how to cultivate your own power


If you are feeling abundant and grateful with your pursuits today, I hope these words will help confirm you are on the right path. If you are feeling less than vital in this moment, I hope you allow yourself to feel as you do and know that it is still possible for you to actively create the life you seek, when you are ready.

When it comes down to it, we all just want agency in our our lives. We want to know that each one of us is capable and that because of that capability, we are safe.

In terms of living your own life to the fullest capacity, agency is not only ideal, it's necessary.

You cannot live the life you want unless you take responsibility for your own choices and actions.

Unfortunately, too often we relinquish our own power, either to someone else or we turn over our power to nothing and no one at all.

Taking responsibility is hard and recognizing your own power is frightening because in order to test how much power you have, you have to push yourself farther than you've ever been before. It's no wonder we shrink back from our duty to ourselves.

There is a mistaken idea, perhaps not even fully conscious in our minds, that if we let someone else take care of it, our safety will still be ensured with less effort on our part.

Other people can help you feel safe, but they cannot do it for you.

Other people can help you get what you want and need, but not entirely. They are primarily concerned with their own wants and needs anyway.

Other people can help you cultivate your own power, but they cannot cultivate it for you.

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” – Jim Rohn

What True Power Looks Like

The words "power" and "powerlessness" can elicit some strong knee-jerk reactions.

There are a lot of cultural implications when talking about power.

History might make us associate power with "haves" and "have nots," oppressors and the oppressed, strong and weak.

But power is not actually forcing your control over others or forcing control over your own life.

True power actually has nothing to do with pushing others down on your way to the top. In fact, it is the very process of lifting yourself and others up from which true power springs.

If you want to know how truly powerful a person is, you will feel it in their presence.

You will not see them grasping for control.

And you will be attracted to some unnamable, barely detectable quality about them.

Self assurance radiates from those who have power.

Self-assured individuals don't need to control themselves or others because they can relax into the knowledge that who they are and what they have is already enough.

I should mention, however, that self-assurance does not mean those with power don't still encounter doubts or fear or roadblocks on their path. It's just that they trust that those obstacles are a part of the creative process, they don't focus too heavily on what is out of their control and then take steps to work on what is.

Agency is taking ownership of your choices. Agency is deciding what works and what doesn't in your own life.

Cultivating your own power is the process of bravely choosing over fear again and again and again.

The Source

Where does this power come from?

At the risk of sound super cheesy, we all have it already.

Because talking about the less tangible depths of ourselves offers less concrete guidance and evidence, it's easy to think that all of this talk about deep power is just "fluff," no substance.

I promise you, it is not.

It is carefully studied self-knowledge, and it is the source from which fulfillment and joy springs.

You have the power within yourself to unleash more joy and strength and self-confidence than you might ever expect.

I say that not to try to sell you something, as such claims often do.

I tell you that you have this relatively untapped source of self-actualization because I ardently wish that each and every person would explore their own power for themselves.

Power is dormant within each of us. Over time, various external circumstances, support from others, and our own growing conviction help pull power from the depths of our being.

Positive circumstances growing up will introduce you to the idea of self-worth early.

Support from parents, genuinely interested teachers, compassionate friends: all of whom can lift a mirror up to you so that over time you can see how immensely treasured and capable your own self is.

Which is not to say that only individuals with cheery childhoods get to access their power.

Tweaking the circumstances positively will put you in situations that will help build your confidence, but it only helps to a certain extent.

Anyone who has been knocked down by life knows that there is no feeling quite like picking yourself up again.

Intense pain, perhaps humiliation and shame, can be replaced by teeth-gritting effort to get up. And then the realization that you have risen above what once felt insurmountable.

Expressing power is a practice. When you call to power once, eventually it might be easier to call to it again.

But in general, it is a continual choice to keep putting yourself in circumstances that will help call your true power from your brain through to your speech and your body.


At its core, cultivating power is just deep listening.

Ask yourself what you truly want and need. Listen to the answers. Be willing to be curious and to act on your information with non-judgement and love.

What does your body tell you it needs? What do you want, more than anything?

Why are you denying yourself what truly makes you feel your best?

If this was simple, what would it look like?

Holding Back

Too often we hold back from allowing ourselves to see our full power and to even contemplate using it.

Fear is the primary reason, as with just about any heart-centered pursuit.

We could be fearful that we find out we don't have as much power as we thought, or—more likely—fearful that we have access to more power than we even thought we could comprehend.

If we find out that we are capable of so much more than we previously imagined, we have to start living up to that knowledge.

And that's scary because you have to push boundaries farther than before. You have to take bigger risks, face more failures and put your heart on the line.

Because of that fear, we often operate at a level well below what is needed to step into our power.

If you simmer at a low flame for many minutes, perhaps you will eventually boil water. But your flame might snuff out while you take so long to make the water hot. You will waste fuel. Your water might evaporate.

So too with creating a life you want.

Allow yourself to ignite fully, blaze unapologetically. Your heat will boil all the water you need, and quickly.

Perhaps you will eventually stumble on what you want and need by keeping yourself small, by staying out of harm's way. But it will take so much longer and be so much less rewarding and certain than allowing yourself to fully act yourself from the beginning.

The sooner you can learn this lesson—that you have all of the power needed right now—the sooner you can implement choices in your best interest.

And the sooner you make choices toward living fully and deeply, the sooner you will be.

You can tend to your flame, keeping it hot by choosing what lights you up over and over.

Because that's what power is: repeated choice, made with love.

Cultivating power is making a conscious choice to act with heart over mind.

Perhaps that sounds simple, and it is.

But simple is not easy.

As said above, the more you choose to act with agency, the more risks we will have to take. Thankfully, the bigger the risks, the bigger the possible rewards also.

Many of us are practiced at quieting our hearts, because our minds are a lot louder and provide compelling evidence for why we should listen to them.

But the best decision does not always come from the loudest and rationally argued case.

Your heart will not always let you know why it asks you to follow a certain plan.

You have to let go of the idea that you will always know why. All you will know is that your heart quiets directs your attention toward a particular intention or action.

The heart does not rationalize. It simply is. It will wait quietly for you to suspend your thinking and direct your attention to it.

Unfortunately, sometimes we don't know our hearts are patiently waiting for us to listen. Or sometimes we simply ignore our hearts' quiet entreaties.

And if you don't listen to it, you face the biggest risk of all: that you only listen to your mind out of fear and that you miss out on your most joyful, fulfilling opportunities.

The mind is not wrong for doing what it does. But you must be aware that your mind has safety first and foremost at hand, not self-actualization.

Rational is safe. And if all you want is safe, go ahead; ignore your heart.

But I know that some part of you, no matter how small, wants more than safety.


It is impossible to act 100% in our power 100% of the time. We are human. We have fears. We are doing the best we can to navigate life and sometimes we sacrifice our own agency in the process.

But that does not mean we should not try.

Just because perfect is unattainable does not mean we should forgo striving to be our best selves in as many instances as possible.

Despite how we may treat it, life is not divided between perfect and not worth doing.

Doing the best you can, as much as you can, is powerful. Perfection, be damned.


Iris Rankin

Soulful questioner, exuberant organizer, here to find the balance between discipline and delicious relaxation. Iris Rankin is the founder of Project Intention, a values-based community focused on living day-to-day with purpose, planning, and heart. Iris encourages women to adopt the self care practices that make them feel divine, the planning tools to hone in on their essential wants and needs, and the emotional resilience to express their most authentic selves.

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