Have you ever experienced that moment when you felt as if you were doing EXACTLY what you were born to do? You know, that incredible moment where your purpose and your impact feels like such a privilege and everything you’re doing feels like an amazing gift to the world.
In these moments, we’re actually in what Gay Hendricks calls our zone of genius. You might be asking yourself, ‘What is your zone of genius’? Your zone of genius is your unique power. Your zone of genius is the sweet spot between the things you love to do and the things that embody your brilliance and expertise. It’s when your innate talents and your purpose come together. When you find yourself in the middle of these two, you’re doing exactly what you were born to do. You’ll create the best work of your life, and the best part is that it won’t even feel like work. Your zone of genius makes you unstoppable! Sounds incredible, right?
So, let’s explore the zone of genius further. Gay Hendricks identified four different zones of function in his book, The Big Leap. There are four zones of function.
The incompetence zone;
The competence zone;
The excellence zone; and
The genius zone.
The incompetence zone is when you’re doing something that you’re not good at and you don’t enjoy. Several years ago, I tried snowboarding with my boys. I did everything to learn how to snowboard including taking multiple lessons, practicing, and getting back up after every painful fall. After a couple of years, I realized that I’m just not good at snowboarding and that I really didn’t enjoy it. That’s when I switched to skiing.
The competence zone is when you’re good at what you’re doing, but it isn’t fulfilling. In my 20 years in the workforce, I’ve noticed a pattern that every 3 years or so, I get a little bit antsy in my current role and start to search for new opportunities. For me, it’s usually tied to my mastery of my role and feeling unfulfilled or not challenged by my work anymore. Have you ever experienced the same thing? Like most of us, we want to do both things we’re good at and things that fulfill us.
The excellence zone is when you are extremely good at your work, but you don’t really enjoy it due to some sort of lack, such as creativity. When I was in high school, I was a talented artist who enjoyed doing pencil drawings and watercolor paintings. During my college years, I lost my drive and creativity to continue with my artistry. This past year, I found my creative talents again, and I’m truly enjoying creating beautiful masterpieces in all modalities.
The genius zone is when you love what you are doing and you are good at it. You are in a place of pure joy, high energy, and growth. You capitalize on your natural abilities which are innate, rather than learned. This is the state in which you get into true flow, find endless inspiration, and seem to manifest work that is distinguished and unique. You excel far beyond what anyone else is doing, and no one does it quite like you. My genius is helping highly driven women learn tools and techniques to help them get freedom from self-doubt, achieve more, and level up their life and business. I absolutely love seeing women step into their personal power, become the best versions of themselves, and achieve their wildest dreams. When I’m in my zone of genius, I’m vibrant, unapologetic, and truly happy.
There’s two essential components to wholly and fully living in your zone of genius -- your genius and your purpose. Your genius is thinking or problem solving that you’re best at; it’s what allows you to be challenged in the best way possible. Your purpose is the impact on the world and others that’s most meaningful to you.
Let’s first dive into your genius and then we’ll talk more about aligning with your purpose.
So, how do you identify your zone of genius? To help you discover your zone of genius, you can download the FREE worksheets at theredtulip.com/freegems. The FREE downloadable worksheets will help guide you through this powerful and insightful exercise.
1. Set aside time for self-reflection. It’s important to frequently check-in and ask yourself questions like, ‘What’s really important to me, and Why’? Or, ‘when do I feel most alive and energized’? Or, ‘how can I use my talents and gifts to impact my family, business, culture, and community’?
Whether it’s journaling, meditating, or walking in nature, setting aside time for self-reflection helps us cultivate the discipline that allows us to tap into our personal zone of genius.
The best way to do this is to think of 3-5 situations in which you were “in the zone” or “in flow”. Write down in excruciating detail what was going on with your thoughts and behavior. Then, look for patterns within these examples. What’s the common thinking or behavior that you were doing?
2. Consciously experiment and collect data points. Experimentation is essential for innovation and creativity. Trying different things stimulates our creativity and allows us to capture data points that tell us what we like and don’t like, what we’re good at or not so good at, and what makes us light up or completely drains our energy.
I’m willing to bet that your business or career is significantly different now than it was when you first started. More than likely, you’ve tried many different things to help you discover your passions, interests, and talents. These data points help you determine what you want to do next, who you want to serve, and how you want to do it.
3. Work in a growth environment and surround yourself with great people. You’ll often hear people say that it’s the people they work with that make or break their experiences. That’s why aligning yourself with leaders, managers, and peers who have your best interest at heart and who are dedicated to helping you become the best version of yourself is so incredibly important. When you’re aligned with the right people, you get introduced to more opportunities that may help you discover your zone of genius.
4. Seek opportunities with autonomy. Without autonomy, we tend to lack a greater sense of purpose and meaning in our work, which makes it difficult to tap into our zone of genius. As leaders, we need to give people the structure and framework to perform well in their job while giving them autonomy to try new things. Sometimes people with far less market or industry experience can bring a fresh, new outlook on the workplace. Get excited, embrace new opportunities and figure out what really makes you shine.
Alright, let’s talk about how to identify and align to your purpose now. Your purpose is the thing that lights you up and lets you drive real impact to those around you.
When it comes to aligning with your purpose or meaning, you’re going to have to do some soul-searching. Typically, you find your purpose when you can identify your emotional connection to the experience. Do some soul-searching and identify situations or experiences in which you felt energized or excited and try to identify some themes.
A great tool to help you discover your purpose and meaning is called mind-mapping. A mind map is a graphical way to brainstorm thoughts organically without worrying about order and structure. It allows you to visually structure your ideas and concepts to help with analysis and recall.
Just as in every great idea, its power lies in its simplicity.
In a mind map, as opposed to traditional note taking or a linear text, information is structured in a way that resembles much more closely how your brain actually works. Since it is an activity that is both analytical and artistic, it engages your brain in a much, much richer way, helping in all its cognitive functions. And, best of all, it is fun!
Let’s walk through how to create a mind map. You can get the FREE downloadable mind map template at theredtulip.com/freegems. Utilize this example as a reference tool to help you create your own personal mind map.
1. Begin with the main concept. First determine the main purpose of your mind map and write it down. Since mind maps start from the inside and expand outward, your central idea will become the core topic of the diagram. Your main concept could be:
A problem you’re trying to work through;
The project you’re brainstorming; or
A difficult concept that you’re trying to learn.
2. Add branches to the main concept. Now that you have determined the main purpose of your mind map, add branches that will outline the most basic subtopics. The branches should help you to begin organizing the information. Don’t worry about including a lot of details, keywords, and short phrases will be more than enough.
3. Explore topics by adding more branches. Once you have identified the main subjects within your topics, add more shapes until you run out of valuable information. Make sure that you continue to organize your information with the most important things closer to the main concept shape, and the more specific details further away.
4. Add images and colors. Maintain organization within your mind map by using standard colors for the different levels of thoughts within your diagram. Using images will help you to both visualize and memorize the various parts of your mind map. Images can also be used to link shapes instead of the traditional box shape.
Okay! Now that you’ve identified your genius using the worksheets and you’ve aligned to your purpose using the mind map tool, it’s time to start to integrate them into your work. Re-prioritize your workload to focus on the tasks that you’re really good at and you’re energized by and outsource or delegate the rest. Figure out the impact that you’re having on others and find ways to increase your impact over time.
But, you can’t just stop there. The only way to truly live in your zone of genius is to build the genius habit. Once you start operating in your zone of genius, you’ll see just how powerful it is and want to operate within it all the time. Start tracking your time spent on activities that fit within your zone of genius. This allows you to be strategic about how you’re spending your time and ensures you’re building habits that support your zone of genius.
Imagine waking up every day in your zone of genius. Ask yourself the following questions: ‘Who would you be as the highest performing individual you could be and how would your organization or business benefit’? ‘What if your co-workers were performing at that level as well’? ‘What goals for work would you accomplish’?
Start with devoting 10 minutes a day to cultivating your genius. The ten minutes can involve journaling, mediating, or any number of other activities, as long as you are focusing on your zone of genius for that 10 minutes. After you master 10 minutes a day, bump it up to 15 minutes a day. Ultimately, you should be spending 90% of your time in your zone of genius, but you’ve got to start somewhere and that’s why 10 minutes a day is a good place to start. Before you know it, you’ll be operating in your zone of genius the majority of your day.
What I want you to know and what I want you to remember is that your zone of genius begins with you. Your zone of genius is your unique power that only you can offer and deliver to others. It’s the sweet spot between the things that you are most talented and capable of doing and the things that most fulfill you. It’s where you shine bright when you are at your best. Ultimately, harnessing your zone of genius helps you reach your true and highest potential and leads to greater joy, freedom, and satisfaction.