“They say sing what you know …”
From John Legend’s song “I Know Better” on the “Darkness and Light” album
Experience really is the best teacher, and life is a fantastic classroom – it’s there, when we pay attention, we learn what we can best teach others, just as singer John Legend reminds. I’m formally schooled as a PhD in Human Development and researched meaning and identity for years. I discovered the power of purpose through that research – and from hosting the weekly Working on Purpose radio show. Recently, I layered on study in logotherapy – which is a deep dive in meaning – and ultimately learning to teach oneself and others how to tap into their own reservoir of empowerment through the resources ever available through active connection to the magnificent human spirit.
But the most profound education that has been ingrained in my being came from navigating what life has served me. Before we get into some of the details, let’s visit the definition of empowerment, according to Merriam-Webster:
Having the knowledge, confidence, means, or ability to do things or make decisions for oneself.
Said differently, empowerment is about becoming strong and sure of oneself. Implicit in this state of change is some kind of catalyst from which the person develops strength. This stimulus can come in the form of either reacting to pain or discomfort (push) or reaching for a bigger state of being that is desired (pull). One of my best lessons in life about the important role of empowerment and how to develop it came in both the push and pull forms in 2016-2017.
The push catalyst was delivered when my husband in late December 2015 announced he did not want to be married anymore. Together for 18 years and with a 13-year old daughter, and even with all the distance our relationship had withstood that year, I confess I was completely gobsmacked by the utterance. Immediately, I was all at once exited at the prospect of starting on a new path (which is the pull catalyst part), and in equal parts frightened of the unknown and bewildered as to how we had arrived at this juncture (push catalyst). I immediately sprang into action to handle divorce proceedings, prepare the house for sale, transition from self-employment to a job for stability, and buy a new home and move into a new life. Perhaps you’ve gone through a similar life smack?
Meanwhile, I continued to grow through hosting the Working on Purpose radio show, as I brought on guests talking about living with passion, working on purpose, and leading from inspiration. They taught me so much through our dialogues about empowerment, well-being, and cultivating meaning as an energizing source in life. I also doubled down hard on as much self-work as I could muster to care for myself and work through my tender emotions.
What happened along the way in my experience and parallel study is I learned a system of self-empowerment, one that has served me very well over these past five years and helped me “step into my shine” to claim my purpose and now serve heartily from it. Strengthening oneself starts with self-awareness, knowing who you are, what you value, why you communicate and behave as you do. It’s sustained when you learn to tap into your own capacity to activate meaning across everyday moments, cultivate and express your passions, and look with fresh eyes and senses for that which inspires you – and invite it in to provide life-giving fuel across your life. This capacity is always available to you, just as it was for me. I’ve simply learned to unleash it through my life experiences, the practice of which is elevated through my ongoing and intentional study and practice. My life and practical learning are what propelled me to write the book, Purpose Ignited: How Inspiring Leaders Unleash Passion and Elevate Cause and create and facilitate Well-Being and Inspirational Leadership programs for companies and individuals today. Thanks John Legend, I’m singing what I know.
And so can you. You’ve learned more than you are likely giving yourself credit to steward your life as you wish. There is so much you can do to empower yourself by learning to find meaning in everyday moments, by giving yourself permission and space to nurture your passions, and by seeking people and experiences that inspire you. Doing so is a spectacular way to live, and it’s completely sustainable. It also makes you hopelessly irresistible to yourself and anyone around you. Go ahead. I dare you. Live with passion, work on purpose, and lead with inspiration. This is the best recipe for empowerment I’ve ever found.