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What Five-letter Word Can’t You Live Without?


Here it is: Power. Now, quick, before reading further, close your eyes. What associations come to mind? If your list is full words like coercion, force, guns, oppression, domination, money, you could be in big trouble.

Turns out, our very idea of power can rob us of it. In its Latin root, posse, means simply the capacity to act. If to turn our planet toward life we need more and more of us to exert power, even more energetically and thoughtfully, but our associations with the very concept of power are all negative...then that’s a problem. A big one.

So let’s rethink. What is power?

Power is creating. It is making things happen. And it is perhaps the most under-appreciated human need. Most experts on what we need to be happy, beyond physical needs, stress the importance of satisfying personal relationships, security, and meaning. But Erich Fromm gets it right in my view. Of humanity he writes, “[Man] is driven to make his imprint on the world, to transform and to change, and not only to be transformed and changed...”

And if we can’t make our imprint positively, says Fromm, we try something else: