Are You Working in Your Zone of Genius?

One of five Genius Questions from The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks

I want you to make the Big Leap into your Zone of Genius. I’ve found an exhilaration there — a constant sense of purposeful joy — that nothing else can compare to. In your Zone of Genius, though the time you spend there produces great financial abundance, you do not feel that you are expending effort to produce it. In your Zone of Genius, work doesn’t feel like work.

The bridge to your Zone of Genius is a set of questions to ask yourself. Actually, ask doesn’t quite capture the flavor of how I want you to use the questions. I want you to wonder about them. To wonder about something is to explore with an open mind and an open heart. Wonder is defined as “amazed admiration,” so be sure to do your wondering with the attitude that your discoveries will be amazing and admirable.

Here’s one of the five Genius Questions:

In my work, what produces the highest ratio of abundance and satisfaction to amount of time spent? (Even if I do only ten seconds or a few minutes of it, an idea or a deeper connection may spring forth that leads to huge value.)

Over and over I hear executives complain, “If I could just sit in my office and think for an hour without being interrupted, I could produce amazing results.”
I promise you, there is some essential aspect of the work you do that produces the greatest payoff. Perhaps it’s simply picking up the phone and having a certain kind of conversation with a key person.

Some years ago I worked with Nancy, a woman who had a burning desire to write mystery novels. She also had three kids, a husband, and a big commitment to her church and community. Nancy had published one novel that did well enough to make the publisher want more, but not well enough for her to hire household help or a personal assistant.
In our first and only session, I asked Nancy to describe how she spent her day. She told me that after getting her kids and husband off to work, she straightened up the house and took care of stuff like paying bills and making grocery lists. Then, she said, “if I’ve got any energy left, I sit down and write for an hour or two. If not, I take a nap and try to write for an hour or so before the kids start coming home.”

I summarized Nancy’s priorities, based on how she spent her day. “Your family is your highest priority, right?” She agreed. “Your second priority is housework and infrastructure, and your third priority is writing.”

“No!” she exclaimed. “Writing is much higher priority than housework and that sort of thing.” I pointed out that if that were true, she would do her writing before she did the house related things. Her reply was the key to resolving the whole issue. She said, “But I can’t sit down to write unless I’ve got a clean house and things taken care of.”

“Sure, you can,” I said. “You just think you have to get that other stuff done first. Where did you get an idea like that?”

“But what if my husband came back from work and found a dirty house and me sitting up there writing?” she said.

“He’d find a wife who put a higher priority on her creative expression than she did on keeping the house clean. Do you think he’d be upset about that?”

“Not really,” she said. “I think he’d actually like it.”

As our conversation developed, it became clear that she was holding herself hostage to housework because she'd reached an Upper Limit (read more about this in my book The Big Leap). Nancy’s unconscious mind had constructed a doom scenario of what would occur if she went all the way into her Zone of Genius. In her imagination, if she put her full attention into her writing, she’d neglect her family, and they would languish in the absence of her attention.

Nancy began to see the absurdity of that way of thinking. She also discovered the real fear that was underneath it all: that if she made a big commitment to her creativity, she might fail on a bigger scale. If she stayed small, she could avoid the possibility of big rejection.

As we wound up our session, I gave Nancy a homework assignment: For one week, sit down and write before doing any of the house-related tasks. It took her many weeks to get her literary life up to a higher priority than her domestic chores. There were more than a few days when she fell back into the old pattern, but over the next year she was able to move her creative activities up to where they belonged on her priority list.

***

For many years now, I’ve spent at least an hour every day meditating and letting my mind roam freely. Setting aside time to do this every day is a practical way to make good on my commitment to one of my highest-priority activities.

Whatever your work is that produces the greatest abundance and satisfaction, I want you to find it, and I want you to put the highest priority on doing some of it every day.


The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks From The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks. © 2009 Gay Hendricks. Republished courtesy HarperOne®, a trademark of HarperCollins Publishers.

 

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