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Take Back Your Personal Power (Part 2)

Take Back Your Personal Power (Part 2)

Take Back Your Personal Power

    Time to Make Waves

    In part one of this post we discussed the tendency some of us have to allow situations, circumstances, events and even other people to control our lives; in essence, giving away our power in an attempt to be accepted, valued, appreciated and loved. By trying to “fit in and not make waves” (as someone shared with me recently) it seems that some of us have lost our identity and sense of self. The good news is that we can take back control of our life and still be that kind, generous and thoughtful person – who also happens to be strong, confident, assertive, productive, successful and powerful. And no, we don’t need to compromise our beliefs, goals, character or core values to do so. In fact, taking back our power can be the most important step towards living a life of true purpose, alignment (with our core values), integrity and joy.

    While the following strategies are very effective, they are not always comfortable or easy to implement, so it’s a good thing that you and I are all about doing what works – not what’s easy! Not every point will be relevant for every person, so see what resonates for you. Also be warned that I may be a little… er… blunt in places (surprising, I know), so if you’re feeling a bit presh you may wanna read from behind a cushion (like in a scary movie). Enjoy.

    1. Stop looking for easy and start “doing” effective. Today.

    All too often our desire to live a comfortable, painless, easy and safe existence (all things driven by fear) is the very thing that kills our potential, our productivity, our ability to develop and ultimately, our spirit. It is no coincidence that we (the society) have both (1) a widespread aversion to anything that makes us uncomfortable and (2) a high percentage of people who regularly feel frustrated, unfulfilled, lost and miserable. Ironically, it is our aversion to working against resistance that stops us from growing, learning, evolving and adapting. Sometimes (in the moment) we believe it’s simply easier to just “fit in”, to compromise and to bite our tongue. While this is understandable on occasion, over the long term this kind of behaviour and thinking will set us up for unhealthy relationships, stagnation, disconnection, frustration, desperation and misery. In order to take back your power you will need to be courageous (that’s a choice by the way), you will need to be prepared to get uncomfortable (that’s where you learn, grow and adapt) and you will need to do things that may piss other people off – perhaps the ones who previously pulled your strings for their own gain.

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    2. Face your fears.

    You can never take back your power until you confront the things that scare you. By the way, being fearful does not represent weakness but rather humanity.

    “Show me the person who fears nothing and I’ll show you an idiot.”

    *There’s also an argument that the person who fears nothing might also be the person who has reached enlightenment… but that’s a discussion for another day.

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    If things only have the power and influence that we assign them (and they do), then fear is something we can control and use for our own personal development. For the most part fear is a completely personal thing. It’s not about the situation, circumstance or environment but rather US in it; how we react to, process, cope with and interpret the events in our world. That’s why we can see two people doing the exact same thing at the same time (a bungee jump for example); one is excited and having a great time, while the other is terrified and having the worst time ever. That’s because it ain’t about the jump; it’s about the jumper. Keeping in mind that each jumper creates his or her own reality. Of course there are healthy fears – not wanting to swim with a shark for example – but what we’re talking about here are those destructive and unhealthy fears that have been known to make people prisoners of their own mind. For a lifetime.

    3. When nice isn’t. (Nice)

    Seek to be strong not nice. Too many nice people get chewed up and spat out because all they have is a bunch of “nice-ness” and zero personal power. Sometimes nice-ness is actually a euphemism for weakness and far too often our need to be seen as the “nice person” (oh, please) is what brings us undone. Endeavouring to keep everyone in your world happy is an exercise in futility, frustration and exhaustion. And stupidity. In short, it can’t be done. It’s not your job to “make” people happy; it’s your job to be you. And not the “you” that people want you to be, but rather, your authentic self. The one who has clarity, certainty, contentment and calm about who and what they are. And no, being you does not mean being selfish.

    4. Stop being a victim.

    The world isn’t fair. The majority don’t care about you or your issues. S**t happens. Bad things happen to good people. And lots of people are selfish and nasty. There — we’ve cleared that up. Now, stop seeking pity, attention and sympathy and get on with it. Stop having the same pointless discussions about the same issues, stop waiting to be “saved” and stop giving away your power. You don’t need universal approval, acceptance or endorsement, you need a different attitude.

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    5. Win respect through your actions.

    Talk less, do more. What you do will tell the rest of us far more about who you are than any words that might come out of your mouth. Words are cheap and often meaningless. Most big talkers are just that. And nothing more.

    6. Keep re-inventing yourself.

    Being stagnant and inflexible in a dynamic world is a sure-fire way to become redundant, unnecessary and powerless. While your core values, beliefs and standards might remain constant, it is important that you continue to adapt, learn, grow and develop with your ever-changing world.

    7. Value yourself.

    Stop treating others as though they are of greater worth than you. Nobody is more important than anyone else. And nobody is more important than you. Nobody. This is not about having a massive ego or being self-righteous; it’s about stopping all the self-sabotage. You know what I mean. It’s about not rationalising mediocrity and failure any more. It’s about changing your standards and your thinking. It’s about not letting your poor self-esteem get in the way of your potential and your possibilities. It’s about not letting your past become your future. In case you don’t know or you haven’t been told, I will tell you now; you are worthy, you are talented, you are good enough and you are powerful. More than you know. If you don’t believe those words then you don’t value yourself as you should.

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    *By the way, power and humility can go comfortably hand in hand.

    8. Fiercely protect your brand.

    Don’t associate with people, organisations, situations or products that will damage your reputation. In the professional world (where many of us spend a great deal of our lives) your brand is your power. The stronger your brand, the more power you have (in that world). Prospective employers, potential business associates and customers will all “buy what you’re selling” based largely (if not solely) on their perception of you; your product, your service, your ability, your skill, your integrity and your value to them.

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    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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