The biggest drawback to accomplishing your goals is to discover your default emotional reactions to external stimuli. We all have them and — unfortunately — we usually recognize other people's before we see our own. We say, "He always becomes angry when that happens, you'd think he would know better by now." Or, "She did the same exact thing she always does when she finds herself in that kind of situation."
These are our habitual behaviors — whether it is to dodge a phone call or put off facing a situation or to go to bed and pull the covers over our heads. We all engage in them. No different really than cringing when you see a bug. External stimulus causes a reaction within ourselves. The reaction manifests as a behavior — an emotional response or perception about ourselves, life and how we operate within life.
The difficult part is seeing what our disempowering reactions are. This is hard because we often simply assume that our reactions are the only logical responses to a situation. "Yet another bill!?!" "I'm exhausted and fed up by it…I'll have another drink or I'll simply sit in front of the TV for three hours…or I'll go out and have a good meal at a restaurant…or I'll go buy myself something…or I'll go to bed and have a good cry and think about it in the morning or next week, which ever feels better." If someone suggests we react differently, we look at them as if they were insane and with an expression of "Most obviously you have no real grasp of the situation I am facing."
But one of the first steps to empowering yourself is to discover how you are disempowering yourself. And the only way to do this is to be willing to examine new ways of interacting with life.
For example, people who want to lose weight and keep the weight off have to discover a new way of engaging with food. If they don't then they will eventually gain the weight back. People who want to empower themselves are actually desiring to engage with Life at a different level — they want to lose disempowerment. Thus they must learn a new way of engaging with Life in order to create empowering habits to handle Life's challenges. One of the best ways to do this is to start to embrace the seeming challenges that manifest in your existence.
It's through this process of discovering how we are disempowering ourselves that we venture into our inner shadows. Which could be defined as: that part of our psyches which we have not explored before — the part that has some control over our lives, but whose presence in our world/life views we are completely unaware of.
And by venturing into a greater level of awareness, we at some point get to a place where we can say "Ah hah! Yet another bill and suddenly I feel like climbing into a hot bath, turning off the phone and ignoring my friends and family for the next three months while I lick my wounds and be angry. Hmmm….maybe this isn't the most empowering way I can act."
It's at this point of cognizance that we can then take control of our actions. We've arrived at a crossroads and at a inner struggle. We've come to an awareness of how we are disempowering our lives, but at the same time our egos want to engage in the habitual behaviors and emotional responses that we have been using up until this point. Our egos are like this because, like old shoes, the habits feel good — even if they make the situation worse or make us feel bad about ourselves.
So, when we are at this crossroads of awareness and inner struggle — we are faced with a choice of empowerment: to engage in old disempowering behaviors or choosing to explore new ways of living that will probably frighten us, but will open up a new level of power and confidence to us. That is the embarkation point of empowerment! Which are you going to consciously choose?
It may sound easy — "I'll obviously just choose the empowering way. Duh…" But don't underestimate the power of your ego. It will kick and scream and attempt to pull you back into your old habits at every step. The process of empowerment is a process and thus it takes inner strength, awareness, as well as discipline and practice. The only way to practice is to face situations that cause you to feel disempowered so you can react to them with empowerment. Not different really than going to the gym to get into better shape.
Ironically, when we choose the new empowering ways and become comfortable with them, we then usually ask ourselves "Why didn't I do this all along!?!"
So in this new year, I invite you to begin to examine the small ways in your daily life that you are disempowering yourself. Because we create our lives at the micro level of habits, perspectives and attitudes — which then build our lives at the macro level of friends, families, careers and life experiences.