I first heard about the concept of the “genius zone” at the end of last year and was immediately hooked. The genius zone, described by author Gay Hendricks in his book “The Big Leap,” is when you are able to capitalize on your innate abilities and talents, rather than those that are learned. When we are activating our genius zone, we are typically in a state referred to as flow: inspiration floods, we up-level our creativity, and we create in a way that exceeds what anyone else is doing.
But here’s the catch. Even though the genius zone is where we are at our highest level of brilliance, most of us spend our least amount of time there, instead frequenting three other zones:
- Incompetence Zone: When you are engaging with something you innately do not understand nor are you skilled at.
- Competence Zone: You are doing things you are proficient at but not in a way that is remarkable or unique, thereby not distinguishing yourself.
- Excellence Zone: You are doing things at which you are tremendously gifted. In this zone, you are practicing, developing and establishing your innate talents over time.
On any given day, most successful people are operating in their zone of excellence. We are doing things that we are good at, even things at which we are excellent. Many things can fall into our Excellence Zone as we are capable of being great at a lot! Someone’s list, for example, might include analysis, strategic thinking, linguistics, and basketball, while someone else’s might include writing, public speaking and entrepreneurship.
Take a moment and write down a few things on your list. It will likely be a mixture of things that come up in your profession, hobbies, and personal endeavors.
While time spent in our Excellence Zone is undoubtedly better than the Incompetence and Competence zones, it is still not nearly as powerful as our Genius Zone. What’s more, the Excellence Zone is capable of playing tricks on us, lulling us into the complacency that comes from continuing to do things we are good at, instead of stretching to something greater. It’s why far too many people end up in jobs they are good at, versus jobs that they love.
The difference between successful people and highly successful people, argues Hendricks, are those who stretch to their Genius Zone. This is the zone where you dare to create something that literally no one else on the planet can deliver because you are tapping into unique talents that only you possess.
“Your zone of genius is where the magic happens, where you become so excited by your mission you can’t wait to get out of bed. It’s when you create a career or business that is uniquely expressing your true gifts.” – Hendricks
On the easiest days—when everything is going right—our Genius Zone can still feel hard to grasp. But when our back are against the wall and our scarcity mindset creeps in—hello COVID-19—our Genius Zone can feel farther out of reach than ever before.
Related Read: Growth in an Uncertain Economy
Over the past few weeks, most of us have been stuck in limbo, vacillating between fight, flight and freeze. We are contending with regular occurrences of the “amygdala hijack” in which our amygdala—the part of our brain in charge of activating our fight-flight-freeze response—disables our frontal lobes so that we loose the ability to make rational decisions, think clearly and control our responses (more on that here). Given our current mental anguish, it can feel unrealistic to think that we are even capable of activating our Genius Zone, let alone our Excellence Zone.
But ironically, it’s our Genius Zone that we need most. The world we find ourselves in today looks nothing like it did 60 days ago. The innovations that we thought would make a mark may be wholly missing the mark now. In short, everything we potentially knew about how to successfully run our businesses and teams can feel out of touch and ineffective.
It’s our Genius Zone that will get us through this.
That will determine how to best position our businesses to thrive during an incredibly uncertain time.
That will pinpoint new products and offerings to create that are actually needed right now.
That will determine how to coach our team through unthinkable hardship.
That will spark new modes for engaging with clients.
That will find the answers to business challenges that we have never before faced.
Some of us spend our whole lives, barely scratching the surface on our Genius Zone. Instead, we opt for the comfort of our Excellence Zone, particularly when it comes to how we run our businesses. But if the last 60 days have demonstrated anything, it’s that our ability to innovate, evolve and disrupt is paramount to not only moving forward, but continuing to succeed.
To activate your Genius Zone, I have found these tips helpful:
- Think about the last time you lost hours—even minutes—of a day doing something you truly love. Hint: the words “I was in the zone” may pop into your mind when thinking about something that stimulates you in a way that your Excellence Zone does not.
- Consider what overlaps. A great way to find your Genius Zone is to write down a bunch of things that fall into your Excellence Zone and consider what genius might spark at the point of intersection of two, three or four of these things. For me, my Genius Zone is activated when I combine these circles of my Excellence Zone: Relationships, Entrepreneurship and Branding.
- Pay attention to how different tasks feel. Some tasks, especially those in one’s job, will feel mundane to you… even if you are excellent at them. Other components of your job might feel exhilarating, bringing the most fulfilled, stimulated version of you. Sit with these emotions. They serve as clues as to what constitutes your genius.
As you start thinking about your Genius Zone, chat with others about what is coming up for you. Sometimes, it’s our friends and colleagues that can spot moments of our genius even more than we can in ourselves.
Here’s to us all finding our Genius!
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