How to Turn Strength into Power
In context, it often carries the sense of “congratulations on a job well done.” See here for examples of when people say this.
In substance, the meaning is much deeper than “well done.”
What does it mean, and why should you care? Keep reading.
What Does Yasher Koach Mean?
The general translation is “may you have strength.” A common translation is “may your strength be enriched.” In that sense, it is offered not just as a form of congratulations, but as a blessing.
First, let’s just define the words.
Yasher means straight.
Koach means strength.
The literal translation is, therefore, “may your strength be straightened.”
What does this mean?
This article states that the closest English equivalent is “more power to you.” I disagree. Understanding why “more power to you” doesn’t fit will help explain what yashar koach does mean.
Why “More Power to You” Misses the Mark
(1) It’s Not About You
According to the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs, “more power to you” carries the following meaning:
Well done!; You really stood up for yourself!; You really did something for your own benefit!
Why this doesn’t fit: The appropriate occassion to wish someone yasher koach is when they did something that benefits others, not themselves.
(2) It’s Sincere
The modern usage of “more power to you” is typically dismissive. According to the Urban Dictionary, “more power to you” can mean:
- I couldn’t care less.
- That’s your problem; you’re on your own. Face the consequences.
- You are unreasonable.
Why this doesn’t fit: In context, yasher koach is offered with sincereity. It’s a heartfelt sentiment that is offered as congratulations, but really imparts a blessing. It’s about as far from “I couldn’t care less” as possible.
(3) Strength is Not Power
Strength and power are not the same thing, although they can be related. This gets to the alternate perspective I’ve adopted.
Yishar Koach: Aligned Strength
The literal meaning of “straight strength” doesn’t seem to make much sense, until you consider “straight” as a synonym for “aligned.”
May your strength be aligned.
What does this mean?
Alignment of the Four Energy Sources
Strength is not just physical. We also build strength in the emotional, mental, and spiritual realms. These are the four sources of energy that we draw from in our lives.
As Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz explain in The Power of Full Engagement, peak productivity and high performance — what many consider to be the core of personal power — comes from managing our energy in these four areas.
To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.
Doing and Thinking Good Makes You Stronger
Mind, body, emotions, and spirit work together.
In 2010, a studyled by psychologist Kurt Gray, showed that participants who did good deeds — or even just imagined themselves helping others — were better able to perform a subsequent task of physical endurance.
Among the qualities a person must have in order to become a bona-fide prophet, the great sage Maimonides lists self-discipline (emotional), Torah expertise (mental), scrupulous mitzvah observance (spiritual), and physical strength (physical).
Alignment is Our Source of Power
What turns strength into power is alignment.
Science is teaching us is that physical strength comes from emotional, mental and spiritual strength; just the thought of doing good can increase your stamina to hold a heavy weight.
Our greatest power comes not just from strong muscles and physical health, but from combining the physical with the careful calibration of our minds and emotions, and living in alignment with our core values.
When your strength is aligned across the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms, you operate at peak performance. This alignment is the secret to unlocking your personal power.
This is the blessing we offer someone when we wish them yasher koach.
It’s the blessing you can offer yourself in this season of rebirth and renewal.
Your Action: Leverage This Season of Renewal
How often do you check the alignment in your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual realms? This season of rebirth and renewal is a potent time to pause and assess where you are in alignment and where you need to realign.
Take some time this week to evaluate each area and see where you need to adjust.