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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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