What is Personal Empowerment?
At a basic level, the term 'empowerment' simply means 'becoming powerful'. Building personal empowerment involves reflecting on our personal values, skills and goals and being prepared to adjust our behaviour in order to achieve our goals. Personal empowerment also means being aware that other people have their own set of values and goals which may different to ours.
Developing personal empowerment usually involves making some fundamental changes in life, which is not always an easy process. The degree of change required will differ from person to person, depending on the individual starting point.
Many other, more detailed, definitions exist. These usually centre on the idea that personal empowerment gives an individual the ability to:
- Take control of their circumstances and achieve their own goals in their personal and working life.
- Become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses and therefore be better equipped to deal with problems and achieve goals.
- Enhance the contribution they make both as an individual and as a member of a team.
- Take opportunities to enhance personal growth and a sense of fulfilment.
Dimensions of Personal Empowerment
The following ‘dimensions of personal empowerment’ are based on the belief that the greater the range of coping responses an individual develops, the greater their chance of coping effectively with diverse life situations. These dimensions are:
Self-awareness involves understanding our individual character and how we are likely to respond to situations. This enables us to build on our positive qualities and be aware of any negative traits which may reduce our effectiveness. Self-aware people make conscious decisions to enhance their lives whenever possible, learning from past experiences.
Values are opinions or beliefs that are important to us but of which we are not always aware. They can be any kind of belief or perceived obligation, anything we prefer and for any reason. The reasons we may prefer one thing over another, or choose one course of action over another, may not always be obvious or known; there may be no apparent reason for our values. Nevertheless our values are important to us as individuals. In order to be self-aware it is necessary to be aware of our values, to critically examine them and to accept that our values may be different from those of others.
An individual's skills are the main resource which enables them to achieve their desired goals. Skills can be gained through experience, practice, education and training. It is only by developing such skills that individual values can be translated into action.
Knowledge or information is necessary in the development of self-awareness and skills. It is an essential skill in itself to know where to find appropriate information. Without information, the choices open to people are limited, both in their personal and working lives. The internet has provided an easy way for everybody to access huge amounts of information very quickly and easily. The problem is then centred around the quality of the information found, and the skill set is concerned with finding accurate and reliable information.
Setting goals is a means by which an individual can take charge of his/her life. The process of setting a goal involves people thinking about their values and the direction that they would like their lives to follow. Choices are made through reflection followed by action. Goals should always be both specific and realistic. Setting personal goals gives us a sense of direction in life, this direction is essential to personal empowerment.
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