You are beautifully unique, and when you know your zone of genius, you can really start to live the life of fulfilment you want. You’ll have clarity about what you want from life and get in touch with who you really are.
Because being in the zone helps you better understand who you really are. Here you truly shine. You:
- radiate your own form of brilliance
- find it super easy to produce work that others will look at in wonder
- are in the flow, time whizzes by, and you feel happily fulfilled
But, first, a little background on the model.
What It Means To Be In Your Zone Of Genius
The zone represents the meeting point between your strengths and your purpose. With these two things combined, you become more confident and do something that you find both fulfilling and rewarding. Ultimately you are getting to the core of who you are.
The Origins Of The Zone Of Genius
The model was first introduced by Gay Hendricks in his book The Big Leap.
The theory behind the zone of genius is that you operate from your strengths and weaknesses all the time. So whilst you can get positive outcomes despite your weaknesses, it's better to create outcomes from your strengths. Because when you work from your strengths, you feel a lot happier and more fulfilled. Therefore, knowing your zones can help.
But sometimes, you have to go through different stages to get to the heart of your own true genius.
The zones represented in Hendricks' book are
- Zone of incompetence
- Zone of competence
- Zone of excellence
- Zone of genius
The four zones provide a spectrum from which you operate, ranging from incompetence to happy genius!
The Four Zones
The easiest way to relate to the different zones is to think about the last time you started a new job.
You are recruited because of your ability to do the job in question, probably because of your past experience. Yet when you join a new company, you suddenly find that you are incompetent, which can cause you to doubt your own abilities. But, the reason for this is that you're getting to grips with new systems and processes. Different ways of doing things that are perhaps alien to you.
As your length of service increases, so does your ability to understand how things work, so you become more competent. With more experience and training (or even practice), you become excellent at what you do. However, you are still finding your way forward.
You may get to the point where the job is relatively easy to do, but you are not enjoying it. Again, this is an indication you’re not working in line with your purpose. The work doesn’t fulfil you in a way you hoped it would.
But, if you are enjoying it, you ultimately reach the zone of genius where the job becomes easier. However, the challenge can still be there, but rather than fear it, you revel in it. You instinctively know what needs to be done and can demonstrate to others your expertise.
At this point, others will seek your knowledge and be keen to learn from you, and let’s face it, salary reviews are a lot more positive!
But let's dive into the different zones in detail.
The zone of incompetence
Let's be honest here. There are some things we're simply no good at. Whether it's lack of knowledge or having two left feet, sometimes we are incompetent. Unfortunately, operating in this zone typically feels like weakness is everywhere.
When you operate in this zone, it can feel like your working hard and yet still struggling. The phrase wading through treacle comes to mind. You are as far as it’s possible to be from your zone of genius. But, the reasons behind this may be because you're trying to learn a new skill set or beginning something new, something you've not ever tried before.
The biggest differentiator is:
- As a newbie – you're entirely new to something and learning about it, which is excellent, or you are
- A round peg in a square hole – not so great
Sometimes being in the zone of incompetence is part of the journey. When we learn something new everyday we expand our minds. Sometimes it's an indicator that you're not suited to something. If it’s the latter, it would be better to focus on something you have a better ability for.
Whilst it’s great to try new things, be conscious about the impact of doing something that remains continually difficult. For a start, it can destroy any confidence you have. Sadly when we feel incompetent in one area, it has a knock-on effect with other areas. Secondly, it can make you deeply unhappy.
The zone of competence
Sometimes we have enough ability to get by.
Ok, this doesn’t mean you are awful at something, but you’re far from being in your zone of genius. The zone of competence is where you operate from average ability. You certainly aren't weak, but you’re not exactly crushing it either. Your ability matches most people in efficiency, but it wouldn't necessarily be considered a strength.
The zone of competence can include a lot of the routine functions we undertake.
For example, you might be a competent cook if you follow a recipe carefully, but you can't create a dish from scratch.
You can mow the lawn but wouldn't know a flower from a weed! Ha, says the woman who spent a whole day weeding a rockery at my parent's house only later to discover that I'd destroyed a herb garden!
In many ways, a level of competence is vital for a wide variety of daily living tasks. Still, it's not one of your strengths. You have enough to get by to function correctly without damaging either yourself or anyone else who happens to be nearby.
The zone of excellence
The zone of excellence is often mistaken for the zone of genius, but it's slightly different. In this zone, you can include tasks and characteristics that are definitely strengths but not necessarily innate strengths.
These strengths tend to be built over time by repeatedly doing them. I read somewhere that if you do something competently around ten thousand times, you can be considered an expert.
The repetition develops strength in that particular area, but it isn't indicative of your inner genius.
Whilst it’s great to be in this zone, it does require a lot of hard work to get good at it. But that in itself can be stressful. Also, you need to have some level of competency to start with because without that initial competency, you can practice all you like but still not improve.
AKA: The Danger Zone
This can be the danger zone and where other people think you belong. Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean that it is what your primary purpose is. We can get good at something, but if you’re not enjoying it, then there’s a problem. The work can leave you feeling unfulfilled, or you feel as if you are just going through the motions.
Either way, you are not happy doing the job you’re doing.
The zone of genius
Here we come to your unique place to shine where your strengths and natural gifts are given life.
In this zone, your abilities are effortless. You don’t have to work hard; things come easy to you. The zone of genius is the place you go when you get lost in your favourite activity and lose track of time.
The things you long to do when you have free time fall into this zone. Where your activities, behaviours, traits, and abilities leave people in awe of your genius. Primarily because you perform at a level above everyone else, without seeming to try.
You get terrific results, with less effort.
If you’ve ever heard of the phrase, get in the flow – this is what they are talking about.
We’re All On The Spectrum
There’s no denying that we all fall on a spectrum of ability. Hendricks' zones can help us identify where we are and help us get into the zone of flow. But, it’s essential to recognize each stage.
You can be good at something, and everyone around you will encourage you to get better at whatever it is. But, if you aren’t happy or just trying to please other people, you’re not making the most of your talents and abilities.
What it comes down to is this. You are not creating a life of your own design but are influenced by those around you. When this happens, we slowly lose touch with ourselves and become something we’re not.
So living in your zone of genius is paramount.