“I’m not the decision maker.”
“I’d love things to change but I can’t control what happens at the top.”
“Until people in power change, we can’t expect things to be different.”
These are just some of the things that I’ve heard and sometimes felt for myself over the past couple of years when discussing change in the art & culture sector.
It’s safe to say that we all have times of feeling powerless at work and in life but is that ever really the case? Have we just become comfortable with the responsibility sitting elsewhere, or ground down by those telling us that we can’t influence and change what’s happening at ‘the top’?
There’s certainly some organisations and institutions where the structure makes it very difficult for individuals to have a say, challenge or do things differently. What I don’t believe, however, is that this means we are powerless to the structures we live and work within.
Over the past year, whilst going through an intense period of personal development and leadership training, I’ve started to question what my power is. I don’t have decades of experience under my belt, I’m not in the senior management team of an organisation, I didn’t have an outstanding education, I don’t understand all of the words and references used in meetings; but that doesn’t mean I can’t have an influence over what we’re doing as an organisation and a sector.
This started me thinking about how some of the people who have made the BIGGESTimpact on the world, had the LEASTpower. Take Malala Yousafzai as an example or Emmeline Pankhurst. These are people who were told day in day out by society and people around them that they couldn’t do anything. Yet using what they did have, they were able to completely change the tide.
So how can we make this applicable to our every day? We may not be facing the same levels of adversity but we can learn from these examples and adopt it to our situations across the challenges we face.
A possible solution:
I believe it starts by becoming truly aware of who we are as individuals. Not what is expected of us, or what we believe we can achieve. Who we are in terms of our values and beliefs, our experiences, and our skills.
An example I have begun to look at in more depth is Ikigai; a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being”.This model suggests that your individual reason for being is the meeting point of four key things: what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you are good at. The interconnection between each is where you can find your passion, mission, vocation, and profession. At any one time, you need a balance of all four aspects to be fulfilled.
For me, this felt like a really clear way to focus down on who we are and how we can make a difference.
As a process, I myself have begun to focus in on each of the four key areas and it’s given me renewed energy as I push forward in my career and my overall journey to greater wellbeing.
As well as giving me more focus, it has given me a new level of confidence in my own actions which has meant the confidence to take on new challenges, the confidence to say NO when I don’t believe something is right, and the confidence to take time when responding on something that I’m not sure about yet.
I believe that this combination of confidence and self-awareness is a critical part of harnessing your power.
So, next time you’re feeling that there’s nothing you can do or like you’re hitting your head against a brick wall. Consider these three things:
1. What challenge or issue do you care about?
2. What skills, knowledge and/or tools do you have at your disposal?
3. Who can you reach and influence today?
These questions will reveal what your power is. The answers will become the blueprint for what to do with that power.
We need to stop allowing ourselves to think that all the power is in someone else’s hands and instead start questioning how we as individuals, as artists, as producers and so on… use what we have to chip away at some of the challenges and issues that sector and wider society faces.
*Featured Image: Street art in Budapest*