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The discipline involved in exercise allows people to have control over their lives. FILE PIC

Great smells evoke good feelings. Fresh air, green grass, meat grilled over hot burning coals — all form an inviting trail to captivate and energise us.

My latest feel-good whiff is a new car because it is more than the actual physical waft of newness. It doesn’t matter how many new cars you have driven in the past because the moment you collect a new one from the dealer, you are like a proud parent bringing a baby home all over again.

My last car held out for eight years and as I traded it for the new one, I grieved a little inside and told her she had served me well.

In Malaysia, I had always driven an automatic but in Ireland, manually-powered cars seem to be more popular. For the past few years, I had to learn again how to drive in the manual mode and it is with great joy that my new car has a Tiptronic gearbox. So, no more gear shifting and I rest my left leg.

It is more than a body on four wheels. I approach it with a full spectrum of emotions, in short, a heady mix of excitement and admiration.

Sitting in the lap of luxury and taking on the road spells freedom. It feels like an army tank and because the seat is higher, the perspective of what lies ahead seems more wide-angled. The fun part is I can look into the eyes of the toll booth or parking attendant rather than having to look up to him.

This car is my personal blank slate and it shouts empowerment.

What is empowerment?

It is to make someone stronger and more confident, especially in being proud of who she is and how she wants to live.

Confidence and autonomy are pillars of empowerment. When you are empowered, you become a better person to yourself and to others. You are more prepared for the unknown and are motivated to advance and get going. You are more interested in knowing what you want for yourself rather than comparing yourself with others or wondering what other people are doing.

Every year, we celebrate International Women’s Day in March. However, we still find that many women are not marching forward and do not have a voice. These women have limited access to education and training, and far more often than not, have decisions made for them.

Financial independence is key. It frees the person from anxiety that money troubles can elicit.

It is not uncommon to see a display of bullying in bad marriages where the one who controls the purse strings is the one who wields power over the spouse.

The power that education brings can never be underestimated. It has been regarded as a ladder of social ascendancy.

A famous saying about “study” in China is from a poem on the Song Dynasty (960-1279) by Wang Zhu, which mentions that studying is the most prized activity. Everything else pales in significance. I believe in standing my ground and making sound decisions by being educated and well-informed.

Exercise empowers the mind and body. It brings a sense of strength and clarity. The discipline involved in exercise allows people to have control over their lives.

Empowerment is not about lording over others. It is not about drawing attention to oneself and feeling superior.

I find it most uncomfortable to be in the company of braggarts who are loud and pushy. A person who is smart and talented but humble is wonderful to be with.

Assets and trimmings may give an extra boost to confidence but they are just appendages with an expiry date. They alone cannot change our behaviour or character permanently.

We become empowered when we set goals and follow them through. In Louisa Mary Alcott’s Little Women (1869), we see that true empowerment of an individual is more from within than without.

Empowerment is a process. Every now and then, we need to adjust the process so that we can benefit from it. Brigham Young (1801-1877) wrote, “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”

I take great pride in driving my new beast from the east. When the rubber meets the road, every shred of anxiety is laid to rest.

“She believed she could, so she did.” – R.S. Grey (American author, Scoring Wilder, 2014).

Dr Koh Soo Ling was a lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Mara and now spends her days enjoying life as it is.

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