Win the Inner Battle with Mawi

You have more in you than you can imagine.

What it means to be Empowered

by Mawi on July 13, 2010

What does it mean to empower a young person, or for that matter, to empower any human being?

Right now, virtually all of you are reading this post using your eyes. Your eyes take in all sorts of images: the computer screen, your hand, the wall. I myself am sitting in front of a window and can see a spruce tree, a lawn I need to mow shortly, and some beautiful Impatiens planted by my wife.

What’s less obvious is that there is another world, an internal world that is visible to any one of us who takes time to see it. Instead of trees or computer screens, this inner world consists of things such as goals, discipline, perseverance, compassion, and initiative.

For example, my 10-week old daughter, if I place her on the floor, may scream madly, but one thing she cannot do is MOVE. She will stay on the floor, in the same place, unless I move her. As she gets older, she will hopefully be able to crawl, and walk, and run and this ability to move will give her new power in the external world.

Now, let’s say that my daughter is 16, and is upset because she tried out for the school play and failed to get a part despite extensive rehearsing. Although this scenario seems different than the infant-on-the-floor scenario, the key question is the same: Can my daughter move?

In the external world, we move with our arms and legs; in the internal world we move through initiative. If my daughter chooses to have initiative, she can take acting classes, write and produce a new play that she performs with her friends, or find a casting company outside of school. But my daughter cannot move if she lacks initiative.

We all know people who can move quite well externally, but cannot move at all in the internal world. In a very real sense, they are at the internal developmental level of an infant, as helpless to the larger world as my 10-week old daughter. At the same time, we all know people who are stuck in wheelchairs but have tremendous internal movement that allows them to create astounding results.

The above scenarios describe just one source of internal power, initiative. Alternative scenarios could be created to highlight other internal powers such as discipline or empathy.

Think about yourself for a second. Can you see both worlds? Can you see initiative, discipline, and all the other invisible sources of power you have inside you as vividly as you see the external world?

To answer the question posed at the beginning: You are empowered if you can see and navigate your internal world.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carol Hunter July 13, 2010 at 9:49 am

The importance of guiding people to see their invisible/internal souces of power is the essence of impactful leadership. In leading for deep, sustainable change, leaders must tap the wealth of individual initiative, creativity, discipline , commitment and passion. People will become more engaged in the organization and in their own lives. They will become focused on doing what they know must be done, in realizing the dream.

2 Mawi July 15, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Carol –
Your insightful comment shows just how challenging leadership is – at so many schools today, leaders are focused on making sure teachers comply with a checklist of requirements focused on raising test scores. Of course empowerment has little to do with checklists and much more to do with genuinely engaging and challenging others in a manner that inspires their full contribution. Of course, as a principal, Carol, you were a wonderful example of what it means to empower others. Thanks for the comment.

3 Temeka January 13, 2011 at 11:38 am


How do you get a child to move interally once they’ve lost that motivation? I have a 13-year old son that nothing seems to motivate him. His grades are suffering and because he is falling behind the behavior in school is no becoming an issue. As a parent I feel lost right now however, I refuse to stop trying. He has goals but lacks the motavtion to reach for them.

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