There’s Nothing You Can Do About It

There’s Nothing You Can Do About It
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
— ALICE WALKER

A friend of mine works for a Wall Street firm. As a result of Covid, she has been able to work in a satellite office rather than schlepping into NYC. Besides lessening her commute by 2+ hours each day, she was also enjoying the more casual surroundings and dress code. She was thrilled that was going to continue until late 2022 until management made the announcement that they were expected to return to the NYC office in a matter of weeks. She’s not one to complain, but the suddenness of the decision threw her. Inherent in her reaction was a feeling of powerlessness. There is nothing she can do to change the outcome.
 
I also remember the times in my life when I’ve felt the most powerless – working for a manipulative leader with a highly subjective view of the truth; seeing people I love in pain; not getting something I deeply wanted.
 
Powerlessness is typically a reaction to an external situation or something that feels like it “happens to you.”  Each day, you’re likely faced with people, discussions and situations that leave you feeling stuck, confused, frustrated, resigned with a sense that you might not be able to change it. 

“Powerlessness is typically a reaction to an external situation or something that feels like it ‘happens to you.’” 

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Sometimes people don’t pick you.
Sometimes you don’t get invited.
Sometimes you’re not the right fit.
Sometimes things aren’t done the way you’d do them.
Sometimes things move too fast.  Sometimes too slowly.
Sometimes your view isn’t the popular one.
Sometimes the meeting gets away from you.
Sometimes the conversation goes sideways.
 
But what can we do?
 
One of my clients is in the C-Suite.  She is a brilliant strategic thinker who can see “the chess moves 3 steps ahead.”  Recently however, she has been frustrated with her relationship with the CEO.  She spent most of our first few sessions venting about him.  Each time I tried to redirect her to what she wanted, we landed back on how the CEO would never support her direction and the diatribe continued.  While she found our conversations cathartic, nothing was changing, and she found herself getting more and more resigned to the situation.
 
Our work wasn’t about the CEO. While we logically know that we can’t change someone else, it doesn’t stop most of us from spending most of our energy pondering their unreasonableness.  Sure, she could have a conversation, but it’s not a guarantee that anything will change. My client felt powerless because she was focused externally and had lost sight of her own objectives.  Once my client realized that she had allowed her attention and energy to be hijacked, she was able to focus her energy on where she actually did have power.
 
So let’s talk about you.  If you’re like most people, you’ve likely been feeling your own flavor of powerlessness.  Powerless to push back.  Powerless to ask for help.  Powerless to say what everyone else is thinking.  Powerless to slow down or unplug. 
 
The word power comes from the Latin word potere which means ‘to be able.’  Power is nothing more than being able.  As a coach, I help my clients differentiate between what they are able to control; what they are able to influence; and what is merely an area of concern they are unable to actually do anything about.
 
Here you will find a worksheet that dives deeper into each of these three areas.  Spend some time separating for yourself where you are spending precious energy in vain over things that are outside of your control, and the areas in which you have been letting your actual power go.
 
So often we give our power away because we don’t recognize we have it in the first place.  Many of us have learned to feel powerless by the times we’ve tried and failed; the times we’ve been made by others to feel small; and the times our power may have actually been taken away.  But sometimes we also give our power away because deep down, owning it can be absolutely terrifying.  Accepting the control we have over our choices, our actions, and our responses means taking responsibility for the results. It’s easier to blame others. It’s less vulnerable to allow our decisions to be made for us. Yet the paradox of choice is that even not choosing eventually becomes a choice in and of itself.  

“Sometimes we give our power away because deep down, owning it can be absolutely terrifying.” 

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What ultimately separates those who lead lives of freedom and impact from those who constantly feel like life is happening to them is the ability to embrace their power and take the reins where they do have control. The rest we must learn to simply let go.

Starla Sireno is an Executive Coach in NYC. She partners with leaders to more effectively navigate the complexities of their roles, increase their influence at all levels, and hone their interpersonal communication skills in order to become more impactful both internally and in client-facing roles. Inquire how you can work with Starla or her team.

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