A quote that is often used, and perhaps overused, ever since the first Spiderman movie was released is “With great power comes great responsibility” – clearly a concept that is largely disregarded in our world today. Great power seems more likely to be viewed as the opportunity to fall into every possible excess, issue rash directives and endorse policies that at the very least have not been examined and at worst are well past their sell-by date.
This is not restricted to politics, religion and companies. We see egregious misuses of “power” such as it is viewed, in social situations, project teams, families and bureaucracies. Power, when used in irresponsible ways, devolves then to nothing but force – and force tends to have ugly consequences, leading to much human suffering on micro and macro levels and ultimately does not serve anyone, even the perpetrators.
The converse of that quote is actually more true: “With great responsibility comes great power” – when we come to grips with the various responsibilities of our lives and undertake, on our own cognizance, to see them through with everything within us, we tap into a reservoir of power that is simply waiting for us to do just this.
Real power is an inner engine, fueled by consciously being accountable – for our lives, to our employees, to our citizens and to the world at large. When we acknowledge that we direct the course of events and are willing to do the hard yards that will see our lives through with diligence and integrity, we receive the power into which we were born.
Stealing power and giving up our power
When power is wielded without thought of the consequences or of the others that might be affected, it is in essence stealing power from a person or persons. The people under such authority are either beguiled or hoodwinked into giving up their power, but such situations are the proverbial slippery slope because in due course the worm tends to turn. We see this in politics, in relationships and in industry.
In truth, it is against who we intrinsically are to deny our own autonomy. There is no document on this planet that is mightier or more influential than our internal drive to be in control of our own destiny, to feel in some way, big or small, that we matter, that our wishes should count for something. If we find this is consistently not our reality, then it is very possible that we have been obeying voices other than our own – in other words, we have been abdicating our responsibility to ourselves.
Ultimately, the kernel of power that resides in each of us translates into our surroundings and the wider world. If we give up our power in the erroneous belief that we are bound to dictates that make us feel helpless, powerless and unable to live a life of our choosing, then we are failing ourselves and our fellow humans.
So how can we turn that around? How does great responsibility confer great power?
1. It makes life meaningful
We have been conditioned to defer to our surroundings: that could be a family member, an ideology, a boss, a distant dream, or even astrology, or a prediction – basically a person or device that we can say is responsible for the way our lives are at the moment.
Needless to say, all of these things, no matter how nourishing or inspirational or otherwise, are not and never can be in control of what we do and where we go in life. At best they are tools, prods and/or supports, but the final judgements and decisions must perforce rest with us. This is an incredibly important reality to embrace and once internalized, it makes life more immediate and vivid. We begin to really see the significance of everything happening around us because we know that we must infer and infuse the correct meaning of it into our choices, as opposed to allowing someone else’s interpretation to dictate our path.
2. It gives a sense of purpose
That path is something we can only see if we have taken responsibility for our lives. Makes sense? If we blindly follow in someone’s footsteps, we are following their path and can have no notion of the destination. Is it any wonder that a great many of us feel lost and directionless? If we do not see our lives as under our control, if we do not view our destiny as in our hands, we have rendered ourselves powerless.
When we truly grasp the delightfulness that our lives are really ours, to make of as we wish, we can begin to dream real dreams – what do we really wish? And instead of hopelessly fantasizing about futures we don’t believe in, we can create futures that give us a sense of purpose.
3. It fuels setting a trajectory
When we take our life in our hands, we can determine where we are going to end up. It is no longer a hazy, undefined conclusion based on estimates from invested third parties. We know what we want, we can figure out the pathways to get it, we can own our mistakes and errors of judgement and all of these things give us the power and impetus to move to a better, self-directed future.
In truth, the systems we live under cannot and should not be allowed to influence the fulfillment of our potential and the dreams of our hearts. When we take on responsibility for our outcomes with commitment, we give ourselves the capacity to reach escape velocity.
4. It overcomes and preempts hurdles
And escape velocity gives us the ability to blast through any and all barriers, internal or external, that are in our way. It must be said, that when we are looking at our lives from this perspective, we see the truth of our inter-connectedness with all things and with everyone. We see the long-term consequences of our actions, so we are able to avoid unintended negative consequences, which would have become future hurdles.
So we are now in the happy position of flying free and clear with no friction or turbulence. We have meaning and purpose and direction. We are in our power.
5. It makes sure the aim is achieved
Meeting our targets becomes almost a by-product, definitely a foregone conclusion, of all that has gone before. It cannot be otherwise. We feel the joy and accomplishment of achieving our aims in precisely the way we wanted to, not the anti-climax of reaching targets influenced by or chosen for us by others. Pure exhultation is a very powerful thing – it fills our souls, it buoys us up to new heights and enables us to reach further and faster than we ever thought possible.
This is a consequence of powerful responsibility and responsibility conferring power – the best power of all. Power over ourselves, over our lives and over our impact.