She recommends specifically looking at situations that rile you up:

“If you catch yourself raising your voice, you may feel justified in being upset. However, for the person with you (second person), the experience will be quite different.”

One element of building self-awareness to be mindful of is any potential shame. Looking at your role in past conflicts and situations may not be the most comfortable task, but as is the case with self-awareness, knowing more about yourself means understanding where you’ve gone wrong before.

The key? Always try to remove yourself from the situation. Besides, you can’t solve problems if you’re not aware of them. In this ever more complex world, awareness is paramount for improvement.

Developing resilience

Goal setting, motivation and self-awareness all play vital roles in personal empowerment. Resilience, however, is slightly different. It helps get you started, keeps you going, and propels you forward. Here, its purpose is to empower you to face challenges and overcome obstacles. In real terms, it’s how well we recover from life-changing situations and trauma.

You may see or know people who have overcome traumatic events and wonder if it’s even possible to access that kind of resilience. It isn’t a personality trait. It’s something you build through proactive actions in your day-to-day life. For example, seek to prioritise your relationships with empathetic people, embrace healthy thoughts, take care of your body, and avoid negative outlets. Essentially orient your environment to one of positivity, support and strength and you’ll absorb resilience.

Another handy tool is learning to place yourself in the timeline and ask: how did you get through difficult situations in the past? What would have helped? How would you change your response in the future?

Resilience is all about learning how you get through difficult times and building defences to ensure you’ll be okay.

Personal Empowerment Is Daily Care

To personally empower yourself is to put yourself in a positive, forward-thinking position. It can be in all shapes and sizes such as day-to-day goal setting, and zooming out to gain perspective and self-awareness. Then you’ve got the bigger picture – building strength through surviving and learning from difficult, traumatic situations.

Ultimately, it’s about putting yourself in charge. Far too often, we’re guilty of letting people and the structures around us not only guide our actions but our thinking too. It’s understandable. It’s easier to let things happen than it is to intervene, and in our evermore complex world, consistently making positive decisions for yourself can feel challenging. But it’s also why you should prioritise personal empowerment as much as possible.

Without putting your hands on the wheel, it becomes impossible to head in the right direction.

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