Photo: Mackenzie Stroh
I should explain why I was so excited, because articulating it might help you discover your own superpowers. Jane's skating was a perfect example of something I call the R2-D2 effect. R2-D2 was the normally obedient little robot in Star Wars who suddenly "malfunctioned" to deliver a secret message. This is how our superpowers often show up. It may happen to you in large ways or small; you're just puttering along, then unexpectedly find yourself studying Turkish or buying jodhpurs or moving onto a houseboat. It just seems to happen, the way your heart beats and later your mind notices.
Try making a list of times you had the R2-D2 impulses. (My list includes majoring in Chinese, writing my first book, and beginning to coach.) Focusing on such events will help trigger your superpowers. That's what happened to Jane.
"So," I said, "how does skating make you feel?"
"Well, sometimes awful—it's really hard. But sometimes I get into this zone.... It's like my mind disappears, and I can fly."
At this point, I was done discussing Jane's aspirations for "achievement." She was achieving beautifully at work and in her relationships, but they weren't the crucial elements of her life right now. Skating, which liberated her body and soul, was.
"This is wonderful!" I exulted.
"Really?" Jane sounded confused. "But I'm no good, I'm too old. It's ridiculous."
"What could be more important than learning to fly?"
I'm continually amazed by the fact that people trash their treasures this way. Our minds fix on socially defined "achievements," but our real triumphs often happen when an R2-D2 impulse yanks us right off our rails and into rapture.
I don't know exactly what role skating will play in Jane's life. Sure, it'll keep her fit and produce neurochemicals that will continue to make her happy. But more important, skating happens to be the trigger that sets Jane's superself loose. When she skates, she becomes a conduit from the realm of pure joy into the realm of human experience. That's why it's so valuable—not to land Jane a part in the Ice Capades but to open the door to rapture, which she'll then learn to find in many other ways.
If you, like Jane, feel you haven't done enough, achieved enough, become enough, you won't fix the problem by doing more. You'll need to drop the perceptual lens that says, "Impressing others will make me happy." A joyful life isn't about others; it's about the brightness that is associated with being alive. Your path to it is through anything that replaces thinking with pure flight, pure joy. True, following the R2-D2 response will put you into position to do mighty deeds. But that's a by-product of embracing joy, whether it comes from skating, quilting, or pickle-making.
We Hear You!