Sunday, April 16, 2017

P is for Power - Regain a Sense of Power in Your Life

Pressure can be a positive force as long as you're in control of the situation. Lose your sense of control, however, and it is not long before you feel overwhelmed and anxious. Developing an internal rather than external attribution style can enhance your ability to monitor and cope with mounting pressure.  An internal attributional style means that you believe that have control over the important things in your life.  Those with an external attributional style believe that others or fate control their lives.

When we feel that other agents are acting upon us and we can do nothing to influence the course of our own lives a couple of important results occur.  First, there is a loss of motivation to act.  If we feel nothing we do has any effect on our lives why bother trying in the first place?  It would be waste of time and lead to more frustration, anger and the sense of being overwhelmed.  This is what learned helplessness means.  When we have been exposed to a number of situations in which we did everything thought was right and effective in achieving a goal only to have things outside our control determine otherwise, we may start to feel this sense of helplessness. 

Another thing this process may result in is a biased view of what takes place in our lives. When not in a positive frame of mind we are most likely to remember the negative things in our lives, the criticisms and instances when we believed we failed at something.  We are less likely to pay attention to and sometimes even remember the positive things that occur on a day to day basis. This can help convince us we lack the ability to be successful which just adds to the problem caused by believing others control our present and our future. Without knowing it we may even go a step farther – we may act in ways that sabotage our own efforts proving that nothing we do has an effect.  This is what is meant by the term self-fulfilling prophecies.  You believe you are powerless so you act in ways to prove it.

The opposite side of the coin can obliterate this negative cycle of defeat, However. when you believe that you are responsible for your own success you will act in ways to make that success happen.  Believing that you can have a positive influence on the situation you're in will lay the foundation for this to occur. But it takes consistent effort to consciously rewire your brain to relive your past wins more often than your failures.

“Easier said than done,” I hear many of you saying.  If you are mired in a pool of negativity and the certainty that you do not have the power to change anything it may seem that this is the case.  But by taking small steps, baby steps in the words the words of the main character in the movie “What About Bill?” you can start to regain a sense of control over your life along with all the perks this will lead to.

Three Ideas to Get You Started

1) Relive Your Successes Regularly

Trophy wives and trophy cars and trophy kids - Whoever decided bragging rights regarding our own achievements belong only to others?  Credit yourself for your “trophy” moments and this time don’t share the credit. Think about those times when you felt completely confident, proud, inspired, and capable of doing anything.  Create a personal “Brag Book” – Don’t worry, it’s just for you not to share. List all the things that you’ve done that have made you feel proud and amazing, big or small. No one else will see it so go ahead and be over-inclusive without the fear of being seen as pompous or arrogant. Use a beautiful journal or format a computer document with a fancy background or border. Review it regularly and continually add to it.  Bam – Immediate confidence boost!

2) Face Your Fears Daily

By fears I don’t necessarily mean the things that terrify you the most.  Try to do one thing every day that scares you or at least makes you anxious.  These can be little things, even things that would normally not make you anxious but which you have put off giving them the power to upset you.  When we avoid things long enough they take on a life of their own.  When you deliberately face you fears or anxieties they lost the power to control you and instantly gives you a sense of power over them. It also helps put other stressors in your life in perspective and makes you realize, “If I could do that, then I can do anything.” Each accomplishment makes each subsequent one easier.

3) Organize Your Space

Often when we feel a lack of control in our lives, this plays out in a disorganized work or living space.  When the things in our lives are organized we feel a sense of control as well as a feeling of calm.  Once we start to let housekeeping and organization go, it can become a routine and something else we dread that causes us anxiety.  Eventually, the task seems overwhelming to the point that there appears no place to even start in addressing this.  Begin small, if the task seems overly daunting.  Decide that over the weekend you will organize one small closet, the coat closet perhaps or the guest bathroom if you have one.  Take on each room or even part of a room step by step.  Focus exclusively on the area or task you are working on instead of viewing it as one small step to organizing the whole house or work space which is likely to cause you to shut down again. Let yourself take pleasure and feel pride at accomplishing each step no matter how small.

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