Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Use Your Greatest Power

 
Image by Dodgerton Skillhause

Do you know what it is?


A little book that had a huge affect on me was written by Martin Kohe and titled Your Greatest Power. I read it when I was young. Kohe makes a convincing case that your greatest power is your power to choose. He challenges his readers to use their greatest power.

Kohe relates an interesting story about Benjamin Franklin, one of the great Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin did something remarkable early in his adult life. At age 20 he was keenly aware of so-called character defects that hindered him. He noticed that he had difficulty getting along with people. He tended to argue too much. He had trouble making and keeping friends. The list continued.

Franklin wanted to do something about it. So he made a choice. He chose to examine his own personality and make a list of what he considered undesirable personality traits. Then he chose 13 virtues he wanted to enhance in his life, each one designed to help him become a better person. They were:

  1. To be temperate, especially in the consumption of food and alcohol.
  2. To practice silence and to speak only words that benefit others.
  3. To live an orderly life.
  4. To resolutely do what ought to be done.
  5. To practice frugality.
  6. To work diligently and manage time well.
  7. To be sincere and honest.
  8. To do what is right and just.
  9. To be moderate in all things.
  10. To practice cleanliness.
  11. To remain tranquil and calm, particularly in situations that cannot be avoided.
  12. To practice sexual constraint.
  13. To learn humility by imitating the figures of Jesus and Socrates.
(He added that last one at the suggestion of a friend who noted that he might be too conceited.)

It was New Year's Day. Franklin finished his list and determined to work on each virtue for a week. He did this for an entire year, spending four weeks total on each, until he developed new habits.

Benjamin Franklin was known for one of the finest personalities in America. People looked up to him and admired him. Later in his life, when the colonies needed help from France, they sent Franklin. The French liked him and gave him what he wanted. And it all began with his deciding to use his greatest power – his power to choose. When he chose to make needed life changes, everything was different.

Suppose Franklin had chosen to go through life without using his greatest power. Suppose he reasoned that there was really nothing he could do about himself. Would France have supported the colonies? Would Americans have rallied behind his ideas? The history of his new-born country may have been significantly different.

It's abundantly clear to me that one good wish changes nothing. But one good decision changes everything. My power to choose, to make a good decision, spells the difference between simply wishing and making real life changes.

Are you using your greatest power? What if you were to examine your life and make a list of desired personality traits? I did that, like Franklin, for a full year. Only my traits were different. I wanted to bring qualities into my life that I felt were lacking, or at least in need of a boost. The qualities I chose were the biblical fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self control. I focused on each for a week and started the list all over every nine weeks.

I noticed that, after a year, those qualities were more apparent. I was growing in new directions. But something else happened, too. The daily discipline and focus taught me the life-long habit of making needed changes by bringing positive traits into my life.

Your power to choose can never be taken from you. It can be neglected and it can be ignored. But if used, it can make all the difference.

Poet Susan Polis Schutz puts it this way:

"This life is yours.
Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well.
Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly.
Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature.
Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you.
Take the power to make your life happy."


Use your greatest power. You may not change history, but you will certainly change your future.


-- Steve Goodier


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