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Why We Should Stop Empowering and Start Inspiring

Inspire and empower are often used interchangeably. Few people realise the difference between the two. Let’s start this article by defining the two seemingly similar words.

‘Inspire’ according to the Cambridge dictionary, is “to make someone feel that they want to do something and can do it” or “to make someone have a particular strong feeling or reaction”.

On the other hand, ‘empower’ is “to give someone official authority or the freedom to do something”.

To put this in perspective, for someone to accomplish a certain task, we could inspire them with encouraging words, or with our own actions. To empower is to enable the person to accomplish the task with more tangible means. It is usually through the sharing of knowledge, much like how teachers empower children through education. In the work context, it could be to pass a certain skill on, or giving the resource or tool to achieve the goal.

Even though the act of empowerment is more tangible, while inspiring someone is more intangible, the latter carries more weight as it is something intrinsic and will be more enduring.

However, empowering implies that one party has the power, and the other doesn’t. Thus, there is a kind of power/status difference between two parties.

Inspiring takes more than just putting up black-framed posters. You know the kind. You’ve seen it everywhere – at school, at work, at the doctor’s, even in some bathrooms (I kid you not). Images of eagles and mountains and seas, paired with a keyword like ‘PERSEVERANCE’ in caps and a quote underneath.

To truly inspire, you need to first, be inspired. How? Use all your senses. Let your eyes feast on visuals that capture you, move you. Read. Read a lot. Read about the world around you, read about the world within you. Listen. Listen to the sounds of nature, to the voices around you, to your own voice. Take a whiff – of the good, the bad, the funky. Touch. Touch the tangibles – soft cashmeres and spiky durians – and the intangibles – hearts. Touch hearts move minds. Taste. Have a slice of life. Savour the sweetness. Relish the moments. Bask in the experience.

As this quote by Wilson Kanadi sums it up nicely: “You don’t need to be perfect to inspire others. Let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfection.”

So stop empowering and start inspiring by living an inspired life.

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