In my book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, I describe the unhealthy but common habits that drain us of mental strength. And out of all of those 13 things, the one that seems to resonate with people the most is number 2---mentally strong people don't give away their power.

It seems to be a fairly universal problem that most of us can relate to at one time or another.  

You give away your power any time you allow other people or circumstances to control the way you think, feel, or behave.

For example, when you say your boss "ruined your day," you give your boss power over your life. Or when you say your significant other "makes you angry," you give them power over how you feel.

On the other hand, when you decide that no one will have the power to control how you feel about yourself, how you think about the world, what kind of day you're going to have, how you're going to spend your time, or who you're going to spend it with, you'll empower yourself to create your best life.

Here are the two best ways to stop giving away your power:

1. Reframe your language.

Any time you claim that someone has made you feel bad, remind yourself that you alone are in control of how you feel. Or when you're tempted to say you "have to do something," remind yourself that every decision is a choice. 

You don't have to work late, and you don't have to go to the store. Of course, there may be consequences if you choose not to do them, but acknowledging that you are consciously making a choice can empower you to be your best.

2. Think before you react.

Yelling at someone because you are angry or agreeing to do things you don't want to do are just two ways you might be giving away your power.

And lashing out or saying yes to anything that's asked of you are just two ways giving away your power might have become a habit for you.

Empower yourself by thinking before you react. Take a deep breath, excuse yourself from the situation, or distract yourself for a few minutes, until you feel calm enough to collect your thoughts. 

You might say, "Let me check my schedule," before you resort to "yes" as your default answer to something you don't want to do. Or if you feel yourself getting frustrated, say "I'm going to step away for a few minutes to calm down," and then step away so you don't allow someone to bring out the worst in you.

Reclaim Your Power

It takes hard work to retain your personal power when you're used to giving it away. But increasing your mental strength requires you to retain every ounce of personal power for yourself.

So monitor your personal power, and look for ways in which you are voluntarily giving it away. Retaining your power allows you to devote your time and energy to the things you want, which is key to improving your psychological well-being

Published on: Jan 7, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.