I believe that we are placed on earth for two reasons—for our souls to learn lessons and to contribute to society’s betterment, be it in large or small ways.

I was first made aware of my life lesson (or at least one of the biggies) about 25 years ago when I attended a “healing circle.” I don’t know what prompted me to attend this event, but it was long before I understood the interplay between our minds, bodies and spirits. At that time, I operated purely from my head—logical, pragmatic and totally disassociating my body from my mind.

For the first 10 minutes of the healing circle, I thought I had entered the Twilight Zone. The leaders of the event whistled and chanted and waved their arms in order to rebalance the heavily male energy of the karate dojo where the class was being held. I just thought they were crazy when, after a number of rounds of waving and whistling, they decided we were ready to go. Huh? We were still just sitting in the same room with wood floors and mirrors.

As the session progressed, a series of attendees would lay in the center of the room while their bodies were waved over and “healed” by the group leaders. I can’t remember if the leaders were asking questions or speaking during this process. The group was told that other people in the room who shared the lessons of the people in the center would similarly feel a shift in their energy and receive the healing.

I sat, waiting for something…but nothing. Then, when one person was being “worked on,” I noticed that my friend Nancy had tears streaming down her cheeks. She had been touched by whatever was happening to the person in the center of the room.

Me? I felt like Morales from the Broadway show A Chorus Line when she sang the song “Nothing,” explaining how she struggled to “feel” the lessons of the acting class.

After the healing circle, the leader suggested that I read Power vs. Force by David R. Hawkins, so I bought the book and skimmed the first few pages of the book. Not surprisingly, I didn’t actually think about power versus force until years later when I was told by an executive coach that I had a reputation for being “smart…and scary.”

Scary? Me? How could that be? I was just going along doing my thing, sharing vital information with people. Why would anyone be afraid of me?

Well, besides the fact that I was an owner of the company, I learned, after deep reflection and lots of coaching, that my declarative style was more forceful than it needed to be…and, oddly, ineffective relative to true power. In addition, my quick temper outside of the office created pain and strain in family relationships on more than one occasion. Ouch!

At the simplest level, force is eruptive and violent, always creating a counter-force—often one of pushback or defensiveness. You can see force when you are making someone do something that he/she doesn’t want to do or use intimidation to quiet dissenting thoughts or behaviors.

Power, on the other hand, is quiet. One person described it as “coercive.” I would describe it as “seductive”—attracting others to an idea or action using their own desire. Think of inspiring leaders and world changers such as Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. They didn’t yell. They didn’t coerce. They quietly and confidently stood for their beliefs, and others naturally followed.

I’m not a football expert, and I know that there are many influences on a sports team’s performance, but when you watch what Tom Brady accomplished with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year—taking a team that had not made the postseason in nearly 10 years to become the Super Bowl champs—or when Peyton Manning took the Denver Broncos—a team that had been struggling with mediocrity— to four straight Divisional Championships, two Super Bowls and one Super Bowl championship…those are examples of strong, quiet power in action. (Note: The season after Manning left the Broncos, they returned to their prior midline status.)

Power is the antithesis of force.

Force creates burden. Its intimidation may create change but not lasting change.

Power invites others to come along. Power creates lasting change.

Looking at the current state of society, I think there are many people who have a similar lesson of power vs. force to learn. We can see it in the rage…and in the inability to listen to dissenting thoughts. Those who are digging in their heels and asserting they are right are being forceful…whereas stepping back and working to find a solution is so much more powerful.

Force feels bad in your body. Power feels, well, empowering…because it creates impact in a constructive, not destructive, way.

Once I became aware of the distinction between power and force, it had a huge impact on me and my relationships. I could not have been effective as a businessperson, wife or mother if I had continued to operate from a force-based paradigm.

It’s a lifelong lesson for me, so it’s one that I must remember and reinforce every day. The good news is that it is also a lesson that helps me contribute more effectively to the betterment of society.

Anyone want to join me in a powerful way?

Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast,  where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life. 

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