Empowerment -- the act of investing oneself with more authority and control over one’s path -- is a vitally important process that I teach and explore every day as a career transformation coach. I’ve personally witnessed the transformative effect it can have, when an individual takes control of the reins of her life and decides to no longer be a victim. Yet many still say to me that “empowerment” is a cliché, an overused term that’s new-agey and silly. Try as I might, I can’t find a more appropriate word to describe what I believe is required to live well, meaningfully, and purposefully, and to align your activities in life and work with who you really are. Empowerment means accessing and marshaling all the passion, power and purpose you have inside you, so you can live and work as you truly want to.

So who really cares about empowerment?

Everyone should care, but most don’t have a clue about it. Understanding how to empower yourself more and more each day is critical to a life well lived. You need to know how to access more power and self-authority at the precise moments you feel you have none of it -- when you believe that you have no control over what’s happening around you or in your life, career, and your relationships, and when you can’t seem to get off the ground the initiatives you care most about. Empowerment is critical to you when you feel exhausted and depleted, lacking in hope and optimism, feeling all is lost. Empowerment is critical in times like these.

An empowered life has a completely different quality from one that’s fraught with hopelessness and resentment. When you’re empowered, you are fully aware of the challenges you face – and you see them with eyes wide open -- but you know in our heart that you have what it takes to navigate through them successfully. You know too that you are the master of your own ship, not deluding yourself that you’re in complete control (because, of course, we aren’t), but you realize that you “co-create” what’s occurring in life, and therefore, can shift what’s happening by generating the right changes within yourself and acquiring the right kind of support to move you forward.

Are you living an empowered life? Here are the seven ways to know.

You’re living an empowered life when…

1) You respect yourself
Overall, you experience self-respect and feel that others respect who you are, and value your input and contributions. You live your life in alignment, from your own authentic values and standards of integrity. Sure, there are some folks who think less of you than you’d like, but you understand that you can’t control what others think of you, so you don’t obsess or worry about what’s out of your reach.

2) You feel meaningful
Whatever you’re doing in your life, you feel there is meaning and purpose in the roles you assume and the functions and activities you perform. Your work and your life are aligned with your definition of meaning and purpose.

3) You share love
You express love and are surrounded by people who appreciate you. Love flows to and from you in an easy way that keeps you supported and bolstered through the challenging experiences that life inevitably delivers. And you give love easily, supporting and nurturing those you care about.

4) You feel contributive
You are using your talents, skills and passions in a way that serves others and the world. As author Maria Nemeth shares in her great book The Energy of Money – we’re happiest when we’re demonstrating in physical reality what we know to be true, and giving form to our Life Intentions in ways that serve others and the world.

5) You feel excited and energized (much of the time)
An empowered life energizes and enlivens you. For most of your days and most of the time in your days, you feel motivated, upbeat, excited by what’s in front of you. Sure, you have sick and “down” days here and there, but by and large, your energy, physical vitality, health and well-being are more than sufficient for you to achieve what you long to.

6) You have a vision for your life
You’re not a cork bobbing on the surface of the ocean, haphazardly with no direction except for where the wind and tides take you. You have a compelling vision for your life, and you understand the legacy you want to leave behind. You know what you stand for, care about, and what you want to have given, contributed and left behind, once your time on this planet is over.

7) You access support to achieve your vision
Finally, you know you need help in this world to do and be what you want to be. You’re not isolated and alone – you have support, and a nurturing, loyal community that helps you fill in your power and knowledge gaps. We all have these gaps – the key to closing them is to know when you need help, and having the courage to ask for it.

In reading this list, where do you stand? Empowered, or needing some help to close your power gaps? You can call “empowerment” a cliché all you want, but the happiest, most successful and fulfilled individuals I’ve ever met (and lately I’m meeting a lot of them), are truly empowered, and have grabbed the reins to ensure their lives and careers are moving in the direction they authentically want to go.

Where do you stand on the empowerment scale? Is it finally time for you to power up your life and career?

(For additional support to identify and close your professional power gaps, download my free homework tool “Assessing and Closing Your Power Gaps” from the Amazing Career Project - visit www.amazingcareerproject.com for more.)

Author's Bio: 

Kathy Caprino, M.A. is a nationally-recognized women's career and executive coach, writer, leadership/success trainer and speaker dedicated to the advancement of women in business. Founder of The Amazing Career Project and Ellia Communications -- a women's career and executive coaching firm - Kathy is a ForbesWoman, Huffington Post and AARP contributor, and the author of Breakdown, Breakthrough. As a top media source on women's career topics and issues, she has appeared in over 100 leading newspapers and publications, and on national TV and radio. For more information, visit www.elliacommunications.com and follow Kathy on Twitter @kathycaprino.