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What IS Empowerment, Anyway?

#empowerment #flourish #personalgrowth #theintentionaloptimist #womeninleadership Apr 25, 2022

As I’ve highlighted the stories of female leaders over the past 20 months, I’ve shared my reflections and takeaways. The process has given me the ability to refine and clarify my own philosophies and positions. That’s not a surprise.  Growth is inevitable when you decide to get curious and are open to change.  

However, what I didn’t understand at first - call it extreme naïveté - is that as I set out to learn from and develop new leaders, I’m actually helping empower women to change their lives.

The changes that have taken place in my life as a result of this work, are a direct reflection of that concept, and have caused me to better define what I do and who I coach. So I figured it was time to share a few of these revelations (you know how it goes, I learn and then I share!), and define what I mean by empowered or empowerment.

First, let’s start with some definitions.

Webster’s defines empowered as:having the knowledge, confidence, means, or ability to do things or make decisions for oneself, and empowerment as: the power, right, or authority to do something.

I then went to Wikipedia, and found more of an expanded and relatable definition: 

Empowerment is the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities. This enables them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority. It is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights.

Yep! That’s what I do!

To be clear, there is a systemic or civic aspect to empowerment, which includes the laws, means or authority to claim your rights… and that falls more into the sphere of social justice where others are much more qualified and called to act… because, as professor Erin Murphy-Graham puts it just having knowledge isn’t always enough:

Education does not automatically result in women's empowerment, as the social and economic context in which women live can pose overwhelming constraints on their choices.

Meaning, just because you have an education, doesn’t mean the system is set up to help you flourish.

I will state for the record, that I see much work yet to do in this area, both in the US and internationally, AND I’m hopeful that empowering individual female leaders, dedicated to that work and to being role models for the next generation will equip and empower even more women to do what needs to be done.

But  how?

It starts with the woman in the mirror.

There is absolutely no way around this truth, sister.  

This is where I can see the changes in my life and growth making such a  big difference. As I stated earlier, I believe the growth I see in myself is a direct reflection of the fact that developing leaders is, in fact, empowering them. 

Living out a personal growth philosophy has its own effects, but couple that with learning from other leaders’ stories and expertise, and you have a fantastic recipe for exponential growth.

Let me break it down for you:

Learning from other Leaders’ stories

I’ve now interviewed 42 individual female leaders, and each story is different. 

Every origin story, every bit of experience, every result, leadership principle and habit illustrates the pure unique and diverse nature of what leadership and empowerment can look like.  When we learn from other women (instead of competing against them) we see the beautiful truth that we are truly all in this together. 

We see the similarities to our own stories and experience, and it opens our eyes to completely new angles or lenses through which to view our circumstances. Shifting perspectives and seeing what another woman has accomplished enables us to dream a little bigger, and expand our own vision for what can be.

And that’s just their stories.

Learning from other Leaders’ expertise

Each woman I’ve spoken to has a particular area of expertise. I learn something new in every interview, and highlight what she can teach you, giving you a list of tips and takeaways to implement immediately.

I also include a Special Guest Speaker series where many of these women do a free, mini class that you can access as a member of my facebook group or, on my YouTube channel. 

Pulling together leaders from such diverse areas is a true privilege and I am beyond grateful they are willing to freely share their knowledge in pursuit of this same end goal - empowering you and me, my friend, with the knowledge we need to build our confidence, employ the means and develop the ability to make decisions for ourselves and contribute to our own flourishing.

To be empowered.

Most importantly, though…

Living out a personal growth Philosophy and Plan - Intentional Optimism

Over the past 6 months - as I was basically learning what it means to be an entrepreneur, identity wise - I’ve had both the ability and necessity to live out the Six Tenets of Intentional Optimism in a real time, real world way. I discovered it was more than a philosophy, and began truly using them as my own growth plan.  

As a result, I now have more of the knowledge, confidence, means, and ability to do what I’m passionate about and make decisions for myself, my business and my family

I am becoming more and more empowered each day.

Honestly, any good personal growth plan will do this for you… but Intentional Optimism is mine, it works for me and my clients.  

For instance this is what it looks like to live more purposefully into each tenet:

  • Optimistic: I have a much clearer understanding of what it means to have hope in my future. I’ve shared much on social media about investing in small changes over time, providing me with the evidence that my future truly can be different based on each decision and action. Hope is then the foundation where my confidence has found a soft resting place. I don’t have to “fake it ‘til I make it,” I have evidence that it will happen. 
  • Present: My curiosity has blossomed into a whole new character trait! When I don’t understand something, or especially when I don’t agree with or understand another’s opinion or stance, I’m to the place where curiosity is almost my first response. Not every time, I confess, but amazingly, the more curiosity I have the better my relationships are. At the very least, I’m WAY less frustrated by expectations that are usually based in judgment or opinion, rather than a desire for resolution. Of course, I think this is also increasing my ability to be kind and open - I can see that evidence in my relationships as well. 
  • Energetic: Y’all, being an entrepreneur… it’s a whole other country. It turns out I had some identity issues to work through, and I needed to take control of things that had always fallen into that “done for me” category. Out of necessity, two main pieces of this tenet have become daily practices - getting creative at figuring out what to do, when to do it, and what to do next… and becoming (yes still becoming) financially savvy. These are current, ongoing and very important to being an empowered woman and leader.
  • Courageous: I think the most powerful thing in this tenet has been resilience through consistency. There are things I KNOW will benefit my business or my health in the long run, and I’m willing to do them regularly in order to reap the benefits.  I see this most vividly in my health and wellness journey.  Daily food logging, daily gut health and energy supplements, almost daily exercise or workouts, and weekly accountability have made a difference that is both noticeable and sustainable.  
  • Wise: I admit this is a hard one for me. This tenet includes both the spiritual journey I’ve been walking, and the understanding of boundaries and how they work. My Christian faith is the oldest truth I have. Literally going back to birth, and the beliefs I was raised with. But just leaving the spiritual side of life at a surface level, or even one that contains regular practices, if not examined, tested, or questioned, can leave you with practices or traditions that may have no real meaning. At least in your own heart.  Living this tenet has been hard, but has taught me to dig deep below the surface, past the outward signs and appearances to the bedrock of truth that has been there since the beginning. I am becoming more empowered each day as I continue to grow in knowledge and gain confidence in what I believe. Which is showing me - for the first time - what loving boundaries look like, feel like, and how they can actually promote reconciliation and restoration, and human flourishing. 
  • Intentional: This one comes the most naturally to me, yet the more I grow (which is where we started this conversation), the more I understand why I am here. What I have been created to do. Why I feel so passionately about helping others flourish, find empowerment and lead. 

Speaking of which… there are so many ways you can begin your own growth - dare I say EMPOWERMENT - journey with the growth plan of Intentional Optimism.  

  • Following me on social media - where I share daily encouragement, inspiration and tips for living as an Intentional Optimist.
  • My Facebook Group - where you’ll find daily encouragement, women who are dedicated to growing and seeing things from the “sunny side” all while supporting other women and learning.
  • The Intentional Optimists, Unconventional Leaders podcast - if you’re new here, there are 82 previous episodes to mine for the gems of  leadership stories and expertise that will inspire you and open your eyes to your own story and how you can embrace your own leadership role and skills to become the empowered leader you were created to be. One who has the knowledge, confidence, means and ability to make your own decisions.
  • My membership community - Launch From the Beach - where we work together, to live out Intentional Optimism in daily life, infusing hope and intentionality into your future goals and present work to attain them.
  • If you’re really serious, I take on special Strategic Planning and 1:1 Coaching clients. This is where you can get intense and targeted coaching and strategy to grow exponentially. 
  • And if you want to go bigger and bring Intentional Optimism and leadership development to your organization, team or business, using Maxwell Leadership tools like DISC Behavioral Analysis and guided masterminds to truly change the culture, empowering individuals to do the work they love, or become the leaders they are meant to be by capitalizing on their unique strengths and skills, I’m happy to begin that conversation by assessing your needs.

To be empowered is to have the knowledge, confidence, means, ability and authority to do what you were put here to do, and to make the decisions necessary to make it happen.

So, while I can’t change the laws to make every woman externally empowered today, I CAN work with (if necessary), one woman at a time, helping her develop the strength, skills, knowledge and confidence to be the next leader and role model to do the same thing.

This is where having a nurturing environment comes into play. This is why I created Launch From The Beach. To offer you a space where you can explore your ideas and options, learn and grow, in a community based on the personal growth plan of Intentional Optimism. 

As much as I can, I will always offer you training in leadership and empowerment. But like I said at the beginning - it starts with the woman in the mirror. You have to step in and choose to grow.

Pick any of the options I shared above, and just start. Or book a free 30-min consultation, and we’ll figure out your next best step on your road to empowerment.

ALL my contact information is in the show notes - let’s do this!

Until next time!

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