Are there unknown abilities and potential hidden inside you? Most definitely!
Let me start by apologizing to fans of the Marvel Comics universe, in case I present a cherished character unfairly. I'm the first to admit that my knowledge comes exclusively from the movies and internet.
Having said that, I have long been fascinated by the story of the X-Men's Jean Grey. When we first meet her in the movies, she is portrayed as a mutant with relatively modest powers. She is able to move objects with her mind (telekinetic), to read others' thoughts and to broadcast her own thoughts (telepathy). However, as the stories progress, we learn that her powers have been suppressed since childhood by mental blocks put in place (ostensibly for her own safety) by Professor Charles Xavier.
As an adult, Jean breaks through these mental barriers to access her full, almost limitless powers. Her power is so great that a COSMIC FORCE joins with her to become the Phoenix! How this happens and how well it goes varies depending on which movies you watch or which sources you read. However, after a few inevitable hiccups, Jean Grey/Phoenix almost always ends up using her great power for good.
What Does That Have to Do With Me?
I'm not suggesting you have dormant superhuman powers hidden away inside you. I'm not saying you definitively don't either, but those aren't the superpowers I want to talk about here.
I'm talking about your potential. I'm talking about all the things you want to do, all the things you could do, all the things you dream about doing, but haven't done. Yet. Much like young Jean Grey, mental blocks prevent most of us from accessing our true potential. The key to unleashing your full powers is to find the ones preventing you from being the person you dream of, and to break them the F* down
The mental barriers I'm referring to are beliefs we have about ourselves. Every person holds a slew of beliefs covering everything about who you are, from what kind of person you are, to what is important to you, to what you like or dislike, to what you are capable of, to how much happiness ans success you deserve. You might occasionally express one of these beliefs out loud or in your head, but for the most part they're hidden and subconscious.
These beliefs not only guide your decisions and actions but they set the level of intensity with which you pursue or avoid things in life.
When Cherries Were The Enemy 🍒
For as long as I can remember, I hated cherries. If someone offered me some I would politely decline, while in my head I would think "I hate cherries!" My dislike was so intense and so longstanding I couldn't even remember the last time I tried one.
One day about ten years ago, a colleague offered me some fresh cherries. These were fresh out of the refrigerator, a beautiful deep red, ripe and flavourful-looking. It occurred to me that I couldn't remember what a fresh cherry tasted like, so I tried one. To my surprise, they have a texture and taste not unlike plums, which I like quite a bit! In that moment I realized that I didn't actually hate cherries, I just believed that I hated cherries.
It was almost a year before I could bring myself to buy fresh cherries for myself. But now they're one of my all-time favourite fruits!
Admittedly, enjoying cherries isn't a huge thing for most people. However, the realization that some of my food tastes might be arbitrary beliefs had a real impact on my life. I am now a very adventurous eater and have since enjoyed countless new culinary experiences both at home and abroad.
It's Still Not a Superpower (you might be saying)
No, it's not a superpower, but beliefs about ourselves extend well beyond the foods we like. We have beliefs about how smart or strong or deserving we are. Can you think of a time when you had one of the following thoughts (or one similar)?
"I could never see myself doing that."
"I'm not that type of person."
"I wish I could do that."
"I'm not good at __________."
"I'm too uncoordinated for that."
Statements or thoughts like these represent beliefs that hold you back from trying something. If you believe you aren't the type of person who can strike up a conversation with a stranger at a party, then you will likely never strike up a conversation with a stranger at a party. The belief guides your actions and in turn, your actions provide evidence that reinforces the belief.
Believing you aren't good at math will ensure you don't do well at math-related tasks. The belief will determine your level of focus, effort, and expectation of success for the activity. Beliefs we have about our abilities and potential are self-fulfilling prophecies.
This holds true for both mental and physical performance, as well as both positive and negative self-beliefs. For example, a study of competitive swimmers found that athletes who had unfounded beliefs about their ability outperformed athletes with negative or even accurate beliefs about their own abilities. That's right, athletes who believe they are better than they are actually perform better!
Let me give you another example from the Super Bowl of competitive eating: the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. The competition is held every year on July 4th in Coney Island, New York and normally draws more than a million viewers on ESPN. In 2000, the world record stood at just over 25 hot dogs consumed in 12 minutes. In 2001, Takeru Kobayashi smashed that record by eating 50 hot dogs in the same amount of time. Talk about a superpower!
How did Takeru Kobayashi, aka Kobi or "The Tsunami" do it? It had nothing to do with superhuman abilities. He did it with practice and experimentation. He developed eating techniques that no one had even thought of trying before. And here's the real question: why hadn't they? What stopped decades of international eating champions before him from trying different techniques? A belief. They believed that 25 hot dogs was the most it was possible to eat in 12 minutes, and that belief held them back.
Can you guess what the current hot dog eating record is?
Unleashing Your Superpower
Having an idea what beliefs may be holding back your potential is only part of the challenge. Figuring out what powers to tap into is the other. Think about times in your life when you wished you could do or be more. Do you want to:
Be more creative
Act more confidently
Meet more people
Be more adventurous
Start a business
To unleash your superpowers you need to break free from the mental blocks holding you back. That means breaking free of the limiting beliefs about who you are, what you deserve, and what you're capable of.
This may not be as simple as just deciding, but the process doesn't have to be complicated. There are a wide range of approaches and experts with ideas how to do this, but I want to focus on a couple to start:
There is a wealth of literature on self-talk. How you talk to yourself has a huge impact on your behaviours and your self-beliefs. By simply changing the way we talk to ourselves we can change what we believe about ourselves.
The other approach is to find your alter ego, to channel your inner superhero. Coach and author Todd Herman lays out a process for building an alter ego in his book The Alter Ego Effect. Your alter ego is a different you and therefore isn't constrained by the same beliefs about her- or himself as you are. Your alter ego has unfettered access to your superpowers.
You can also ask for help. As a coach, I help people figure out what they really want, make plans, and help them achieve their goals. Identifying and breaking through limiting beliefs is a big part of that process. Feel free to book a complimentary virtual coffee with me and we can talk about what superpowers might be hiding inside of you.