The Think Smaller Blog is an eight-part editorial series that strives to change the world by empowering anyone to take small, yet potent actions in their community. Taken collectively, we believe these changes can add up to make an incredible difference. Check back every Monday for the latest update.

Your Hidden Super Power

Have you ever thought about how amazing it would be to have a superpower?

Maybe you wish you could fly like Superman. Or that you had the strength of the Incredible Hulk, the speed of the Flash, or the invisibility of Dr. Strange. Whatever comes to mind, it’s safe to say that everyone — at one time or another — has felt limited by their mere mortal abilities.

We wish we could do more. We wish we could be more. We wish we could make a difference.

Imagine all the good that would come with our special powers: We would fight injustice. We would be champions for all that is right and fair. World hunger would no longer be an issue. World peace would be possible. And there would finally be an end to the pain and suffering millions of people go through every day.

We wish, we dream, and we imagine… But alas, our grandiose fantasies are grounded by the overwhelming weight of our limitations.

We succumb to — and begrudgingly make peace with — the bland reality that superpowers are something you read about in comics or see in moves. They’re not something that could ever happen in real life.

But what if they could? What if human beings were already gifted with an incredible superpower? One that gives each and every one of us the ability to change the world for the better — if only it were fostered, cultivated and harnessed.

Your skepticism is forgiven. Though I do hope you’ll keep an open mind. Because there is indeed a potent and world-changing skill ever at our fingertips.

And that skill, in a word, is empathy.

The Power of Perspective

Don’t roll your eyes just yet. Because empathy doesn’t get anywhere near the credit it deserves. Especially considering just how amazing of a gift it is.

You were born with an incredible ability to place yourself in the mind and body of every other person on earth. You have the power to see what they see, to feel what they feel, and to hypothetically make decisions using only the resources they have available.

When you cultivate empathy, you have the power to change your entire outlook. You can cultivate a bounty kindness and compassion you didn’t think was possible. You can restrain your rush to judgement. You can understand why people think the things they do, do the things they do, and get stuck in the cycle of the seemingly poor or irresponsible decisions they make.

Have you ever watched a video where someone gets hit in the gut? Did you feel your abdominal muscles tighten in response? Was it almost as if you, too, got the wind knocked out of you? That is empathy at work.

Have you ever seen a homeless man panhandling while you’re walking down an inner city street and found yourself pondering the traumatic experiences that must have lead him to the constant loneliness, desperation, and anxiety he must be feeling? Empathy again!

Or have you listened to a friend talk about a moment of loss and felt your eyes well up with tears, even though your only connection to their grief is the love you have for them? That is empathy in perhaps its most precious form. A beautiful connection is bridged the moment their pain becomes your own. It is worth its weight in gold.

When you make the conscious effort to cultivate empathy in your life, you can literally watch the world change around you. Serendipity becomes your modus operandi. You begin to see opportunities for innovation that were previously invisible. You stumble across circumstances where you already have all the power required to make a meaningful impact.

Perhaps most importantly, you encourage others to practice empathy as well. And this leads to more kindness, deeper compassion, and a more interconnected world.

Want to make the world a better place? Harness your power for empathy. Use it for good. And inspire others to do the same.


Jake Shapka is the Coordinator of Brand & Culture integration at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre. He holds a degree in Communications Studies from the University of Calgary and is passionate about inspiring communities to come together to create a world where everyone feels a sense of purpose, connection, and belonging. You can find him on Twitter by following @jakeshapka.