What Is Your “Superpower”?
Why the connection of purpose and power deeply matters
For many years I have been consciously pursuing a life that I consider inspired and guided by my personal purpose. For me, my personal purpose is not so much about finding the answer to the question, “What is the purpose of my life?” but rather, “What is my work in the world?.” By “work” I mean something more expansive than what is generally considered a job or a profession. My work is about what I can consciously and actively do in all aspects of my life to contribute to what I feel I am called to. I consider purpose as something active, like a verb, that continuously reveals itself through the process of doing meaningful work and therefore, best shared by describing how it shows up in our doing.
Sometimes our purpose shows up from within, and sometimes through others. I only recently became aware of an aspect of my personal purpose by receiving feedback from trusted people that I work with. This particular aspect of learning purpose from others is important and something that I would like to share.
My good friend and encode.org partner, Tom Thomison, sometimes talks about me to others, even in my presence. More than once I heard him say, “Christiane has a Superpower. She simply makes things happen.” The first few times I heard him say that, I felt bashful and uncomfortable. I was confused. I thought, “How could someone say that I have a Superpower? There’s nothing special about making things happen.”
Then, after hearing this repeatedly, I started to think about it. What was it, that was perceived as special by Tom (and others, as I was soon to learn) in the way I make things happen?
I decided to ask Tom and other colleagues who felt the same way about my “Superpower”. They gave me a few examples that helped me understand what they meant. Apparently, they noticed a pattern occurring whereby projects or ideas that I communicated were important to me would begin materializing and eventually come to fruition.
Tom jokes to the team by saying, “Be careful what you say to Christiane, because next thing is that you find yourself in the middle of it.”
After hearing this I decided to give this “thing” that others called a Superpower more attention. I reflected on the occasions that had been described to me. I studied every detail, everything that happened from the moment something came up in conversation until it actually happened. I researched my own patterns because I wanted to know if there were similarities in the way these different occasions materialized?
What I found out was a revelation for me.
I discovered a clear pattern that can be best described as an inner personal alignment discernment process. The process goes something like this:
When I have an idea, or when I am inspired by someone else’s idea, the first thing that happens is an internal check that gauges whatever idea is showing up with respect to my personal purpose. If the new idea has something to do with the work I am doing, it will automatically also have something to do with my personal purpose, and there will be purpose alignment.
Purpose alignment happens when the work I do is both in service of the organizations purpose and me bring my personal purpose into the world. This has become a core guiding principle for me, and has helped me stay true to myself by only doing work that is aligned with my personal purpose.
When I sense this purpose alignment, an inner process is immediately triggered. I begin to focus in a way that I can almost feel physically, as if my senses were drawn towards a magnet. Consequently, I begin moving in that direction. My heart and mind start aligning around an energy of:
Excitement, expressing itself in an inner and sometime even outer voice, saying, “Yes, let’s do that!”
Curiosity, expressing itself in a question, “What does it need to make this happen?”, and
Determination, expressing itself with a statement, “I just know there is a way to realize that!”
From that point in the process, my mindset shifts in search of possibilities to make it happen, and I let go of considerations for why it won’t work.
Researching all the occasions in my life where this purpose alignment discernment process “kicked in” revealed a joyful awareness of the patterned pathway that has brought me to places and situations where I would never have arrived without this instinct.
The thing that makes me smile when I think about it, is that this “Superpower” always felt (and still feels) like the most normal thing in the world. It simply doesn’t feel special to me. However, through the feedback I received and the reflection on my patterns, I realized that my Superpower and my personal purpose are directly connected. What a gift! I am so grateful to Tom for drawing my attention to this.
Sometime later, at one of the Enterprise Meetups of encode.org, partner and member Linda Berens facilitated a session where we were invited to tell one another what we thought each other’s Superpower was. It was a beautiful time of sharing. The energy of love and appreciation in the room was very special.
This led me to continue researching Superpowers. I talked to many people, asking them what they thought their Superpower was. There were two consistent reactions:
1. People were surprised by the questions itself, ‘’What is your superpower?” and resisted the idea that they might have a unique superpower.
2. Like me, most people thought their Superpower was completely normal, and not particularly special.
It took some persistence and questioning to get people to open themselves to exploring the idea of a having a superpower and to admit that there is something they do exceptionally well, often better than most people. Why is that we tend to hide our special gift and view it as unimportant?
I, by no means, assume that I have the one and only answer to this question, but I do think the external pressures of social norms imposed upon us greatly influence where we perceive value. This external force is that “should” voice that we hear either directly from someone or indirectly through our societal and cultural settings. You should develop a certain trait, strength, appearance, or competency in order to be successful, accepted, or included.
This draws our attention outside of ourselves and leaves us believing that only things defined and demonstrated by others are real Superpowers. We are not often taught to have an inward journey to explore and define our own Superpowers. It’s all too common for children and young adults to conform to societal norms instead of being told to imagine and live into their personal strengths, which is crucial for healthy development and meaning-making.
My journey of exploring my Superpower and the Superpowers of others led me to believe that everyone has Superpower(s). The earlier in our life we learn to explore and understand that our Superpower is something that comes natural to us, the more likely we will be in living a purposeful and powerful life — powerful in expressing our personal purpose, powerful in contributing to the things we feel are important, and powerful in being authentically who we really are.
Here are my conclusions of this journey:
Our personal purpose and our Superpowers are directly connected. One nourishes the other, and our Superpowers support us in living our personal purpose
We often devalue and downplay our Superpowers, which leads to neglecting and hiding this uniquely personal trait
Superpowers come very naturally to us. All we need to do is realize that we have them and use them
Superpowers are within us. By exploring, getting to know and accepting them we can develop and strengthen them, and they will support us in being fully who we are.