WHAT I’VE BEEN READING: The Empowerment Paradox by Ben Woodwarda D. Hodges

I’m re-posting this book review for people who might have missed the original post late last year. The book is well worth reminding everyone about!

This book is about turning struggle into strength. It really connected with me as I saw very strong parallels with one of the fundamental shifts that we aim to support clients to make through the REAL Conflict Coaching system – the shift from suffering to learning.

Woodward makes the important point that there is no guarantee that suffering will lead to an overwhelming victory; however, whatever the outcome, we can learn and grow from the experience. He also points out that sometimes our suffering comes from circumstances of our own making, and at other times from things that are out of our control, but what remains the same is our opportunity to use that suffering for our own empowerment. Woodward suggests that how we got here is irrelevant, it’s what we do next that is important.

Woodward explains that the way we respond to our suffering is all about perspective. He asks the question “Have you been buried or planted?” He suggests that it is possible to turn our biggest struggles into our superpowers. However, simply accepting our circumstances is not enough in itself. We need to actively seek out and be open to what he calls “the nourishing qualities of struggle”. We need to be willing to accept the privilege of improvement.

Woodward explores seven virtues that contain the elements of growth towards empowerment: a disciplined heart, an educated mind, nourished faith, well-practiced patience, a liberated past, diligent work and willful surrender. In each of these chapters you will find useful ideas that can be applied to conflict situations, and ideas for questions to ask clients in conflict to help them learn and grow from the conflict struggle.

The book reminds me of another with a similar theme “Bounce Forward” by Sam Crawthorn, and of course Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Woodward quotes Frankl, who says “to live is to suffer, and to survive is to find meaning in the suffering”. Woodward adds that “to thrive is to find joy in the meaning”.

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