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New Study: Powerful People Use Themselves as Inspiration

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Have you ever came across a powerful person who seemed a bit into themselves? Maybe a tad over confident? Or even only into talking about their own experience rather than listening to others?

Well, new research says that might not be such a bad thing. It may even be the source of…power. The researchers agree that powerful people draw inspiration from themselves rather than others.

“It struck me, as it has no doubt many others, that powerful people are often bad listeners,” says Gerben van Kleef of the University of Amsterdam.

The participants were asked to describe an inspiring event another. They were then asked if they felt more inspired by their own story or the other participants’ inspiring story.

“We found that more powerful participants were more inspired by their own stories than by those of their conversation partner, whereas less powerful people were equally inspired by themselves as by their partner,” said van Kleef.

How did they measure “Power”?

They used a standard questionnaire developed at the University of California-Berkeley. In this case, they are defining ‘power’ as the capacity to influence others while being relatively immune to the influence of others.

The topic was further investigated in their next study where the participants wrote about an inspiring event that either they had experienced or one that they had heard about from someone else. The ‘high power’ participants reported feeling more inspired after writing about their own experience than after writing about another person’s experience.

“ [The studies] paint such a vainglorious picture or the powerful,” says van Kleef.

In reflection, the researchers think that social taboo tends to stop people from talking about themselves as a way to not seem self-centered or arrogant. “Because powerful people are less susceptible to social pressures, we expected that they might be less reluctant to publicly indulge in the greatness of their own experiences,” proclaims van Kleef.

“Our results suggest that powerful people can easily inspire themselves by reliving an inspirational event they have experienced,” he said. “Less powerful people may be somewhat less inspired by their own experiences, but they are better able to draw inspiration from others’ experiences.”

Steps to take to get inspired by…you:

Talk about it. Express your own story without blame or shame. Be interested in your own process and learn from your own experiences. 

Write your own epitath. What will your mark be on the world? What inspiring things will you have done in your lifetime? Set some high goals – then reach for them.

Fall in love. With yourself of course! It’s okay to love yourself. We need more of that in the world.


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