When we think of power in the modern world, what comes to the minds of most of us? Wealth, authority, high position, status, fame, privilege — overall a superior life as compared to others. Right?
Here’s the truth, all the things mentioned above have a limited shelf life. Worst, all these things can be taken away from you in an instant. This kind of power, the one that we all give utmost importance to, is actually fake and fleeting, not real.
True power lies within you, within your mind and your consciousness. It’s the power to make sound judgments and choices based on reason and awareness. To conquer your vices and selfish desires, to accept your limits as a human, to focus on righteousness and virtue, and to let go of things that are outside the realm of your control.
Epictetus explained in Discourses, “Don’t trust in your reputation, money, or position, but in the strength that is yours–namely, your judgments about the things that you control and don’t control. For this alone is what makes us free and unfettered, that picks us up by the neck from the depths and lifts us eye to eye with the rich and powerful.”
This doesn’t mean you can’t wield both these powers. You certainly can, but you must always let the real power, not the fleeting one, guide your words, actions and behaviors. In other words, you must focus inside, not the external world, if you want to gain lasting power. As Lao Tzu put it, “Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.”