“You have to make things happen if you want to see results… you have to reach for the stars… just go out and get it while you can… ask your self how much do you really want it…don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way!”. These are all motivational clichés to which many will resort as they ‘force’ their way through life. And they do work to motivate some of us. The highly ambitious worker can climb all the way to the top executive seat; the aspiring and talented sports person can become a world champion; the driven business person can build a commercial empire, the naive teenage political activist can become a prime minister.
But at what cost? Some would say no cost if it’s what you really want. Go live your dream they say! They see all the effort as an investment. For others it’s at great cost as it may require the sacrifice of a relationship, or perhaps doing what, deep down, they don’t really want to do, or behaving in ways that contradict their innate values, all to get to where they ‘believe’ they should be. It’s a belief that is often blindly assimilated from the prevailing culture in which they find themselves.
It all depends on how you define success. Some definitions of success have a built in guarantee of a stressful journey. It’s been claimed that if you really aspire to be not just good at something, but achieve excellence, you will need to spend 10,000 hours in focused practice, or thereabouts. But what lies behind practice? Some practice because they are driven by the desire to prove to themselves they can do it. Others push themselves with a neediness to be recognized. This is force. Others practice out of the pure joy of the practicing itself. This is power. One is draining and the other is energizing. Both may achieve at excellence, but one is likely to arrive used up and worn out, while the other arrives with a skip in their step and a twinkle in their eye! Their joy is undiminished.
Are You a Human Doing?
The way of force is generally the route we are taught to take to achieve success in life. Whether it’s the Scottish Protestant work ethic or just an overly ambitious parent, it’s the most celebrated way to fulfill your ambition and your destiny. However, as a way of living it usually turns out not to be the most enlightened and, therefore, not the happiest. As a way of relating it’s not the most effective as it will likely involve some manipulation. As a way of ‘acting’ it’s not the most energizing. As a way of ‘achieving’ it’s more the way of a ‘human doing’ as a result of forgetting we are first and foremost a ‘human being.’ The action addicts and the rushaholics are the flag carriers for the forceful way to do life.
We know we are forcing things when we notice and feel that events and relationships are not flowing smoothly. That’s why force is seldom the sign of happy and contented individual. Their life is usually a testimony to constant striving, frequently struggling and often a lot of shoving others aside! It doesn’t signal someone who is living in a relaxed and natural way. Stress is usually the companion of force. Force doesn’t typify the truly loving partner or spouse, the intelligent manager or the caring parent. When operating from force they all become quite grumpy as soon as they don’t get their way. Grumpiness is a primary symptom of the strategy of force!
So what then is the alternative to forcing your way through life? What other ways are there to live without needing to be someone who is always pushing, insisting, manipulating, striving, struggling, cajoling and eventually emotionally blackmailing?
There are shifts that we can make into easiness and flow, into a gentler and more effective way to use our energy and cruise through our life. They are the shifts from ‘force to power.’ They are shifts in the ways in which we perceive and act. They ensure we will live a more relaxed, contented and loving life while being more ‘effective’ through all that we do.
Here are some of those shifts, which also give you the chance to spot if you are currently living from force or from your power.
1 The Shift from Objects to People
Force is to see and treat people as if they are objects, a type of resource, just to get a job done. Whereas power is to see and respond to people as human beings! It starts with your vision of the other! How do you consider the other, perceive the other, create the other, within your consciousness. If you see them as someone to do something for you, achieve something for you, then you will likely see them as an object, even though you ‘appear’ to appreciate them for who they are. From that vision expectations and desires arise. That’s when we start to overtly try to push and manipulate someone into doing what we want or believe should be done.
Both our attitude and behavior will start to become forceful. They will sense we are not connecting with them as a person but as a resource that serves our needs. This is at the heart of many workplace cultures. Hence the term Human Resources! Which is usually why the workplace is often not such a happy place, but a space of fractured and conflicted relationships.
Power, on the other hand, is to hold a vision of the other as a person, as a human being, with their own feelings and aspirations, with their own needs and desires. From this arises care, an authentic appreciation of the other, empathy towards the other, respect for the other, which translates into time and attention given to the other. It’s the power of these attitudes that serves the other, empowers the other and builds a solid relationship.
2 The Shift from Control to Influence
Force is to attempt to control what you cannot control (usually other people) whereas power is the learning and application of the skills of influence.
So many of us seem to grow up learning one fatal lesson, that other people are responsible for our happiness. This mis-belief shapes our primary intention within many of our relationships, which is to ensure others do or say or be or give us what we want, so that we can be happy. Which really means free us from our unhappiness! And so we start to try to control others, which means force others. It starts in our minds with our mental vocabulary, which sounds like… “they should or they must or they have to.” And it ends in our emotional disappointment when they don’t! But sometimes they ‘seem’ to do or be or give us what we want. That’s when we mistakenly believe we ‘made them.’ That’s the illusion of control that makes us lazy and eventually disillusioned.
We become lazy to learn how to connect authentically and influence others. Many parents and managers, whose job it is to influence, fall into this ‘laziness trap.’ They ‘believe’ they are in control, but they’re not! We all seem prone to attempt to force others at some point in our relationships. We fail to cultivate the attitudes and skills that are most influential. How do you do that? Well, the first step is to stop trying to control others and the world. Not a small step for most. At which point you will notice the disappearance of most of your stress. The second step is learning and practicing the actual skills of influence. But that’s another workshop! It’s called life!
3 The Shift from Resistance to Acceptance
This is the primary influencing skill and essential to any relationship that requires repair. Force is to believe that resistance is the way to change what does not appear to be right. Whereas acceptance is a powerful first step to influencing the direction of change by accepting what is! While resistance tends to focus on the past, acceptance focuses on the present and the future. The precursor to all resistance is the emotion of fear, and all fear comes from the ego. So all resistance is essentially a progeny of the ego.
It seems many of us will live our entire life in a state of resistance simply because we all learn to create an ego. Ego is just a false sense of self. It’s a misidentification. It’s created the moment we lose our sense of self in an idea or image in our own minds. We try to build an identity out of what we are not! We don’t realize that everything that we are not changes! Everything that we are not can either be lost, damaged, threatened or moved. So when we identify with what we are not we learn to believe that we i.e. our self, can be and will be damaged, threatened, moved or lost! As a consequence, we distort the energy of our consciousness into fear. We feel the emotion of fear. And it’s always fear that generates resistance in our relationship with just about everything and everyone.
Some develop this fear so profoundly they go deeply inside themselves and close up completely. They resist all attempts to open them. Most of us muddle through, tolerating our anxieties without realizing we do so! We relieve the unhappiness that must come with our fear induced resistances by indulging in various drugs like entertainment, food, shopping, and perhaps other people! We all have our escapes!
All conflict is simply the mutual resistance between two people, which then escalates. Life only really begins when we realize acceptance is the only way to relate to everyone and everything. To accept ‘the all’ as it is, and ‘them all’ as they are, is to allow your self to create the deepest happiness from inside out. It’s called contentment. All we have to do is stop attaching to, and identifying with, what we are not. The power of acceptance is the way to contentment. Fear gradually disappears along the way. Easy really! 😉
4 The Shift from Telling to Asking
This happens when you realize that while it ‘seems’ you can have ‘power over’ others, in reality, you don’t and you can’t. But you can have ‘power with’!
Force is telling, telling, telling, and no one loves a dictator, whereas power is the art of ‘intelligent asking’ so that others discover their own potential and create their own way. This is the heart of the art of coaching, and the building of relationships based on trust, respect and understanding.
It’s fairly obvious that when you move into telling mode you are trying to force what you believe and think onto and into the other! Well, perhaps not when you’ve been asked to share some information, or you are passing on the latest news or perhaps something about what you are feeling. Telling is force when it is imposing or ordering or demanding or expecting. But these can be cleverly disguised ways of communication with the intention to manipulate the other. That means we are back in trying to control mode.
While the other, the listener, may start in an open and receptive state, if you don’t soften your telling it won’t be long before ears close and minds switch off. Ask any parent of teenagers! One of the great secrets of ensuring a relationship flourishes is ask, ask, ask. It’s an invitation to open up, it is to say I value your thoughts, it is to demonstrate ‘I am open to you’, it is to extend respect to the other. It is to empower them as they share what’s on their mind. We all know this is the most powerful way to connect and cultivate any and all relationships. But we forget!
Making the transition from force to power requires an ongoing enhancement of self-awareness. Only then can we start to recognize the moments and the behaviours we are creating that represent a forceful approach. The main symptom is any feeling of unhappiness and any thought which sounds like, “I am not getting what I want.”
From force to power is not a technique, it’s an awakening awareness that is a natural precursor to new behaviours and deeper, more enlightened ways of relating.
Question: Assuming we can all make all four of the above shifts which one do you sense you need to make the most?
Reflection: What are your two most frequent behaviours that tell you that you are attempting to force?
Action: Pick three people you frequently see, recall the ways in which you behave towards them which are forceful, visualize what would be non-forceful and then practice in those relationships this coming week.
by Mike George