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10 Questions To Help You Find and Boost Your Superpowers

10 Questions To Help You Find and Boost Your Superpowers

What superpowers would you choose if you could?

Fly like Superman? Deflect bullets with cool bracelets like Wonder Woman? Quickly heal wounds like Wolverine? Here’s the beautiful part: you already possess superpowers.

Today, more than ever, we’re drawn to superheroes. Marvel Cinematic Universe is the top grossing box office franchise in the world, and DC Comics is still going strong in its 75th year. Why the fascination?

Just about every superhero story begins with loss and darkness, continues with a search for meaning, and eventually leads to the discovery of the power within. We can relate to this because it’s our story, too. We love superheroes because they give us hope and inspire us to be our best selves.

After teaching creativity workshops for 20 years I now know for certain that each of us is born with a special gift that no one else in the world can express like we can. These innate skills and passions are our superpowers.

When we are true to ourselves we naturally develop these unique talents and excel at work and in life. Unfortunately, many of us are unaware of our special strengths, or hold ourselves back, because we’re pressured to conform to someone else’s idea of who we should be. My job is to help reawaken these dormant forces and set people free to realize their true destinies.

According to The Flash, “There comes a time when you’ve got to stop running away from things… and you’ve got to start running towards something. Even if your path isn’t lit… trust that you’ll find your way.”

To that end, here are 10 questions to help you discover and boost your superpowers. They’ve helped liberate thousands of participants ages 8 to 84 in my workshops, and they’ll work for you and your children, too.

1. What comes naturally to you?

“When you are born, your work is placed in your heart.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Many of us don’t recognize our superpowers because they come so easily to us, so we don’t think they’re special. We take them for granted because we think everyone has them, too. They don’t. I didn’t realize I had musical talent until I was forced to compare myself to other graduate students during a music perception test at Princeton (where I was studying psychology). I was surprised to learn I’d scored off the charts.

Princess Diana (Wonder Woman) possesses super strength and combat skills because she was born an immortal Amazon. What about you? What are you naturally good at; what is the thing that you do better than others? Running, teaching, drawing, accounting, schmoozing, cooking, or something else? Compare yourself to the people around you and find out. The abilities you express without even trying to are your superpowers.

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2. What fills you with passion?

“There is no passion to be found in… settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” ~ Nelson Mandela

One of the easiest ways to discover your superpower is to note what fills you with joy- not your parents, teachers, or friends—but YOU. Be willing to experiment to find it.

“Jane” was a Fortune 500 executive who wanted a creative outlet after work. At first she tried writing because her father was an author, but she realized she didn’t have a way with words. Then she tried drawing, and eventually discovered that painting was her true passion.

What about you? What do you love to read about, talk about, dream about? What’s your favorite hobby? Genius Tony Stark (Iron Man) has a passion for creating advanced suits of armor and improving their features. When I was a psychology professor I wrote “little songs” after work and dreamed of being a rock star. What fills you with curiosity?

3. What makes time disappear for you?

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” ~ Lao Tau

How do you know when you’re using your superpowers? Time disappears. No drugs necessary! Whenever I write a song, I seclude myself in my studio and emerge several hours later feeling content and spaced-out with a new tune that seems to have written itself. Time seems to vanish.

This isn’t true for everything I do, though. When I was a professor, writing research papers was full of fits and starts. I checked the clock every few minutes, impatient to finish. It was a requirement of my job, not my superpower.

In the TV series when nuclear physicist Bruce Banner transforms into the Hulk, he’s rarely consciously aware of using his superpowers, but he sure does a great job of smashing things. What activities really engage you and put you in the moment? For me it’s playing music. For Jane it was painting. The answer could surprise you.

4. What makes you different (weird)?

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist,” ~ Martha Graham

There’s no one else like you. You don’t have to try to be different. You already are. The trick to finding your superpowers is to own what makes you unique, even if it seems weird.

“Lauren,” a bored technical writer, often wore bunny slippers. It was clear she wasn’t your typical office worker. She told us she scribbled ideas for movies in the margins of her tech manuals. I encouraged Lauren to focus on those marginalized writings. A year later she wrote, directed, and produced an internationally-distributed film. Now Lauren’s flourishing in the entertainment industry.

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What about you? What special talents, skills, and interests make you different? After being bitten by a radioactive spider, high-school student Peter Parker (Spiderman) is less than thrilled that he can stick to walls until he grasps how he can use the speed and strength of spiders to his advantage. My mother and colleagues told me I was crazy to leave my job as a professor, but after my debut CD produced a top 10 hit in South Africa (the same year Nelson Mandela was elected president) they changed their minds.

To discover your superpowers, embrace your inner weirdo.

5. What do your friends ask for advice about?

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” ~ Maya Angelou

You’re an expert at something; you may just not know what it is yet. Think about what people ask you for advice about. Odds are you have a skill or talent you take for granted that your friends cherish.

“Emmy” was a coaching client who complained she was just a “measly” housewife who wasn’t good at anything. I noticed she had a real flair for wearing clothes she looked beautiful in. “Anyone can shop,” she declared when I pointed out her knack for fashion. I urged her to get a sales position and gain valuable work experience to develop her eye for style. I also asked her to develop a “look” for my first CD cover. She ended up becoming a successful buyer for a trendy children’s boutique.

Batman mentors his protégé Robin in fighting and combat. Professor Xavier teaches young X-Men to control their mutant powers and better mankind. What do your friends ask you for help with?

6. What did you love to do as a child?

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” ~ Pablo Picasso

Our superpowers make themselves known to us when we’re children, teenagers, and young adults. But often we forget about them later in life because our parents and teachers ignore, minimize, or even attack our authentic natures. According to Brené Brown, 42% of kids are shamed away from pursuing some form of creative expression in school.

“Pamela” was a 40 year old wife and mother who took my creativity workshop because she wanted to be a writer. After several weeks she remembered that a high school teacher had failed her for being original with an assignment. She’d internalized this—thought she was a bad writer— and had given up. I told Pamela to write about the upsetting event. The next week she handed me a 20 page tome with a big smile on her face.

Many X-Men hide their mutant powers because they’re ashamed of being different. I played piano as if I’d been classically trained at age 4 but no one noticed so I stopped. Clark Kent’s (Superman) adoptive parents urged him to suppress his amazing abilities as a child until he developed a strong moral compass.

What about you? What did you love to do as a child or young adult that’s been blocked or put on hold? This a major clue to your superpowers.

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7. What would you do if money didn’t matter?

“He who isn’t busy being born is busy dying.” ~ Bob Dylan

If you didn’t have to worry about money—one of the main excuses my workshop participants use for not changing their lives—what would you do?

“Maria” was a police detective who wanted to retire early and travel the world. She figured she’d write travel brochures to support herself, but she didn’t enjoy writing. I could tell Maria really liked being a police detective. I suggested she think about how to merge travel with police work. Six months after our class ended she landed a job with the United Nations in Bosnia training the local police to adopt human rights procedures.

After watching his parents get gunned down during a mugging in Gotham City as a kid, millionaire Bruce Wayne dedicates himself to becoming the world’s greatest weapon against crime as Batman. What would you do if you never had to be concerned about money again?

8. Which answer comes up the most?

“Life doesn’t give us purpose, we give life purpose.” ~ The Flash

Take a look back. Find the answer that occurs most frequently when responding to these questions. THAT’s your superpower.

If you find more than one repeating theme, your powers may comprise a combination of abilities and interests. Look for the overlap. I’m a singer-songwriter, speaker, and writer, but I use all my superpowers to help others discover THEIR superpowers.

You don’t have to be a specialist to succeed. If you are a marketer who codes or an engineer that writes, that unique skill set is your career superpower.

9. How do you boost your superpowers?

“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of. ~ Paulo Coelho

Now that you’ve got a glimpse of your superpowers, make a commitment to developing your natural abilities through study, discipline, and practice. Find a mentor, take classes, get a coach, stay on top of what’s happening in your field, and stretch yourself.

I’ve recorded hundreds of songs but I still take songwriting lessons to hone my skills as a singer-songwriter. Jimi Hendrix practiced his guitar ALL the time. He wore it when he boarded planes and made scrambled eggs. He became a master guitarist because he constantly sought to bolster his innate talent.

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Technically Batman does not have superpowers but he’s the most feared superhero of all because he pushes himself to the pinnacle of human achievement and fighting techniques. When you amplify your special strengths, you stand out from the crowd.

10. How do you become a superhero?

“I believe there is a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble.” ~ May Parker (Spider-Man 2)

Don’t worry. You don’t have to save the day like Spider-Man. But you can make the world a better place in little ways by using your superpowers to help others. When you think about it, superheroes show us how to lead better lives.

Wonder Woman forces people to tell the truth with her magic lasso, suggesting that we should all strive to be our true selves. Uncle Ben warns that “with great power comes great responsibility”and Spiderman responds by being kind, funny and humble. Hulk, my favorite, must learn to accept his vulnerability and see the beauty in his gamma-fueled beast form. Batman channels his negative emotions into heroic action.

Everyone has something special to offer, even Groot, a tree-like superhero who can only say “I am Groot.” After a boy who struggles with dyspraxia watched this simple hero talk in the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy,” he began to speak more.

When you own rather than block your greatest strengths, you become a positive role model for your family, friends, and colleagues.

According to David Carson and Jamie Samms, “Tribal teachings say that whatever you do will affect the next seven generations. Every decision you make creates a state of stagnation or rebirth for those who follow you. When you block yourself, you block generations to come. Your dreams build future civilizations, so nourish them well.”

It’s all up to you. So what are you waiting for? Tune that guitar or sign up for that accounting class. The sooner you embrace your superpowers, the happier you’ll be. Like Batman says, “You only have your thoughts and dreams ahead of you. You are someone. You mean something.”

Featured photo credit: Suzanne Pyle Photography via flickr.com

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Michelle Millis Chappel

Princeton Ph.D. in psychology, world-acclaimed singer-songwriter, speaker, coach, and author

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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