Many people, whether in an unhealthy relationship or during a difficult time in their lives, feel helpless, victimized, out of control, or incapable of making a difference in their situation. They may desperately want to alter their circumstances, but are stuck because they lack self-confidence or the tools they need to do it. They don’t know where the source of power is to bring about meaningful change in their lives.

The real power lies within you, and that is the starting place where you are able to create change in your life. In fact, it’s the only place where you can. The idea that power lies outside of you is a mirage created by well-meaning family members, adversaries, advertisers, and society in general to take that power away from you. So bring your attention back to you when things go wrong. There are always going to be things that happen that are within your control and things that are not. Avoid being reactive and allowing others to distract you, including people who have wronged you. Focus on how you choose to take care of yourself and how you choose to respond to outside circumstances. You are more powerful than you believe. If you don’t know who you are and what you really want and need, take time to find that out so you will be able to have a fulfilling life.

As a domestic abuse survivor, I have redirected my focus to keeping commitments to myself. This was only possible after healing and much introspection. Yes, my ex was guilty of abuse. I was guilty as well, not for the disrespect and abuse that was inflicted on me, but for allowing it to continue. I was preoccupied for years with his needs and opinions, instead of focusing my own, which were just as important as his or anyone else’s. Then I wasted more time thinking about his lack of remorse and the injustice of what happened to me.

I now realize how insignificant he is in my life, other than to contribute material for my self-help book, Breaking Bonds: How To Divorce An Abuser And Heal. It doesn’t matter what he thinks or does. What really matters to me is what I think, say and do– how I choose to carry myself in the world. The only thing that matters is my own thoughts, words, and deeds. That is it, in a nutshell. I decided that remaining a victim was not in my self-interest. I have taken back the power in my life, which I had no right to give away to anyone else. I now live by a different approach, using common sense tools that inform my decisions and enrich my life. These keys to a fulfilling life will be useful to you as well:

There is power in letting go of what no longer serves you. Let go of victimhood and claim your strength instead in being a survivor, capable of being in charge of your own life. If you want to have a different life, you must become a different person. Let go of your inner wounded child and step into responsible adulthood. Own your life and become your own best advocate. Stop giving your power away to others. This includes letting go of marinating yourself in the past. You can’t change what happened and reliving it is a waste of your precious time. That will never give you happiness, so don’t look backwards any more. Pay attention instead to what is going on right now in your life. If you are not satisfied with how things are going, it is within your power to change them. In fact, you are the only person who can change them.

There is power in your breath. When you are feeling stressed, angry, or afraid, take a deep breath and slow it down. Take another one. Take many deep breaths so that you can calm down and think. Your body has just signaled to you that something is wrong. That gift provides you with useful information that you need to process.  Determine how and when you are going to respond or if you will respond at all. Being reactive, which is operating out of emotion and fear, may cause you to make preventable mistakes. Acknowledge and honor all of your feelings as important and breathe deeply to make more prudent decisions.

There is power in your thoughts. Let go of limiting beliefs about yourself. You alone are responsible for the thoughts that you allow yourself to think. Other people, including well-meaning ones, have given you most of your negative thoughts about yourself. Choose not to believe everything that you think. When a negative thought enters your awareness, replace it with a positive thought or affirmation about yourself. People with healthy self-esteem accept that they are not perfect and choose to concentrate their attention on their own good qualities. Choose to do the same. It takes a positive outlook as well as effort to make significant change possible. Take responsibility for what thoughts you allow to be your constant companions. This is the only way that you will be able to change your life for the better.

There is power in your words. Pay attention to how you talk about yourself in front of others. Do not put yourself down or they may lose respect for you. Do not permit others to put you down and do not put others down, either. If someone offends you, address it with that person immediately and calmly to avoid a reoccurrence. Don’t let it fester or indulge in gossip or negativity with others. Set appropriate boundaries with others and keep them. Learn how to say “no” to people. They will test your limits to see how far they can push you, so be prepared for that. It is just human nature; it is not personal. You will have to get used to being vigilant. Keep your word and don’t make promises unless you are absolutely sure that you can keep them. Trust is not easily earned, and can be lost forever with one broken promise. It is better not to make promises in the first place.

There is power in your intentions. Your life goal is not to be popular with everyone. Stop being a people pleaser, unless you are pleasing yourself. Whoever told you that pleasing yourself and being happy are being selfish wants to control you for his or her own agenda. As long as you are not hurting anybody else or neglecting your responsibilities, it is your God given right to be happy and have a fulfilling life. You already know that money, fame, and material things alone will not bring you happiness. Being able to support yourself and your family, and being financially rewarded for your efforts, do contribute to overall happiness. They are just not enough without meaning and connection to others.

You have the power to be happy and fulfilled. If you truly want to be happy, focus your attention on what is happening right now. The future will take care of itself if you do the best that you can in each moment as it comes. Be present in your own life. Become a work in progress by trying to be the person you want to be. Be content with yourself, and that requires that you maintain your personal integrity-keep your commitments to others and to yourself, maintain healthy boundaries with others, apologize for mistakes and then let them go, and forgive others for theirs. Accept that you are not perfect and never will be. Accept that others are not perfect and never will be. You are not the only one who has had setbacks or disappointments. Life is a bumpy ride for everyone. You can’t tell by looking at someone what they are going through. So have compassion for others and don’t judge. Have compassion for yourself and be your own best friend.

The happiest people are those who remember to be grateful for what they already have, who give back to others, and who have a strong connection with friends and family. Listen to music, dance, play, hug a friend, eat chocolate, buy flowers, laugh, and love—give expression to your heart’s desire. Live. Happy moments you choose to create will bless you with a happy life.