The power of autonomy what I’ve learned from Nelson Mandela

Last week we celebrated the great late Nelson Mandela 100th birthday.  Most news articles focused on Mandela’s great ability to forgive. To most of us his name will always be synonymous to forgiveness. But there were many more great lessons to be learned, like the power of autonomy.

When Nelson Mandela was finally released from 27 years in prison, he could have chosen to be resentful and seek for revenge. Instead he chose the path of reconciliation. Interviewed by Oprah Winfrey he said : “You have a limited time to stay on earth. You must try and use this period for the purpose of transforming your country into what you desire it to be”.  And so he did. He committed his remaining life on improving the future of the people of South Africa.

The past explains how we  get where we are, but where we go from here is our own responsibility. When asked if he wasn’t bitter or had an appetite for revenge. He replied: “It’s not easy if you are busy with constructive work to think about issues which make you bitter. When you are busy working, on something positive, constructive and worthy, you are likely to forget experiences which have been counterproductive”.

If we choose resentment, this implies we don’t fully accept something which has already happened. It’s an failed attempt to change the past.

Mandela showed us by example that even after being treated extremely badly, we  have a free choice how to react when life hits us hard. For a long time I strongly believed others could make me feel angry, sad, happy etc. When upset I used to smother in self-pity and felt very self-righteous. Until I finally came to realise that by doing so it was not possible for me, to be a strong woman in full control of my own life and destiny, at the same time. The first excludes the latter.

There’s no denying others can hand you strong invitations to react a certain way. When those situations happen it might help to realize you are the one to decide how you feel and how you react. Try to find the strength within yourself to focus on positive things. Work on fulfilling your psychological needs.

By believing others have the power to make you feel a certain way. You deny your own responsibility for your own success and happiness. It helps me to think like this: “If even the great Mandela can overcome such big injustice done to him. What keeps me from letting go of the small unpleasant events I encounter in life?”

Are you truly in control of your own life?

What have you learned from Mandela? I would like to hear your comments.

If you need help in finding your strength. Let me help you. Send me an message. I am always willing to talk.