People Power: You’re in control of your own path - April 2021

By Sam Allman

People are often irrational, rude, unreasonable, self-centered, condescending, obnoxious, puffed-up, aggressive...need I go on? I’m sure you have other adjectives you can add to the list. Yes, people can make us crazy sometimes. But they can’t make us act.

As humans, we are endowed with independent will. It is our capacity to act. It?is?the ability to make decisions and choices and to act in accordance with them. Because of this endowment, we feel frustrated when we can’t make our own decisions, or when others try to control us or tell us what to. We naturally push back when we are pushed. Remind yourself how easy it is to control a four-year-old.

As we mature, we learn that our independent will has to be bridled. We cannot do anything we want. We live in a world of constraints, where many things are impossible to us. We make choices, but those choices exist within narrow boundaries. Eventually, we learn what we can and cannot do. However, some of us never learn what we should not do; these are often acts of self-sabotage.

Unbridled independence can cause us to shoot ourselves in the foot. This endowment is so ingrained that when we feel it challenged, we can react without thinking. An appropriate response is empowering; an inappropriate reaction is usually self-defeating. Ironically, reacting does exactly what we are trying to prevent: losing control. We empower ourselves by taking charge of our responses, instead of letting reactions flow uncontrolled. As we do, we increase the power of this endowment to self-manage and control our lives. We build self-discipline. We increase our abilities to keep promises to ourselves and to others. Yes, people make us crazy at times; they cause us to lose control and forget how independent will empowers us to make our own decisions and choose our own paths. So what?

We forget we have the power to be in control. So, we blame others to excuse ourselves for losing it, for doing nothing or for accepting unacceptable status quos. That’s why Dr. Kent M. Keith wrote The Paradoxical Commandments in the 1960s. He was tired of hearing the excuses people make for poorly exercising their independent will. A version of it was found written on the wall in Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta, India.

The Paradoxical Commandments:
• People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered. Love them anyway.
• If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
• If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
• The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
• Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
• The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
• People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
• What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
• People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
• Give the world the best you have, and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

Independent will empowers us to write our own story, to become exactly the kind of person we desire to become. “It gives us the power to transcend our paradigms, to swim upstream, to rewrite our scripts, to act based on principle rather than reacting based on emotion or circumstance,” writes Stephen R. Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s the power of reinvention and change. It doesn’t matter what other people think, do or say. Our actions can be based on our will and not the will of others. (See: Is it Time to Reinvent Yourself?).

The most important strategies of success revolve around the development of your own character. You can develop your character by identifying the traits you would like to acquire or embellish. Consider people you honor and admire who are worthy of emulation. Identify the actions associated with the traits you desire-what do admirable people do?-and then start emulating how they act. Practice these actions at every opportunity until they lock into your subconscious mind, become habitual and a part of your personality. The fact is, you can use your independent will to act your way to become any type of person you desire to be. And I can prove it.

Arguably the most powerful “people power” attribute with its associated actions you can personally adopt or embellish is that of unconditional love. Before you react, let me remind you that I am not talking about the “feeling” we call love that is generated by hormones and creates physical attraction. I am talking about choosing to make the needs of others a priority and then acting accordingly. According M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, “Love is the will (a decision with an act of will) to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing … another’s spiritual growth.”

The power of love is legendary. The lack of it is at the root of a human’s deepest emotional pain. Feeling loved is cathartic and edifying. My purpose is not to convince you of its power. That’s a subject for another column. Besides, most of us deep down already know what love can do. After all, The Beatles have reminded us “All You Need is Love.” My purpose is to confirm to you that you can use your independent will to unleash the power of unconditional love in your life even if you don’t feel like it or are not naturally motivated to use its actions.

Fact 1: Love is a verb with corresponding actions.
Fact 2: Love is a choice and a decision.

If you want to be a better lover, act like one.

The heart of love is the spirit of giving. To love is gift-giving. Generosity is in the heart of people who exercise the actions of love. Love is touchy-feely because being generous makes the giver feel good as well as the one receiving the gift. It gives us purpose or meaning. Finding meaning may eliminate the need for recognition or glory. That’s why many generous and loving acts are done in anonymity.

These simple acts may seem like little things. But when I consider their consequences, I am tempted to think that there are no little things. If you want to become a better lover.

Look for the good in and expect the best from others. I do not remember where I heard it, and I have lost the reference, but the definition of the word love in Anglo-Saxon is “look for the good.” Looking for something good in others and its corollary, expecting the best from others, are self-fulfilling prophecies. Even if a person’s past shows you shouldn’t, do it anyway

Acknowledge others. The opposite of love is often considered to be hate. I don’t consider it so. I believe the opposite of love is indifference. The simplest action of love you can give is to just acknowledge someone. Nothing has to be said. Good eye contact, a smile or a wave are simple acts but can be powerful gifts to the discouraged, the lonely and the down-trodden. What do children do to get attention? Almost anything. Even if you don’t feel like it, notice and smile anyway.

Use words of affirmation. Your mother was wrong when she taught you to say, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” The tongue has the power of life and death. Words can penetrate to our very core. Criticism is the primary cause of failure in relationships. Using kind words, respectful words, encouraging words with courtesy are simple and powerful gifts that can be used daily with whoever is in your presence. You know how a good, sincere compliment feels. It’s amazing how affirming words edify and elevate self-esteem. Arrogance is often a sign of feeling inferior. Hurting people hurt others. Affirm them anyway.

Spend quality time. The essence of this gift is focused, undivided attention and togetherness with quality conversation. Listening and transparency, the sharing of feelings, thoughts, experiences and desires are the core skills. Focused listening includes eye contact, appropriate body language and feedback, and a keen interest in what is being said. The result of listening intently is empathy, the most powerful human relationship trait. The more empathy you have, the more compassion you feel and the more influential you become. If someone needs to talk, even if you are not interested, listen anyway.

Do acts of service. This gift or act of love is simple. I learned it as a scout. The first sentence of the scout law: A scout is helpful. All we have to do is to get off our butts and help. We need to look and become aware of opportunities. They are all around us. As the ninth Paradoxical Commandment says, “People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.”

Reach out and touch someone. Touch is critical in the development of a child. I will leave you to do the research of what happens to developing humans who suffer from touch deprivation. An appropriate touch can be cathartic and comforting as an act of love to another. In a time of crisis, we hug one another. All societies have some form of physical touching as a means of social greeting. A hug, a firm handshake, a slight touch on the arm connects us to others. Simple actions with profound effects. Be careful and aware, then, when appropriate, touch them anyway.

Give gifts (physical). Gifts are visual symbols of love and can have deep emotional value. The gift is a visual symbol of the thought “that someone was thinking of me,” says Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages. I try to be generous to the homeless and panhandlers I encounter in my travels. My first thought is they should get a job. But I remind myself that I don’t know their whole story. When I think they will just spend the money on booze or drugs and consider that I may be enabling them, I remind myself that real love is unconditional. Yes, some may be undeserving; give anyway.

Whether you want to become a better leader, parent, money manager, entrepreneur, sales person or lover, you can use your independent will to develop the behaviors possessed by the highest achieving men and women in our society or any society. Practice their actions and your skills will improve. Then you will eventually get the same results they do. By the way, being a better lover can enhance your people power skills exponentially. You will become the kind of person other people will admire and want to emulate. By exercising your independent will, you will have the wonderful experience of becoming everything that you are capable of becoming.

Copyright 2021 Floor Focus