“If you were an Avenger, what would your superpower be?”
This is a common question I get from my boys. Like a good mom, I immediately delve into my imagination but nevertheless come up with an unoriginal answer like “fly”, “read minds” or “be invisible.”
What I never contemplated is that maybe I actually have a superpower. Maybe you don’t have to be an Avenger but just a normal human being. In fact, I think we all have a few superpowers. Today, let’s dive into superpower number one – TRUST.
I first discovered the real power of trust when I had no other choice. I was in the hospital, in the ICU. As detailed in Good Morning, Life!, it was not long after the birth of my first son. Without realizing it, I was hanging on to life so tight I could feel it. I can’t remember details as everything was foggy to me at the time. But I remember clearly the moment that I let go. I had a vision. It was a giant hand and there I was, a small figure in the palm of the hand. Instinctively, I knew that I no longer had control. I metaphorically curled into a ball and just settled.
I no longer had control, or at least I no longer had the illusion of control. My body and soul sighed with relief as if a huge weight, one that had been with me for as long as I can remember, just lifted away. Up, up, and away it went. Peace fell over me.
The Illusion of Control
The experience made me realize the weight I put on myself daily as if I’m a puppeteer, not only responsible for my own life but that of others around me. The responsibility for results at my work, for the health and well-being of myself and my family. For being a good friend and making others around me happy. At that moment, the realization sunk in that I couldn’t completely control any of it, other than my own actions.
Indeed, while my actions and decisions influence things in my life, my very life is ultimately beyond my control. After all, I am just a small part of the world around me. I am not the Master of the Universe. And this is how I came to understand the superpower of Trust.
Trust as a Superpower
I had to trust the world around me; trust the doctors; trust that things would go the way they are meant to go. Once I settled into this new realization, that’s when I started to understand the superpower that it is for happiness.
I don’t have to take everything and everyone so seriously. I can trust that people are doing the best that they can. This makes me less judgmental. And happier.
I don’t have to take myself and every decision I make so seriously. I can feel confident and at ease just by trusting in myself and knowing that I’m doing the best that I can. That also makes me happier.
I don’t have to worry so much about what will happen in the future, knowing that I don’t control the future. I can trust in the flow of life around me. This makes me happier too.
The importance of trust extends readily to other facets of my life, including as a leader, partner and parent.
The Importance of Trust for Leaders
You know something is important when it keeps coming up time and again.
Over the last five years, I have had the opportunity to take a number of different leadership courses. My organization was building an in-house Leadership Development Program and I got to be the guinea pig. There was one consistent theme in every single course – trust is vital for effective leadership and teams. Trust is a key factor in high-performing teams, as Jim Ware from Focus Consulting Group (FCG) summarizes so eloquently in his article Trust: The Performance Platform. In fact, it’s so crucial he wrote a follow-up article, Treat Trust Issues Like Kitchen Fires, where he provides guidance with a handy framework for dealing with trust issues immediately if they arise.
I’ve seen firsthand the power, effectiveness and ease with which work gets done when there are high levels of trust. Our jobs can be much easier than they sometimes seem when we tap into trust and enjoy the flow that follows. Problems get solved quickly because information is shared readily, and creative solutions arise amongst team members.
The Importance of Trust in Relationships
Trust is important not just in organizations but in households. Whether it’s trust in my partner or my children, it’s a powerful force in relationships. Because we can’t control the future and we can’t change the past, our best choice for happiness is to live in the present moment. As I’ve already discussed in other blogs, it’s easier said than done. But being present is a key to trusting others. If I am present with another person then I don’t worry about that person’s future behaviour and whether I can trust them. This leads to implicit trust in the people around me. I can’t know what the future holds anyway, so I may as well trust. This makes people feel valued and guess what? When trusted, people tend to act in more trustworthy ways. This reciprocal nature is highlighted well by Dennis Jaffe in his article, The Essential Importance of Trust.
Now, just to be clear, I’m not talking about blind trust. I get it, unfortunately, there are people who act in untrustworthy ways out there. As with most things in life, we need balance. Prudy Gourguechon discusses this aptly from a leadership perspective in her article, Why Inspiring Trust And Trusting Others Are Essential Leadership Capacities (Within Bounds). An important part of finding this balance comes from knowing myself and my biases. We all have unconscious biases, as I’m learning from some great Diversity and Inclusion sessions we’ve recently had at my work.
And that brings me to the importance of trusting myself as a key driver for my happiness.
As I practise mindfulness and get to know myself better, I find that I can more closely feel and trust my instincts. I know what my body needs, whether it’s rest, exercise or food. I know when I get a spidey sense that something is not right and I should be questioning things. When I trust myself and follow my instincts, I find life has a flow and ease. Happiness emerges. Just like that.
Trust is a hidden superpower for happiness, as humans we all possess it. We just need to tap into it. Let go and trust the universe, each other, our colleagues and most importantly trust ourselves.
Let Go. Presence. Balance
Watch out for the next blog to discover another happiness superpower we possess as humans.