5 ‘Power Games’ For When Life Makes You Feel Weak

“I just don’t know what to do anymore,” my client said, barely raising his voice above a whisper. He’d been having problems with a colleague at work. He even wanted to quit his job because of it.

As I listened, I could feel the energy drain out of him. Knowing him well, I know he’s one of the most flexible and easy-going people around; how he just wants every situation and relationship to be pleasant and positive.

When problems arise and life gets messy for him, though, he doesn’t know what to do. Like a lot of people, he gets stressed and plots and plans escape routes to avoid the situation altogether while also feeling powerless, and at times, angry.

If you’re like my client, and myself if I’m being honest, you know how it is to want your relationships and life to be comfortable and simple, and how stressful it is when it’s not.

So after hearing my client’s story, I asked him if he wanted to try a mental fitness technique I use. It’s built around leaning into our strengths instead of resorting to habitual responses — often the fight, flight, or flee kind — that haven’t always been helpful in response to stressful situations so far. The technique is called the “The 5 Sage Powers”. Created by the founder of Positive Intelligence, Shirzad Chamine, it includes using our ability to empathize, explore, innovate, navigate, and activate to meet challenges, big and small.

The best part: Along with each one is a game we can play to help make hard things a little easier and also a bit of fun.

“We all have the five powers of the Sage. We’ve all demonstrated the ability to Empathize with ourselves and others; Explore with deep curiosity; Innovate creative options; Navigate among our options and choose the paths that best align with our deepest-held values and purpose; and, finally, Activate our intention in order to generate results.” — Shirzad Chamine

Before we jump into the fun, get clear on your challenge. For me, writing it down helps. My client’s true-challenge sentence may look like “How can I deal with having to cooperate with X?” Once you know what your challenge is about, read over the five options below and find your game of choice. You don’t have to do them in order or use all of them—trust that you know which one is the right for you right now, or consider this:

“If the house is on fire, you will probably want to just Activate your intention to run. If the solutions are obvious, you don’t need to Innovate. If your options don’t have long-lasting importance or consequence, you don’t need to consult your Sage’s power to Navigate.” — Shirzad Chamine

Game 1: “Visualize the child” to be more empathetic

Think back to when you were a kid or find a childhood picture and ask yourself: “What is the most compassionate and loving thing I can say to myself right now?” Find at least 3 things to say. Recharge with empathy before you go to meet that challenging situation or person you feel stressed about.

Chamine recommends visualizing other people as children as well. You can picture them holding a puppy, snuggling with their mom, or chasing a butterfly. Bring these images with you as you meet them to feel more empathy, or at least it can make you smile and take some edge off the edginess.

Game 2: Act like a “Fascinated Anthropologist” to explore the terrain

So often we want to jump ahead to a solution or a plan without having everything we need to know in front of us. Start by asking yourself “What more can I discover”?

Give yourself a few minutes to imagine you’re a Fascinated Anthropologist observing everything. You could even imagine your challenge as a place discovered for the first time where you’re the first person to be there. Write down everything you see — people, behaviors, places. Just remember, no judgment or censorship. Just describe things how they are, not how you want them to be.

On a side note, if it’s a conflict with someone, Chamine suggests taking a few minutes to be fascinated with discovering how he or she feels, without bringing your judgment or grievances. 

Game 3: Innovate by playing the “Yes, and…” game

Your leading question for this game is “What’s a whole new way to do this?” Here the aim is to give yourself a few minutes to find ways to handle the challenge if what you’ve done so far isn’t working. You’ll need to use your creativity to move ahead, for as Chamine says, “True innovation is about breaking out of the boxes, the assumptions, and the habits that hold us back.”

This might be easier to do with a partner, but you could also do it alone by going through these steps in your head. You start with coming up with one idea to solve your challenge. Then you continue by saying “Yes, what I love about that idea is… and that makes me think of…(insert new idea).” You only have to look for the 10 percent you like in each idea, as the whole idea itself might be hopeless. Just keep brainstorming this way and see what you come up with.

Game 4: Navigate the present by “flashing forward”

When you’re faced with different options, and some of them are more aligned with your values, purpose, and meaning, it’s time to use your ability to navigate. This means connecting to your inner compass — the things that are really important or meaningful for you — so that you make sure that you handle your challenge in a way that’s in line with your ideals, values, and principles.

The easy way to use your navigate-power is to picture yourself at the end of your life, healthy in body and mind, looking back at the challenge you’re now in and the choices you have. You can close your eyes and picture yourself in the future. Standing there, ask yourself: “What do I wish I had chosen to do?” Listen to the answers. You can write them down or speak them out loud to make them more real.

If the end of your life feels too far away, you could try three years, five years, or any other time in the future. 

Game 5: “Preempt the Saboteurs” to activate your body and mind

The idea of this game is to think ahead and anticipate how you might stop yourself from doing what you need to do. 

To play this game, it helps to know how you often get in your own way in challenging situations. Do you tend to procrastinate? Avoid everything? Worry? Do you get too rigid or controlling? Maybe you feel sorry for yourself, or even over-rationalize and neglect your own or others’ feelings? Whatever pattern you have, know we all have them, and that awareness of them is the first step.

Once you have an idea of how you most often get in your own way, think about how you might sabotage yourself in taking action or even in the middle of your action. Listen for the things you’re telling yourself. You can even speak these thoughts out loud or write them down to remind yourself that these are just habitual thoughts, not the truth. Then, prepared, you can stay more focused and calm while you take action, instead of being stopped or interrupted by unhelpful things you tell yourself.

The challenging situation might not go away. But by leaning into and using these strengths you already have inside you, you can realize that you don’t have to avoid it all or feel so helpless.

For my client, these games helped him feel more confident, clear, and at choice, with many more options than quitting his job or confronting his colleague. 

These strengths—empathize, explore, innovate, navigate, activate—are already inside you, waiting to be called up.

So before you head off, why not ask yourself: What is a challenge in my work or life where I could use one or all of these powers? 

And then go play.