Want Everyday Superpowers? These Are The Skills To Strengthen

 “What superpower do you wish you had?” This is a rather popular hypothetical question. It was asked at a conference I recently co-facilitated and got me thinking. I imagined the power of being able to take the world backwards so that we can fix it with hindsight. Imagine that – superman style. As I pondered this, I realized a big idea: there are everyday superpowers out there. We just need to know which skills to strengthen to achieve them.

In fact, I had just thought of one of those real-life superpowers. Others desired things like teleportation – the beam-me-up ‘Scottie’ type, where you reach your destination in an instant. Some liked the idea of walking through walls, and many wished they could make bad problems disappear, like hunger. 

All these desires, at least for now, are fantasy. But my concept of going back 5 minutes is achievable; just not in the mode of reversing time. It’s in the power of pause.  This superpower could erase that stupid comment, the uncontrolled emotional lash-out, or the WhatsApp distraction that propelled me into the braking car in front of me. 

We might not think of pausing as a superpower. But those who can pause their emotion, reaction, or temptation towards distraction, are to be envied. The pause has the potential to change so much and to avoid so much. And that is why it’s an important skill to strengthen. Psychologist Victor Frankl put it this way…

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” 

Growing your ability to create space between an event and your response, moves you into superpower territory. Especially in a world where the instant reaction is a norm. The power of pause is doable. It’s hard work, but if you get it right it’s like taking time back. Makes me wonder… what other superpowers are up for grabs, if we only looked at them through a different lens and discovered what skills to strengthen in order to achieve them?

Want Everyday Superpowers? These Are The Skills To Strengthen

Skills To Strength The Power of Context

Imagine being able to instantly know the context of a situation. When somebody reacts in a particular way, you understand their context and therefore you are able to judge, or not judge, from a premise of heightened perspective. 

It’s like that story Stephen Covey shares in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He speaks of a father and his boisterous children on the train. A fellow passenger is getting irate because this father is not noticing how disruptive and loud his children are. And when this disgruntled guy speaks up, he suddenly discovers context. This man has just lost his wife and the mother of his children to an illness. Now, the noise matters less. Now, with context, the response and emotion change. But imagine having had that insight from the start – what a superpower that would be. 

Maybe it’s more available than we realise. We just need to know the skills to strengthen, and maybe slow down a bit more in our responses. We live in a world of context crisis. Few people want to consider the unpopular notion that their first interpretation just might be flawed. 

Have you ever heard of a condition called the ‘trained incapacity of the expert’? It’s a rather fancy term for saying that the more familiar we get with something the less likely we are to engage in context around it. We…


Fail to notice subtleties

Don’t ask questions

Don’t doubt our knowledge.

Context is the ability to see more so that you might change your first impression. And when we have context, we increase our options of response. The good news is that to have this superpower you must strengthen some skills that are completely within reach: curiosity, mindfulness, and humility. 

Once again, these skills might take some hard and focused work. Whenever this topic comes up in CAFE Life facilitation or workshop, I emphasize that starting from the premise that doesn’t assume you’re right, unleashes super-energy towards discovering context. Begin with asking this question every day: what else? 

The Power of NOT Curing, and NOT Healing

In stories, our comic superheroes typically rescue the world. But here’s a thought. A superpower might also be the ability to restrain action when it’s within your influence. 

Our culture is very pro ‘instantaneously satisfying.’ As per Richard Rohr, we “give answers too quickly, take away pain too easily, and too quickly stimulate.” To avoid the quick fix and be open to transformation, requires the power of restraint. There will always be the need to rescue people and situations. But sometimes rescue is not the answer. I love this quote from Henry Nouwen:

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” 

The skills needed to strengthen this superpower aren’t about not caring. It’s about caring so much that you stay with another, fully present, allowing them to own their experience. This takes a great degree of discipline, as our natural stance is to be the guy who saves the day. But you can attain this power through a lot of resolve and by nurturing a willingness to give people the gift of attention above the answers of your mind.

Want Everyday Superpowers? These Are The Skills To Strengthen

The Positive Power of The Negative Emotion

Imagine never having a negative emotion. Imagine always being super happy, super positive, and super motivated. It does sound good. That indeed would be a superpower worth considering. But all healthy human beings have feelings like doubt, fear, and overwhelm. As per author Susan David, this is the human brain doing its job. 

The only people who have no fear or experience no rejection, are those who’ve already left this world. 

But there’s still a superpower to be unearthed here. Imagine a person who finds positive power in negative emotion. This person still experiences negative emotions. But they make space for the negative emotion and allow the negative to create positive power. Hmm – I know sounds rather paradoxical. But did you know that you often have to  experience a negative emotion to…

      • Reconsider an argument
      • Listen
      • Demonstrate increased empathy
      • Ask for help
      • Give support 
      • Slow down

Negative emotions that are dwelt on can consume and slay us. But negative emotions that are embraced with curiosity can be highly informative. In his most recent book, Dan Pink talks about the power of regret. He says…

“Regret is not dangerous or abnormal. It is healthy and universal. An integral part of being human. Regret is also valuable. It clarifies, it instructs. Done right, it needn’t drag us down. It can lift us up.” 

To take hold of this superpower requires that you change your stance towards the negative. It requires that you notice and name your emotions and stay with them, asking questions like, “What is this telling me?” Seek a growth mindset and intentional response through that which you discover. The negative will always be around. But you might be able to do even better and get propelled forward if this is one of the skills you choose to strengthen.

There are many more that we could talk about, but I hope the point has been made. Fantasy superpowers might not be attainable. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be superpowered. We just need to know the right skills to strengthen, and how. 

So, what superpower do you wish you had? How possible is it that you could attain similar benefits? Perhaps all you need is the superpower of seeing it differently. 

We Wear the Same T-shirt: Why You Need to Cultivate Trust in Your Team

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *