The next time you feel powerless recall this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element.

It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather.

I possess tremendous power to make a life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture, or an instrument of inspiration.

I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de–escalated, and a person humanized or dehumanized.

If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”

Wow, that’s a lot of power. Yet I know from personal experience that what Goethe says is true. I’m sure that you’ve experienced these powers as well.

So why is it that we, at times, feel so powerless?


Many people are simply not aware that they possess these powers.

They don’t realize that the have the power to change the energy in a room. I have the good fortune to be involved with an amazingly warm, welcoming, encouraging group of business people. Guests who attend our meetings often comment that they feel that energy even before they speak to anyone.

Similarly, many are unaware of they can de-escalate highly-charged situations by simply remaining calm and refusing to respond in kind to emotional attacks. Nor are they fully aware that the people with whom we interact live up to or down to the expectations we have of them.

The vast majority of people in whom we place our trust and confidence will work diligently to avoid disappointing us. The reason? We don’t want to lose the trust and confidence of people who believe in us.


We also feel powerless during times of stress. Even if we are aware of our power, we often lose sight of it during times of stress. We forget how capable we really are and that we have always found ways to deal any situation we’ve faced.

Now let’s see how we can use this knowledge to our advantage.

For you

If simply reading this post hasn’t been sufficient to assure you that you possess these powers, take a few minutes to reflect on each element of the quote. Recall times in which you exhibited both the positive and negative aspects of that power…including how your mood affected your perception of the weather you experienced that day, times when you diminished others and times when you elevated them, times when you lost others confidence and when you gained or enhanced their confidence in you.

Once you’ve gotten comfortable that you truly do possess these powers, make a copy of this quote and tape it to your monitor, keep a copy on your cellphone and another in your wallet. The next time you feel powerless, review the quote to remind yourself that it’s you who sets the tone for whatever you’re experiencing. Then choose consciously the positive tone.

Over time you’ll discover that you no longer need to review the quote…that in times of stress your subconscious mind will remind you of the power you possess AND your desire to be a positive force rather than a negative one.

For our kids

When you see your kids feeling stressed and powerless, share the quote with them. Take a few minutes to help them comprehend how it relates to what they’re experiencing. Then encourage them to make a conscious choice about what to do.

You’ll find that as their emotions subside and they replace emotions with objective analysis they’ll make good decisions…decisions to be a force for good.

Give them a copy of the quote so that they have it readily available for those times when you’re not around. Let them know how it helped you. In doing so you let them know that what they’re experiencing is experienced by all human beings…including you…and that, while you’re still not perfect, the quote helps you make great strides in your efforts to be more encouraging and supportive of others.

Of course, you have to be living that message for them to believe it. But then I have no doubt that you are.

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