Leslie Strong has written a book that I could certainly get my head around, or rather, my head into. The YOU Factor: A Handbook for Powerful Living may target women as its audience but it certainly can be used by all who feel that they have lost control in their lives. I can identify with Strong's message because she raises points on how I already live my life. Taking responsibility for your decisions, not blaming others for what has happened to you, and forgiving others are three rules, or tools that I live by. I am empowered by taking responsibility over my life. As Strong states at the beginning of The YOU Factor:
"My work and my personal experiences have led me to the conclusion that the prime cause of most of our current unhappiness can be boiled down to something I call 'The YOU Factor.' Or to be more exact, the absence of 'The YOU Factor' in our lives. If you are unhappy, it's likely because you have given up your personal power. You no longer feel in control of your life. You feel other people or outside circumstances are calling the shots. You have, in a sense, given up on you."
Strong uses the words "power" and "personal power" throughout The YOU Factor. It is a way to instil in her readers that they are capable of changing their lives. If the reader continues to read that she has the capacity to possess her own personal power enough times, she will believe it.
I was charmed by Strong's list of fill-me-ups. According to Strong, a fill-me-up is "an experience that leaves you with a positive feeling for an extended period of time, like a day. It leaves you with a sense of power and strength to take on the work in your life and to give to others, with patience, support, understanding, love, kindness, and generosity.". The first item Strong listed on her chart of fill-me-ups was "Reading non-fiction books". Not just any books, you see. She too takes great pleasure in reading the wide range of Dewey.
In order to gain personal power, one must possess the situation at hand. Own it. Do not shrug it off onto others. Do not blame anyone else for where you are. I truly live by these rules. Strong says succinctly:
"When you start blaming, always look at yourself first. What role did you play?"
"As you work on regaining your power, it's always a good idea to check your progress--to see if you are indeed moving from victim to power player. The process starts inside your head. The power player always begins with a simple premise: It's up to me. As a power player, you have the ability to choose what happens in your life, and how you react to a situation. You do not blame other people for what happens to you. You know you always have a very significant power--the ability to choose how you view a situation. You gain considerable leeway by separating fact from fiction, so that you are reacting to the bare facts, not to the story you have fabricated about the facts, a story that may be based on your personal truths and assumptions and the stories rooted in your personal history. You then scope out plenty of options, not just two uninspiring ones."
Strong is a personal and executive leadership coach and she provided plenty of examples from her client base to put a face to her power tools. In some cases, the change can be gained by simply adopting a different perspective. Placing oneself outside the situation and looking at it from a much wider perspective has the power to change one's point of view. A narrow view gives you tunnel vision, whereas a wider view gives you choices. And with choices, you always have additional power. From my own personal experience, I can be "trapped" in a loathsome situation because I do not give myself any choices. It can be so easy to be stuck in a regular routine that you lose the perspective of choice. I will assess a situation, and then make a personal vow that I will not put up with it anymore. I can see myself actually doing this. Yes, I do stop everything and have this talk to myself. Yet how many of us don't even take ourselves outside of the situation and think this way? How many of us accept the predicament and then unhappily trudge through it? I have had many lightbulbs appear above my head as I come to realize that I can do something about this. I refuse to be unhappy or tied down in a miserable situation. This different perspective, that of embracing the power to change because you want to be happy, opens up the floodgates of choices.
The YOU Factor was filled with many nuggets like this, and for those who have difficulty even seeing the possibility of choices or who avoid making decisions, Strong's got you covered:
"Avoiding a Decision:
"Let's be really straight here. Not making a choice is making a choice. It's making a choice to leave your fate up to the universe, God, the other person, your circumstances, or destiny. We often cover up our choice avoidance by saying, I don't know what to do; what if I make the wrong choice? You sit in limbo and tell yourself, It's not my fault. You may even be waiting for someone or something to make the decision for you, or for circumstances to change so that you no longer have to make a decision or you can make one that is less uncomfortable. Sound familiar? How much power do you feel you have when you are in limbo? None. When you are in one place, you are thinking perhaps the other side would be better. And when you are in the other place, you are thinking of the opposite side again. You don't have any power. All you're doing is waiting."
I have found that one of the greatest stresses in my life is holding a grudge. The most poisonous occupant of my brain is a grudge. There is so much that I want to stuff into my brain, such is the love Strong and I share for nonfiction books, that I don't want to give one square millimetre of grey matter to holding a grudge. I live to forgive. With forgiveness, there is empowerment:
"I used to think that forgiveness meant condoning the bad behaviour, but now I see it differently. When you forgive, you are not saying, That was good behaviour, good for you.
"Instead, I say this:
"What you did was not okay by me. Yet holding on to that anger only affects me, no one else. In fact, by staying angry, I'm only handing over my power to the person who hurt me. So I may not agree with the behaviour, the actions, the words, but I need to forgive so that I can move on in a powerful way."
"It's not easy to forgive someone, but it's mandatory to move on. It's the only way to loosen the grip of anger that is choking you."
Leslie Strong will be appearing at the Mississauga Central Library on Tuesday, September 30 to give an inspirational talk on the YOU Factor. Click on the link for program details.