Getting the Most Out of Your Reversible Cape

Do you know about Coursera? For a lifelong learner and compulsive resource-gatherer like me, it's like being in a bookstore and having someone tell me I can have all the books I want, for free.

Oh wait, that's a library, and I already go to one religiously.

Here's another analogy: it's like being able to pick any course you want out of a catalog, and audit it for free – online, at your own pace, and in the comfort of your own home (or the beach, or wherever).

Oh wait, that's not an analogy ... that's exactly what Coursera is.

I'm currently taking three courses on Coursera: one based on Barbara Oakley's book Mindshift, about maximizing learning, and two on Martin Seligman's work in Positive Psychology. The latter not only fits in with my work in strengths-based coaching, but also helps me in my own life. My desire is to always focus on the positive, and I do always see the positive possibilities and potential ... in others. That's always been my superpower. (More on superpowers below.) But for myself ... well, I'm half Sicilian, and I always say that the biggest oxymoron is "Sicilian optimist." The other half is Jewish, so you could say that I got a genetic/cultural double whammy of worry. What to do about that? Well, for one, dive into Positive Psychology!

It's eye-opening and thought-provoking.

In Week One of my course "Positive Psychology: Applications and Interventions," we were presented with the following situation to consider:

A genie gives you the option to choose between two capes, each of which will give you superpowers. You can pick a red cape, which will give you the superpower to fight against things we don't want in the world, such as poverty, injustice, hunger and violence. Or, you can choose a green cape, which will give you the superpower to fight for things we do want in the world, like peace, harmony, justice, etc.

Which would you choose ... and why?

The course goes on to explain that if you had a red cape, you would be able to use your powers to identify, fight against, solve, and even eradicate many problems that we face. On the other hand, if you had a green cape, you would be working toward something positive, planting seeds for new opportunities, and perhaps in some instances even eliminating the need for the red cape altogether. For example, you might come up with a medicine to cure a disease (red cape), whereas if you created more healthy lifestyles for people, they might not ever get that disease in the first place (green cape).

The bottom line is that each has its uses, and the ideal would be to have a reversible cape. You could use the red cape to identify, solve and eliminate problems; you would use the green cape to find opportunities and realize them.

One helps you survive; the other helps you thrive. You need both.

And actually, we all do have that cape, and that capability.* But as humans, most of us are likely to use the red cape much more often than the green cape.

Why? Well, I love this line from the course:

"Problems yell, and opportunities whisper."

And thank goodness that problems yell. If they didn't, and if we didn't have a red cape to react to them, we would not be here as a species. Our innate negativity bias served us well as a species when we needed to foresee and react to problems in order to protect ourselves to survive. It's still important.

But surviving is not the same as thriving. We do need the red side of our cape, but we can't flourish without the green side. The green side opens our eyes and minds and hearts, and creates possibilities for the future, for growth, for connection, for inspiration, for learning, for making our impact, for creating the life we want to live.

I'm looking forward to learning more about strengthening my green side and using it more as the course moves on.

In the meantime ... how are you supporting your green side, so your opportunities can soar?

*(Sorry, I can't stop myself from making the pun, "cape-ability!" ... but at least I left it for the footnote ...)

Ruth Kunstadter, MA, BCC works with career changers and other individuals who want to connect to their purpose and potential, and to create more self-care, balance, and fulfillment in their personal and professional lives. Find out more about creating your best "what's next" at or by emailing Ruth at