Why you need to design your work or business around your SuperPowers

Are you using your SuperPowers? Find out why you need to design your work around them – and how to find yours. 

Too many people we talk to are unhappy in their work. They feel trapped or unappreciated in a job that’s not a perfect for for them anymore (if it ever was). Or they’re frustrated because the life or business they’ve built around them feels heavy and joyless.

So what’s the solution? According to Lucia Knight from Midlife Unstuck, in order to be happy and fulfilled, and work at the top of our game, we all need to find and use our SuperPowers – a sentiment we absolutely agree with.

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I ended a relationship with a coaching client

Today I concluded a relationship with a client with a final coaching session, and my reaction surprised me.

I put the phone down and fancied a coffee. While walking from my office to the kitchen, I couldn’t help but notice the rising sensation of a whopping great smile spreading like wildfire across my face. I could feel that smile spreading across my body in a weird way culminating in…I kid you not…an involuntary whole body air-jump! What the…?

My client was delighted that I had delivered what I had promised and told me so. I was happy that he was in a much better place than when we first met. Job done. And not just that, but a job done well. But, when I sat back to consider the impact of that air-jump, I felt both sad and overjoyed simultaneously.

I never air-jumped in my corporate career

I can honestly say that I never air-jumped with satisfied pleasure during my 20-year corporate job. Not once. Two decades of decent working hard, playing hard but no air-jumping. I hadn’t realised during those 20 years that it was possible for work to have this air-lifting impact.

Sure, on occasions, I’ve performed a slightly self-conscious high-five with a colleague when I closed a big deal. But mostly I remember sighing a gigantic smile of relief… tired-eyed with shoulders slightly-slumped from the energy it took to close the deal.

Could I have been air-jumping for 20 years if I had chosen a different sort of work?

I was overjoyed because I was using my SuperPowers

Gigantic whole-body smiling and uncontrolled air-jumping is my version of how it feels to be getting paid to use my SuperPowers. I’m totally delighted that I have found a way to feel that great about work – better late than never.

This somewhat silly but personally-memorable moment highlights the difference between creating a business that where you could find the work deeply satisfying and fulfilling and a business that could drain the life out of you.

What’s a SuperPower?

When I sprinted away from my old career with no clear plan I just knew in my heart that some people in this world really love their work. I didn’t know them then. But, I knew that I wanted to be one of them. I knew that I could be one of them if I could just decipher their secret.

So, I tracked down individuals who professed to love their work. I specifically sought out people who had stayed in one career for a long time and then did an about-turn. After 60 interviews with mid-life career changers, I now know their secret. That secret inspired me to design my business in a particular way.

What’s the secret of using your SuperPowers?

Their secret is that they have designed their work around their SuperPowers. Of course, they don’t use that term. ‘SuperPowers’ is a term I use to indicate the specific actions that are powered by your unique signature strengths. These include:

  • The activities that you love doing and could do with your eyes closed
  • The activities that you always gravitate towards.
  • The activities that you cannot stop doing both at work and in life.
  • The activities that you would do for free if you didn’t need to pay the bills.

You might notice that these SuperPowers are actions, not passive traits. That is crucial. (Not sure what your signature strengths are? We show you how to uncover them here.)

What happens when you use your SuperPowers?

When these 60 career-changers use their SuperPowers in their work, they feel deeply, deeply satisfied. Instead of feeling drained to the point of exhaustion after a day of using their SuperPowers, they feel re-charged and re-booted. They could use these SuperPowers for eight hours a day and never feel drained.

Sadly, in the real world of business, very few have been able to make a living out of exclusively using their superpowers but the happiest career-changers use their superpowers multiple times a day. Occasionally they designed a whole day using their SuperPowers – those days were utterly fantastic.

So, the fundamental secret to do fulfilling, satisfying and happier work is using your SuperPowers as often as possible each day.

When I use my own SuperPowers it feels as though all of my pleasure sensors have fired up at once. It feels like nothing else in this world. As you read, it brings around involuntary bodily reactions like gigantic, entire face-filling smiles and whole-body air-jumps. Not a bad way to earn a living!

How to find your SuperPowers

Most people I meet have very little idea of how to begin finding their SuperPowers. Either they have forgotten what they are great at or they find them so natural that they couldn’t possibly be that special.

Here are a few questions to kick-start your discovery of your own SuperPowers. I recommend beginning by answering the questions alone with a pencil and paper. Then ask trusted friends, mentors, family and co-workers for their insights. You might be surprised by their responses, but just write down their words exactly:

  1. What activities at work and home do you always gravitate towards?
  2. What can you not stop doing?
  3. What do you always offer to help friends and family with – just for the love of it?
  4. If the only jobs left in the world were teaching jobs, what would you teach others to do?
  5. What do you already teach others to do without realising it?
  6. If money were no object, what would you do?
  7. What are you doing when others compliment you?

When you have your list, delve deeper to understand when you use these SuperPowers, how using them makes you feel and why it seems so important to you that you seek out ways to use them. Then consider ways that you can build them into your work and get paid to do the most fulfilling, satisfying and, god forbid… fun work possible.

Need help finding your SuperPowers? Take our Career Audit and discover where your talents and passions really lie.

Lucia Knight helps individuals in their 40s and 50s who have corporate careers which are becoming less and less fulfilling. She is putting the finishing touches to her book on the patterns of successful career change which will be available later this year. You can download one of the chapters from her book for free from her website.