“The power to define the situation is the ultimate power.” -Jerry Rubin, activist and author (1938-1994)
As a political activist, it is likely Mr. Rubin meant that power derives from being able to define situations for others, thereby influencing their actions and reactions. And that is a great power indeed. This is the power of the Spin Doctor!
However, I believe a more practical meaning arises when I take this as the power to define the situation for myself. After all, the situation is only the situation. It is what it is. But the big questions are: What will the situation become? What do I do next?
My actions do not derive from the situation itself, my actions derive from my beliefs about what the situation demands. And as we all know, this varies a lot from person to person. Are my beliefs about this situation derived from my own worldview or were they shaped by others? Is my choice internal or external? Is it rigid or flexible? Am I acting or reacting?
In other words: Who’s defining the meaning of the situation? Who’s in control of my perceptions? Whoever this is, they control my direction.
Some people think it’s impossible to shift your perceptions. If that were true, no one could intentionally change or redefine themselves. Don’t believe everything you think!
I would add one thing to Mr. Rubin’s quote:
The power to define the situation is the ultimate power to facilitate my own growth.
And it’s a power well within anyone’s reach.
This quote reminds me of a 2000+ year old saying: “We are disturbed not by events, but by the views which we take of them.” -Epictetus, Greek philosopher, c.80AD
Today, while trying to verify that quote I kept finding this: “It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.” – Tony Robbins
Apparently two millennia ago people thought the author of this quote was Epictetus, but nowadays it’s Tony Robbins. That’s an interesting situation. What should I make of it?
It could be “everything old is new again.” Or maybe “some things never change.”
How about “there’s nothing new under the sun” or even “talent borrows, genius steals!”
I guess it depends on which way I choose to go with it.