As I extended my best wishes for a Happy 2020, there was a familiar ring to it that escaped me until the other day when I realized that 20/20 is synonymous to “perfect vision” in eye exams. I chuckled to myself as I came to this profound realization. A new year, a new decade, in a new millennia – there’s something powerful about this year. Having grown up in Chinese culture that embraces symbols as guidance and information, I sat down and ruminated about the notion of “seeing clearly.”
What I know for sure is that seeing clearly into the future is not only about looking at what’s ahead. It’s as much about revisiting our past in a holistic way that allows us to embrace the collective experience of our life so we can embrace our Whole Self and express our Best Self as we step onto the path ahead.
As I reflect on my coaching work of the last years, a recurring phenomenon among clients who move boldly and passionately into the future is that they engaged in a life reflection that has allowed them to see the best in themselves during the years and decades that led to this moment. I call it the Life Decades Reflection exercise. Every time, the journey reflection has been profound for clients. Every time, it has helped that person recognize critical themes that when synthesized, form into their unique Superpower. Every time, it has caused my client to become silent when that Superpower is revealed, an out-of-the-ordinary pause to the fast-paced current of today’s life. Yet it is precisely this pre-meditated reflection and pause that help clients recognize a very familiar yet un-graspable aspect that has made them feel truly alive. For some, it has been accepted readily. For others, it has taken multiple sessions for the person to truly embrace their Superpower.
As I witness this process, what I’ve found is that for some, their Superpower was created through an experience of pain and suffering; an experience some find shameful or worthy of forgetting. So when they’re confronted with the reality that the very experience that caused them so much pain becomes the catalyst for their Greatness, it’s understandable why it’s hard to digest and accept. Yet this alchemist process is, for me, one of the most profound and meaningful aspects of coaching. Likened to the creation of the most beautiful lacquer pottery where the clay must be heated to a point of almost destroying it to allow the most beautiful glaze to be created, we humans oftentimes find our Greatness in the life experiences from which we thought we were not going to survive. There is this unexpected paradox in the elements that create our Superpower.
I find this reflective journey particularly important for people who have been othered, individuals who have lived as outsiders to the power culture. Inherent in their life experience have been situations in which they have been shamed, ignored, patronized to, belittled, underestimated – all acts that diminish their wholeness. When this happens often enough, one can forget that s(he) possesses a Greatness and purpose that make him/her/them truly alive. These individuals perform professionally, but are not fully engaged in their wholeness. They can be wearing an impeccable suit in a Fortune 100 company yet still not have expressed or lived to their fullest potential.
The reason recognizing this Superpower is so critical nowadays is because our American culture focuses so much on competency – an obsession with knowledge and action as the source for excelling. But what catapults individuals toward innovation and impact is a deep sense of feeling alive. Aliveness is not about capability. Aliveness is about passion and purpose. It is about knowing the “IT” that compels each of us to take on what may seem impossible because there is something bigger than life that drives us. That yearning is what really drives engagement and productivity.
This feeling of aliveness compels us to take risks to ask for what we really want. Without recognizing one’s Superpower (the mix of passion, purpose, resilience and kinetic audacity), I’ve witnessed individuals who hesitate to claim the job promotion, who don’t ask for an exciting project, or fear leaving for a better professional opportunity because somewhere within themselves, they don’t fully believe they “have it.”
As a Chinese-American immigrant woman, I know first hand how hard it has been to recognize my Superpower. My husband would say I’m still in process, though it’s the closest I’ve come. While the Chinese culture has beautiful aspects that embrace family and duty, it diminishes uniqueness in individuals and expects its women to be silent and obedient. Having always questioned, challenged and asked, I’ve never felt fully comfortable being a Chinese woman. As an Asian-American female in the US, whether as a student or a professional, power and authority have never been ascribed to me. It has always been earned, with hard work and consistent asking. Having lived the experience of a Power Culture Outsider (visible outsider status through gender, race, national origin) and knowing how we’ve been acculturated to deny to ourselves our Greatness and our Superpower, I lament that many of us have not risen to meet our truest potential. Historically, we have been expected to be grateful to have something and that we need to wait to be bestowed the opportunity for something better, by someone who knows better. The audacity to ask can and have been dangerous for those who have taken such actions in the past. So we wait. While life ticks on. While we see others equally or lesser qualified excel past us.
I say, be audacious.
The time is now. We’ve never lived in as good as time as now, to see, bid and demand for an opportunity to exercise our Superpower and choose to be Alive. Alive with passion and purpose. Alive to express our Whole and Best Self. Alive to live our Dream.
If you want to go for what you want, get what you deserve and experience what you’ve long dreamt in 2020, I invite you to reframe “you and the future.” Perhaps to see clearly toward what’s ahead, it may be wise for you take pause and reflect on your collective life experience to-date.
Recognize your Superpower. Be patient and persistent in your search.
When you see it, Believe it. Take a deep breath and accept that You created your Greatness. In time, I hope you will open yourself to Celebrate it. Then I hope you’ll be courageous and audacious enough to OWN IT.
IT will catapult you toward living your most beautifully imagined version of your Whole and Best Self.
The Time is Now. Be Audacious.