In Business and Life, Context is Crucial for Empowerment

By Erin Joy, Founder and CEO, Black Dress Partners

As a strategic business consultant, confidant, and advisor, much of what I do for my clients is help them cultivate a sense of empowerment. Why? Simply put, most “successful” people are empowered people. One of the primary reasons I conceived the Midwest Women Business Owners’ Conference, in fact, was to provide women business owners with the resources they need to become more empowered in business, and in life.

What does it mean to be empowered?

Empowerment is defined as the process of becoming stronger and more confident. It is derived from a specific context you give to situations and to life. Empowered people have very specific conversations with themselves; they frame things positively, take responsibility for (and believe they are responsible for) their actions, and have conversations with their network about what they want versus what they don’t want or why they can’t.

There are certain characteristics and habits that empowered people generally share. I’ve worked with more than 1,000 clients—male and female—and those who achieve success both professionally and personally are those who are genuinely hungry for a specific outcome. They want to pull their resources and network, they want to galvanize their tribes around their purpose, and they want to (and do) produce results.

Creating the positive context necessary to produce those results, is a skill that is sometimes innate but can also be learned. People can be born positive thinkers; in fact, I think most of us are. Some of us maintain that context throughout life and others get sidetracked. Context creation can absolutely be learned, though. Like any change we make in life, it requires work and constant repetition before it becomes habitual.

In business and life, context is crucial.

Training yourself to create an empowered context requires getting into the habit of reframing your thoughts. Think about something you hear people say everyday: “I need to make more money.” That context comes from a place of desperation, which breeds negative emotions. Now think about how you might reframe that statement in a way that fills you with energy, instead of depleting you. It may be something like, “I want to impact more people.” See how those two statements feel very different in your body? Notice the actions you are inspired to take when you ask yourself that question?

One of my favorite, simple tools to help with reframing is something I call the “turn it around exercise.” Take a piece of paper and fold it in half. On the left side, make a list of things you don’t want (i.e., “I don’t want a low balance in my checking account.”; “I don’t want pain in my body.”). On the right side, simply write the opposite of that in a positive way (i.e., “I want more money in my bank account.”, “I want a pain-free body.”). Then, take the left side and throw it away. Take the right side and bring it to coffee or lunch with a trusted friend, advisor, or coach to discuss plans of actions for making those statements realities. Engage in this exercise once a month to keep yourself on track.

Ultimately, empowerment is about fueling success as you’ve defined it for yourself. Most Americans define success pretty linearly—through material things and the number of zeroes in their bank accounts. Refusing to give into that status quo, and creating your own definition of success, is true empowerment.

About Erin Joy

A strategic consultant, trusted confidant, and honest advisor, Erin Joy founded the consulting and executive coaching company, Black Dress Partners, in 2011 to help guide businesses facing a variety of challenges. Erin and her team conceived Black Dress Circle®, facilitated, member-driven roundtables for business owners, and more recently, the Midwest Women Business Owners’ Conference.  She has helped transform a variety of organizations across industries and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in business psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.