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How to Discover Your Super Powers to Find Meaningful Work


“Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.” ~Buddha

It seems like the vast majority of people compartmentalize themselves.

There are the people they show to family and friends, built upon authenticity and genuine passions, and the people who wear work-appropriate masks to make a living from day-to-day.

I understand how this happens. It’s not easy to identify the work that would feel meaningful for you, discover how you can get on that path, and then consistently take action to create the life you visualize.

Recognizing what you want to do can take time, and the process of pursuing it can feel discouraging at times. We have immense power in creating what we visualize, but nothing is guaranteed, particularly when you want to do is something lots of people struggle to do.

Still, what I’ve learned these past couple of years is that a joyful journey leading toward an uncertain destination is far more fulfilling than a meaningless journey headed toward something clear and specific.

It isn’t necessarily the achievements that make us happy; it’s a sense that we’re spending our time in a way that leverages our talents and aligns with our passions and values.

With this in mind, I was excited to speak with Karl Staib of Work Happy Now. Karl is an open-hearted person who told me on the day we met that one of his Super Powers is listening. He didn’t have to tell me; I could tell when I was talking about my passion for Tiny Buddha that he wasn’t waiting to talk—he was simply creating space for my enthusiasm.

Recently I had a few coaching sessions with Karl to explore my Super Powers. Since I found the whole experience enlightening, I’ve decided to share a little of what I learned from him along with my suggestions for leveraging Super Powers to choose meaningful work.

What Is a Super Power?

Karl explains a Super Power is something people often come to you to do. It’s something you excel at, in part because it’s a talent, but also because you enjoy doing it and do an amazing job at it.

In his post How to Discover Your Super Powers, Karl suggests that Super Powers depend on three factors:

  • Passion
  • Focus
  • Strengths

4 Tips to Discover Your Super Powers

1. Identify what you believe to be your best skills.

Think about the skills you currently use in your work, the ones you use outside of it, and the ones you’ve used in the past. Include everything that you do well—listening, writing, problem-solving, persuading,  connecting people, helping people reach fitness goals. Anything that you excel at.

2. Highlight the ones you feel passionate about.

Which ones have you done for free in the past? Which ones get you so excited you could easily write a whole blog or book about them? Which ones feel fulfilling, enriching, and maybe even healing when you do them?

3. Cross out the ones you consistently have trouble focusing on.

If you can rarely devote more than a half-hour to this skill, it likely isn’t a Super Power. You’re looking for those actions that you regularly get into the zone doing.

A lot of people want themselves to do something that they don’t actually want to do—maybe because they think they should do it just because they’re good at it and can make a lot of money with it.

I could have continued building a successful career in promotional marketing, but I a felt a slight resistance when getting ready for work. It was fun to travel and engage with people at concerts and sporting events but I didn’t feel like I was making a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

For me, marketing wasn’t a Super Power unless I was marketing something that mattered to me.

If you have to force yourself to do something, cross it off the list.

4. Put a star next to the ones that other people recognize as strengths.

For a Super Power to guide your career, it has to be something you excel at. If you love writing but you struggle with communicating your thoughts, this may not be a Super Power—yet. If you’re willing to put in the time, you can change that.

Whatever you have highlighted and placed a star next to that isn’t crossed out is a Super Power that you could leverage to create meaningful, satisfying work.

How to Leverage Your Super Powers for a Career

1. Identify the long game and the short game.

If your Super Power is helping people, your long game might be to become a therapist, write a book, or run workshops. The goal here isn’t necessarily to dream big—it’s to dream of what feels right for you. It might even mean a pay cut.

My friend Angie is a successful lawyer. She recently told me that she ends up spending a lot of money to make herself feel better because she’s unhappy with her job—and that she’d rather love how she spends her time than have the means to buy away her unhappiness.

It might feel scary to think of giving up money, but it all comes down to whether or not what you gain is more valuable to you.

Your short game is what you need to do to transition into that new life you visualize. Do you need to save money to take classes? Do you need to create time in your schedule to write? Do you need to email people to get advice?

You might not be able to immediately do what will you make you feel fulfilled, but you can start planting seeds to get there. Don’t worry about how long it will take. Just acknowledge that you want to start and you’re ready to do that now.

A friend of mine once told me it’s too late for her to do something she loves. I asked her how she’d feel if in five years she was actually doing it. Would she regret having started late or would she be glad she found the courage to try in spite of the years that past before she did?

Whatever it is you enjoy, there is no reason not to start shaping a life around it now. It’s never too late until we decide it is.

2. Make a commitment to do something every day to work your goal.

The important thing isn’t to arrive at tomorrow—it’s to keep moving forward. As long as you’re moving forward, you will get there, and there might be a lot different than how you planned it.

It’s funny how opportunities have a way of evolving and surprising us when we find the courage to consistently take action. I had no idea the first day I tweeted a quote that Tiny Buddha would grow as it did. I still don’t know what exactly this might grow into. I just know I write, edit, and build every day.

3. Identify ways to use your Super Powers now.

Even though it may take you time to transition into a more meaningful work situation, you can still incorporate the things you love into your life right now.

If what you want to do is help people, but you can’t publish a book tomorrow, start a blog. If you want to become a therapist but you know it will take years, volunteer for a hotline.

It could even be to do one small thing each week, like share an uplifting comment on someone’s blog. (My new obsession is Love Bomb—I highly suggest checking it out to make a big difference with one small weekly action!)

By using your Super Power, you very well may open yourself up to professional opportunities. At the very least, you’ll make a positive difference in the world doing something that makes you feel fulfilled.

Be Your Own Hero

With all this talk of Super Powers, I had to end with a hero reference, and it’s this: find and follow the path that makes sense to you. You may find that you prefer to earn a living through something you don’t feel passionate about, and then leverage your Super Powers through your hobbies and free time.

That isn’t inherently wrong. If that’s how you want to spend your time, then what’s right is to go with your own gut.

But if you feel like you’re not filling your days in a way that feels purposeful and fulfills you, find the courage to figure out what would, and then do something about it today.

The best Super Power is the ability to be true to yourself.

*If you need a little more help identifying your Super Powers, I highly recommend working with Karl or reading his site, Work Happy Now! Photo by Katelyn Fay

Avatar of Lori Deschene

About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook seriesTiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself, and Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life's Hard Questions. She's also co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you change your life. For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow on Twitter & Facebook.

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  • http://theconsciouslife.com Conscious Life

    Thanks for the tips on how to discover and leverage on our own super powers, Lori. For me, I find that fear is often the major obstacle when I try to tap on my super power. Like everyone, I’ve my obligations and duties to fulfill and indulging in my super power almost seems like a luxury. But, rather than living a life of regrets and what-ifs, I guess I’d rather meet my fear head on, and work on it bit-by-bit, even if it’s going to take me 10 years. Ha ha, I’ve thinking aloud. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  • Schmoop

    If you go authentichappiness(dot)com there is a questionaire there that helps you discover your strengths/virtues.

  • Jennifer

    I really love this article and I think Karl is a neat person, but I’ve always struggled with the first step. What are my skills anyway?? Obviously I’m doing something correct due to my continued employment. It’s very strange, but I think if I could figure out what my skills are I’d probably be all set to do what fufills me.

    That’s kind of scary but at the same time, very exciting.

  • http://www.bouldervalleycounseling.org Chappell Marmon

    Thanks for sharing this. I am currently making a transition from a more secure job to following my dream (starting my own full-time psychotherapy practice). I try to do something every day that gets me closer to the dream, and I really am getting closer and gaining the confidence I need to take the leap.

  • http://realsimplepeople.com/ John Sherry

    Very true Lori that we all have a Super Power and this was a super post to help us power it up. Super heroes are everywhere in all of us. Wow, what a planet it would be if we all would realise that!

  • Mikeschurko

    Hey Lori!

    Thank you very much for your insight! I definitely feel more fulfilled when I’m spending time putting my super powers to use! Keep up the amazing work!

  • http://www.workhappynow.com Karl Staib – Work Happy Now

    Wow! Thank you. You’ve nailed the concept of Superpowers. I love that you said, “Whatever it is you enjoy, there is no reason not to start shaping a life around it now. It’s never too late until we decide it is.” It’s so true. When we give up on finding work that fulfills us we stop trying to be happy. In my opinion that’s a terrible way to live.

    I started using the word Superpower because too many coaches were using the word “strengths” too much. I was tired of everyone pushing strengths and not looking at the larger picture. Feelings are a huge part of work, it’s why many of us do what we do. We get a kick out of accomplishing a project/work and connecting with our coworkers/clients. If a person doesn’t care about their work I don’t care how good they are at their skillset they won’t accomplish great work. They need to be passionate and focused as well.

    I am so humbled and grateful for this post that I want to offer a free coaching session to one person. Whoever retweets this post with hashtag “#superpowers” or leaves a comment gets put into a drawing to win a free coaching session. Good luck! Thanks Lori, You’re superpower of teaching is off the charts.

  • Brooke

    Another inspiring post that is actionable! Thank you!

  • Larissa

    Awesome post, as usual! I’d love to be put in the drawing for a free coaching session with Karl. I’m anxious to put on my super hero cape… and fly! :)

  • http://www.northernlightsnw.org Heather Lowe

    as a former corporate marketing professional, I too found marketing only meaningful if I believed in the product. It seems to me that identifying and expanding one’s super powers requires committment, honesty and a willingness to reevaluate and go with “your flow” as an on-going way of living. In these challenging economic times the heart is often secondary to survival….the golden nugget is to able to stop the struggling. Thanks for a wonderful blog

  • http://twitter.com/Cazzylina Caroline Sandford

    As someone who also stalls on that first step (Skills? What skills? There’s nothing special I can do that others don’t do MUCH better!) I found this fascinating reading. I wish I’d known about the hashtag draw before I retweeted it! The addition of +passion and +focus fans a flame, means something to me where the usual coachspeak leaves me cold. Not sure what the pilot light is up to, but it’s lovely to have that warm little glow. Thank you, Lori and Karl.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Caroline,

    No worries! You will be entered even without adding the hashtag. I’m glad you found this helpful. I felt the same way when I first considered the passion/focus perspective. At the end of the day, we all deserve to enjoy our time, and I found this little exercise really useful in figuring out how to do that.

    Happy Monday =)
    Lori

  • Your Memoir Mentor

    Thanks so much for inspiring me again, Lori! A few of my favorite sayings from the Bhagavad Gita and go something like this:

    1. “Better to do your dharma imperfectly that execute mine perfectly.” Krishna to Prince Arjuna
    2. “Keep your focus on your work and let go of the results.” Krishna to Prince Arjuna

    P.S. The Bhagavad Gītā (Sanskrit: भगवद्गीता, IPA: [ˈbʱəɡəʋəd̪ ɡiːˈtɑː], Song of God), also more simply known as Gita, is a sacred Hindu scripture (often sung as a lullaby to Hindu babies as a way to absorb it and its teachings). Its philosophies and insights are intended to reach beyond the scope of religion and to humanity as a whole.

    Blessings to you and please, keep up the great work of inspiring others (your super power, if you ask me)!

    Jennifer Manlowe, PhD
    Your Memoir Mentor
    http://www.AuthorizeU.com

  • Your Memoir Mentor

    Thanks so much for inspiring me again, Lori! You and your readers might like a few of my favorite sayings from the Bhagavad Gita. They go something like this:

    1. “Better to execute your dharma imperfectly than execute mine perfectly.” Krishna to Prince Arjuna
    2. “Keep your focus on your work and let go of the results.” Krishna to Prince Arjuna

    P.S. The Bhagavad Gītā (Sanskrit: भगवद्गीता, IPA: [ˈbʱəɡəʋəd̪ ɡiːˈtɑː], “Song of God”), also more simply known as “Gita,” is a sacred Hindu scripture (often sung as a lullaby to Hindu babies as a way for them to absorb it and its teachings). Its philosophies and insights are intended to reach beyond the scope of religion and to humanity as a whole.

    Blessings to you and please, keep up the great work of inspiring others (one of your super powers, if you ask me)!

    Jennifer Manlowe, PhD
    Your Memoir Mentor
    http://www.AuthorizeU.com

  • Alanagooden

    I really enjoyed this post and like others I find myself stuck on the first part. Skills…I enjoy supporting young people in reaching there potential which I do in my current role but how can I turn this passion into something of my own. That’s the confusing part for me knowing what path to take. Thanks for this post it’s got me thinking…

  • http://www.twitter.com/amoryann Amory Ann

    Thank you SOOOOOO much for writing this. I’m oodles inspired. :)

  • Roxyblue

    Great article, thanks!

  • Alida

    Having recently set aside my ten-year pursuit of my MD in favor of following my own “super power”, I really appreciated this post. It was a good reminder that I made the right choice. Thanks for that little boost of confidence right when I needed it!

  • http://www.hainescreative.com Eh

    “If you have to force yourself to do something. Cross it off the list.” It’s important that we spend our time and spirit on those things that are truly meaningful to us – our authentic selves. What a great reminder of that.

  • Squirrel Power

    Wonderful advice for anyone! I really appreciate what you’re doing for people. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I understand that feeling, and I know it gets harder when there are more responsibilities in the equation, like children or aging parents to care for. I think it’s awesome that you’re going to face your fears head on. They say slow and steady wins the race. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks so much! I love those types of resources. I’m sure other readers will find it very helpful.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Karl IS a neat person! Have you ever done a skills questionnaire? Another reader mentioned there is a helpful one on authentichappiness.com. In terms of the questions above, is there anything people come to you for often? Do they ask you for advice? Do they ask you to do something creative? I thought that one was fairly insightful because people DO often ask me for advice, and that’s a large part of what I really enjoy doing here. I hope this helps!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Congratulations on the transition–how exciting! I’m glad to hear you’re getting closer every day. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks John! I love the idea of “Super Powers.” I think we’re all a lot more powerful than we realize.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Mike–and thanks for reading!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome!

  • http://www.myvillasingreece.com Corfu villas

    Very nice lines. Every lines meaningful. I agree the all the points. Thanks for sharing this information

  • sulin

    Great article! I have a question though : What if my skill or talent I think I identify isn’t exactly useful? Like, I like to make lame jokes which puts a smile on my friends’ faces and I am good in making one. Right now, I’m still trying to identify my other super powers too.

  • Jackiebd

    Thanks. I appreciate the encouraging words. :)

  • Jackiebd

    Thanks. I appreciate the encouraging words. :)

  • Jacky09

    What a coincidence to find this article since I was just talking to a friend about struggling with this very same dilemna! Thank you for sharing these enlightening ideas and great resources!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks for commenting, Jennifer, and for adding these wonderful sayings. I’m glad you found this post inspiring!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re welcome–thanks for reading!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    How wonderful that you’ve followed your bliss. I’m sure it wasn’t easy after already moving so far along one path, which makes it all the more inspiring!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Indeed! I’ve forced myself to do a lot of things in the past solely because I assumed I should do them. There’s nothing more liberating than doing what you really love.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thank you! I love running Tiny Buddha, and I’m always excited to see the site has a positive impact. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I think putting a smile on people’s faces is, in fact, a useful skill! How you leverage that skill isn’t quite cut and dry, but I think it’s definitely something you can work with–particularly as you identify other super powers.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    “It seems to me that identifying and expanding one’s super powers requires commitment, honesty and a willingness to reevaluate and go with “your flow” as an on-going way of living.” <~ Great point! I think that if we follow our bliss the money may not necessarily come, but it just may become irrelevant. Thanks for reading. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi there,

    My question for you would be: do you feel satisfied in your current role? If you’re already using your “Super Power” and enjoying it, then perhaps there’s no reason to make a change. If you do feel that perhaps you should be doing something else, you might want to read my earlier post: Do, Adjust, Do: a Journey to Meaningful, Satisfying Work

    http://tinybuddha.com/blog/do-adjust-do-a-journey-to-meaningful-satisfying-work/

    This shares a little of my experience in deciding which path to take.

    Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi there,

    My question for you would be: do you feel satisfied in your current role? If you’re already using your “Super Power” and enjoying it, then perhaps there’s no reason to make a change. If you do feel that perhaps you should be doing something else, you might want to read my earlier post: Do, Adjust, Do: a Journey to Meaningful, Satisfying Work

    http://tinybuddha.com/blog/do-adjust-do-a-journey-to-meaningful-satisfying-work/

    This shares a little of my experience in deciding which path to take.

    Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

    Lori

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  • http://big-zen.blogspot.com/ Big Zen

    This is a very nice way of thinking about using one’s strengths. On a related note, there is a well known psychology researcher called Dr Seligman. He talks a lot about the importance of using our ‘signature strengths’ in leading a fulfilling life.

    On his website you can complete a free questionnaire to discover your own signature strengths. It can be very interesting!
    http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/questionnaires.aspx

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  • Bipolarelephant

    Thanks a lot for the very nice article – simple wisdom that has made me feel much better.

    Well, now it’ll take me a bit to find superpowers in me – extreme pragmatism and being honest with myself and everyone are for sure two of them. This post is a proof of it, I’d not write it here if not a chance to win a free coaching session..
    Being honest also means that when I say it’s a very nice article, I really mean that. Good job, Lori!

  • Bipolarelephant

    Thanks a lot for the very nice article – simple wisdom that has made me feel much better.

    Well, now it’ll take me a bit to find superpowers in me – extreme pragmatism and being honest with myself and everyone are for sure two of them. This post is a proof of it, I’d not write it here if not a chance to win a free coaching session..
    Being honest also means that when I say it’s a very nice article, I really mean that. Good job, Lori!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks for the link! I’m familiar with Dr. Seligman’s work, and I think this is a fantastic resource. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thank you! I think being honest with yourself is an amazing strength to have. If we can do that, we’re in a great position to create happiness for ourselves and others!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thank you! I think being honest with yourself is an amazing strength to have. If we can do that, we’re in a great position to create happiness for ourselves and others!

  • Markbudd

    hey Lori, what a great post!
    I guess that there is only consistant actions to help you reach the things that you value in life, what ever that maybe. when you can learn from, understand and then change the inconsistant actions that suck you away from what you value you then realise that its easier to let go and achieve the things that you want. Bearing in mind that there is no right or wrong as its always about the journey not the destination. A good part of the time the thoughts we get stuck on that hold us back from what we value generaly have the greatest to lessons to teach us and can help us understand what is important..by the way What a great website, only came across it a few a months ago. love your work! ha.
    I’l leave you with one of my favourite quotes.
    WE ARE WHAT WE THINK,
    ALL THAT WE ARE ARISES WITH OUR THOUGHTS,
    WITH OUR THOUGHTS WE MAKE THE WORLD!
    (buddha)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for commenting. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed Tiny Buddha! You bring up a wonderful point about our limiting thoughts teaching us lessons. Everything can be valuable if we learn from it.

    Have a wonderful day =)
    Lori

  • Guest

    Just saw this entry on: http://success.yourway.net/no-passion-no-problem-what-you-can-do-in-the-mean-time/
    Weird. Wonderful post. I just thought I’d add that I am reading on another site as well. With credit of the post given to Sherri of a blog called Serene Journey.

  • Anonymous

    Hi, Mandi from Life…Your Way here. I also received a comment on the Success Your Way post about the similarities between these two posts, and I’ve been looking into them to be sure there was nothing dishonest going on. As far as I can tell, the two posts are on a similar topic, but very different in content.

    I also checked the post history, and Sherri submitted it to our system on 1/28, which I believe was before this one was posted, so I’m inclined to believe that you were both just thinking about a similar topic independent of each other.

    If you (Lori) have any concerns about the post at Success Your Way, please let me know so I can look into it more!

  • http://www.wiseatwork.net Susie Amundson

    Lori, thank you for reminding us to uncover our calling or our heart’s intention. Please find ‘Claiming Your Calling” and “How To’s for Paying the Price (of the Calling) at WiseAtWork.net. They blend so well with your encouragement. Blessings

    “Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it.”
    ~ Jack Canfield

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Susie,

    Thanks for directing me to your site. I think you and Karl would get along! Have a wonderful weekend. =)

    Lori

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  • Chinedumdivine

    Great parcel to have. tnk u very much

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  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.whiteford100 Chris Whiteford

    This is exactly the type of knowledge I needed today. Thank you.

  • kyle

    how can I get my super power quickly