Each of us has something we love to do that doesn’t feel like work at all. When we are engaged in this activity, it is easy to lose track of time or forget to eat. When others tell us we are especially talented in this area, we may find it hard to believe because it comes so naturally to us that we imagine it must be easy and enjoyable for everyone.
Humans operate in four main “zones”. These are Incompetence, Competence, Excellence, and Genius. Let’s take a look at what each of these encompasses. Hopefully, you are spending the majority of your time in your areas of excellence and genius.
Incompetence These are activities we don’t like and are not good at. It doesn't make any sense to spend much time in this zone. These things are better left to hire out or delegate.
Competence These are things we can do but don’t enjoy. This is an area where you can handle the task adequately. It is something you are ok at (and could probably even teach someone else to do) but many other people can do it far better with less effort, and it doesn’t bring you any joy.
Excellence These are activities that come easily, that you are really good at and are enjoyable to a degree. For example, if organizing comes naturally to you, you may find it is very easy to find employment as a project manager. You may even like it enough to make it a career, but if it is not where you love spending all of your time, and it doesn’t feed your soul, this is your zone of excellence but not your zone of genius.
Genius These are things that come easily to you, that you excel at, and bring you a lot of joy. Others recognize your talent in this area, and most people can’t do it the way you do. My daughter is currently going to school for Directing in New York and absolutely loves all aspects of it. Not only does she excel at it, she also loves all of the parts that others find daunting or tedious. She thoroughly enjoys the process from beginning to end. From character analysis to lighting cues, she doesn’t mind the hours of preparation before rehearsals start, the weeks of long rehearsals or the late nights. This is where she shines and loses track of time. It is her happy place, her genius zone.
“The biggest mistake people make in life is not trying to make a
living at doing what they most enjoy.”
~Malcolm Forbes Entrepreneur, Publisher of Forbes Magazine
How can you find your genius zone? Answer the following questions to help you focus and clarify:
1) What is it that friends and family often tell me I am great at (my unique ability)?
This can be a character trait or a talent, I.e.: good listener, kind, compassionate, organized, great singer, cook, painter, writer, great at cleaning, great with animals or children, etc.).
2) What do I really love to do?
You can do this for hours and not get bored or tired.
3) What do others consider “work” that doesn’t seem like work at all to me?
You probably offer to do this for friends and family for free.
4) What was I doing the last time I lost track of time and felt truly alive?
This can be something you were doing at work, at home, or for recreation.
5) What is the one thing that really pushes my buttons?
Is there something that drives you crazy when it’s not done well? When you are hyper-aware of a lack of excellence in a certain area, this is a clue that you have a passion for this area and are most likely really good at it yourself.
Once you have a better understanding of where your genius zone lies, find ways to arrange more and more of your time and activities around it.