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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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Dr. Michelle Millis Chappel

Michelle is a psychology-professor-turned-rock-star who has helped thousands of people create successful meaningful lives by using their superpowers.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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