Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour

Ep. #80 Breaking into Your Zone of Genius

March 13, 2024 Jean Balfour Season 3 Episode 80
Ep. #80 Breaking into Your Zone of Genius
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
More Info
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
Ep. #80 Breaking into Your Zone of Genius
Mar 13, 2024 Season 3 Episode 80
Jean Balfour

I'd love to hear any questions or comments you have about the show. Send me a message! Jean

Today’s episode is inspired by Marianne Williamson and Gay Hendricks. Jean Balfour shares insights and experiences on overcoming self-imposed limitations to embrace our true potential. Join us as we navigate the zones of incompetence, competence, excellence, and ultimately, genius, uncovering how to push ourselves out of our limiting beliefs of what we can't do!

Recommended book reading: The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level

Experience an Introduction to our Coach Training Programmes with our Free Taster Course: https://courses.baileybalfour.com/course/coach-training-introduction

Sign up to our newsletter to learn more about upcoming programmes: https://baileybalfour.com/subscribe/

Show Notes Transcript

I'd love to hear any questions or comments you have about the show. Send me a message! Jean

Today’s episode is inspired by Marianne Williamson and Gay Hendricks. Jean Balfour shares insights and experiences on overcoming self-imposed limitations to embrace our true potential. Join us as we navigate the zones of incompetence, competence, excellence, and ultimately, genius, uncovering how to push ourselves out of our limiting beliefs of what we can't do!

Recommended book reading: The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level

Experience an Introduction to our Coach Training Programmes with our Free Taster Course: https://courses.baileybalfour.com/course/coach-training-introduction

Sign up to our newsletter to learn more about upcoming programmes: https://baileybalfour.com/subscribe/

Hi, and welcome to Making Sense of Work. In a slightly different start to this podcast, I'm sharing with you a quote that has inspired me for years. Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We're all meant to shine, as children do. It's not just in some of us. It's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. Some of you will already recognize This quote, it comes from Marianne Williamson from her book Return to Love, and we came to know about it globally because Nelson Mandela included this in his inauguration speech. I believe that she's referring to something that in other language can be called the upper limit problem. The idea that we have a space Self imposed part of us that is unconsciously holding us back. I first learned about this when I read the big leap by Gay Hendricks about three years ago. And in it, he describes two key principles. The first is that we sabotage ourselves from reaching our potential, that we have a self imposed upper limit. The second is that we can move beyond our own self imposed restrictions, we can move beyond our upper limit by understanding something he talks about as our zone of genius and aiming to operate more and more in it. I imagine now that you're thinking zone of genius, I'm, I'm not sure I have one of those, but bear with me as I share a bit more about it. When I first read the book, I completely agreed with the principles. I loved it and I could see why people were talking about it, but I found it really hard to apply in my own working life. I felt that there were too many practical things getting in the way of me even thinking about a zone of genius. I was one of those people who was like, I don't have a zone of genius, and I think I was probably creating my own upper limit, and then I was banging my head on it. But the idea wouldn't go away and I kept seeing his book and his writing everywhere I looked. People were talking about it on podcasts or on blogs and it was mentioned in other books I was reading. And I started following him and his wife Katie a bit and looking into their materials and found I really loved them. So finally, giving in to the nudges. A few months ago, I decided to revisit the book and this time I understood it and I could see how the principles were really helpful to me, to a couple of areas of my working life that I was a bit stuck on. So in this slightly different episode, I'm focusing on some of the core principles from the book and sharing a bit about my perspective on them. And of course, in the 20 or 25 minutes we have here together, I can only scratch the surface of a book that's very rich. So if your interest is curious, I really encourage you to seek out the book and we will put a link in the show notes to it. I'm a self confessed self help junkie. I have read hundreds of self help books over the years, including quite a lot on how to be successful, books like 10X Yourself. And whilst I've found some good insights, I've always found them a bit unrealistic. I'm I felt they weren't really grounded in the reality of day to day life. Even people like Robin Sharma telling us to get up at 5am every day, we would reach our dreams. Even for an early riser like me, it felt unrealistic. I wasn't a monk and I didn't have a Ferrari to sell. I read the 5am club, but I couldn't get with it. I do most of the things he suggests, but 5am felt a stretch too far. As I was thinking about this, pondering it, I was noticing how so many of our self help gurus are telling us how to be, the rules that they think we should live by, and that if we just do what they tell us, we would be happy and successful. But this is really difficult for many of us. In reality, there's usually nuggets. But actually the reality of following a certain path feels really hard or our personal lives or our work situations don't make it possible. And what does this have to do with the upper limit problem? Well, actually, I was experiencing the whole idea of the upper limit problem and the way Gay Hendricks described it a bit differently. It is a self help book. It's a book about how we can break through our upper limits. And there was so much richness in it and so much that I thought actually I can apply and help this. And none of it asks me to get up at 5am. So what is the upper limit problem? Have a think about when you've done really well on a diet and then you find yourself craving an eating cake. Or maybe things are going really well in a relationship and then suddenly an argument erupts. Or your job is going really well and then you say something to upset somebody or you really begin to doubt yourself. You have a deep sense. Of you're not able to do this job. You don't trust your ability to be good in the job. This is a example of what an upper limit might look like. The idea is that we have an unconscious and self imposed limit to what we think is possible for us. That we see happiness and enjoyment and the feeling of success. We see it within our sights. And then we do something that pulls us back from it. We have a level of discomfort and we want to go back towards that discomfort rather than allowing ourselves to move forward to have more fun, to have more love, maybe more happiness, maybe more money or success. And Gay Hendricks makes the connection in the book between this and our willingness to feel good, to have a sense of well being. He asks this question, am I willing to increase the amount of time every day that I feel good inside, and the amount of time that my life goes well? If we are, if I am, if you are willing to increase this, then the question comes, how am I getting in my own way? What might I be doing to stop enjoying more of my life and more of my working life in particular? Am I willing to increase my capacity for happiness in life? I do believe this, that many of us want this, but there's many parts of us holding us back. We've got stories we learned as children, or messages we've internalized as adults. The idea that wanting to live well and happy, for example, that this is not okay, because there is so, so much suffering around us, and I certainly also feel that. But I don't think it has to be this way, and particularly in our working lives, which is an area of our lives that we have at least some control over. And for me, and I hope for you, the question then comes, how can I break through my upper limit to become more of who I believe I can be, to experience more satisfaction, to have more happiness, and to be more fulfilled at work, more successful at work? And how do I overcome the fear associated with it? Because fear is a big part of this. It's holding us back, this fear of who am I to be doing this? How do I work with my self imposed inner limit that says that by holding back, I'll be safe. Maybe we will be safe, but maybe we won't be happy. One way Gay helps us to think about this is to look at the areas that we are functioning in. And I think this has big relevance to us at work. And he describes four levels of functioning. He describes the zone of incompetence, the zone of competence. The zone of excellence and the zone of genius. He suggests that if we find a way to function more and more from our zone of genius, then we are more likely to break through our self limitations. We find ourselves in that zone. We feel liberated. And we feel more able to function. Well, let me explain a bit more about each of these zones. And of course, there's much more about them in the book. As I explain them, I invite you to think about your own working life and think about where you are in each of these zones. What types of roles are you taking in each of these zones? And maybe even do a bit of an assessment for yourself about what percentage of your day is spent in each area. The first one is the zone of incompetence. This is the things that we're not good at. It's not that we're incompetent necessarily, we're not able to do it, but we're just generally not good at it and it doesn't come naturally. So then it involves a lot of effort and we probably make mistakes. I smile when I think about me doing my accounts. I can do them. I do do them. But really somebody else would be better doing them and they wouldn't complain as much as I do about them. And that would be an example of something being in your zone of incompetence. The zone of competence is where we are capable. We can do something and we may or may not like doing it. But we often feel it's easier for us to do it and, and, Particularly if you're a leader or you're working in a team, this might be something that you think, Oh, it's easier for me to do this because if I have to delegate it, then I have to explain it and I can do a good enough job. And we probably get a bit of satisfaction from doing it. We complete it and it gives us that kind of small sense of wellbeing. But usually these are things that others can do well and possibly better than us and we are holding back. We're holding on to them and by holding on to them we're not making space for people to do those things, things that they may be best placed to do. And this brings us on to the zone of excellence. This is something that we do really well. It's often the area that we're earning our living at. We value it. Others value us for it. It's a place where others want us to stay because they see us being really good. I have a personal example of this. I was a good primary school teacher. And when I resigned, a lot of people said to me, but you're really good at this and the kids love you. Love you. And in some ways it would've been easy. Well, maybe not so much for me to stay there, but I had a burning desire for something different. And we may know deep down in this example that we also have a burning desire, that there's more we could be doing. I think many, many of us are functioning in this space, in this zone of excellence. We are really good at something. It feels safe to stay there because we are really good at it so the zone of excellence is a real trap. We often get lots and lots of recognition and assurance and compliments for being here. And it's often, as I said, where we earn our biggest living until we move to our zone of genius. And it requires us to be courageous in a way to step out of this zone into our zone of genius. And then what is the zone of genius? This is something that we are good at and that contributes to the world and that's something we're uniquely placed to do. It often is something that expresses our creativity or our ideas and, and really we are often the best people or the only person in some cases to do it. It's because we bring together a unique set of skills and experience that enable us to function in this place. We are the only ones who are here. We're the only ones with our journey to this point, which means we do it really well. We don't often start our careers in this place. Of course, we often. Start our careers in areas that seem sensible or fitted our family patterns. But as we get older, we feel more and more that we want to function here. Maybe this is the real midlife crisis that many of us experience. But the good news is that we don't have to wait for midlife to spend more time. In our zone of genius, the idea with the zone of genius is to find moments of it to start to find moments in our days where we can move there, where we can feel that energy and where we can feel fulfilled. As I was preparing for this, I was thinking of some of the leaders I've coached over the years, and there are a handful. And, uh, Some are coached now, who I believe are in their zone of genius when they're leading. They bring to leadership a unique set of skills and experience, values, attributes. They're often aligned with their values and they create organizations people want to be a part of. I think of others also, I believe, operating in their zone of genius. I have a good friend who's extremely good and successful in one area. area of her life. She's earned her entire living there, but has been offering to people something else. And when she delivers that, it brings her alive in a new and fresh way. And it changes the lives of people she's with when she does that. The zone of genius is also associated with the idea of flow. So that's the idea that when we're doing it, we slip into a, um, a flow, you know, we find that we are caught up in what we are doing. Time slips away. And when we're in that flow, we're often very productive and unaware of what's going around us. It has some ease. It lights us up. It gives us energy. It doesn't mean it's. It's easy, but it comes with ease. And it maybe requires us to make time to do it, to actually sit down and do it. I often think of famous writers who say, you know, they have to force themselves to sit at their writing desk. Once they do, they kind of flow into it. So there's a broad idea of what the zone of genius is, and I'm going to talk in a minute about how we can find it and move more into it. But there is a big problem we need to talk about first, and this is our upper limit problem. As Marianne Williamson says, we can be frightened and we play small. We might be worried about others and what they will think, but allowing others to keep us in our zones of competence or excellence. is not helping them. It means we're withholding our best gifts and our offerings and our zones of competence and excellence might be their zones of genius and we may be withholding that. When we move and we make a commitment to moving from our zone of excellence to the zone of genius, something happens. We may feel some enjoyment and liberation Or we may feel fear screaming at us, saying things like, you won't know what to do, or you won't be any good, you'll fail. Who are you to be doing this? So we then pull back to our comfort zones, to our zone of excellence or competence, to what we really want to do well. And I'm wondering now whether you're feeling that. You're feeling that sense of comfort and a bit of discomfort, maybe even around this idea of thinking about. a zone of genius. And I really invite you to be thinking, what is my zone of genius? Do I have one? We all have one, I believe. How can I find it? And how can I spend more time there? And as you're asking yourself that question, just notice the voice, the part of you that's saying, Oh, you don't want to do that. You want to stay where you are and just quietly soothe it. And Maybe invited to be quiet, I might ask mine to sit in the corner and then come back to thinking, okay, I really want to think about this idea of a zone of genius. You can start by thinking about your dreams and your best enjoyment at work. And think about those times of the day where you are in flow when you notice yourself enjoying work for its own sake. Think about what you're doing in that moment and think about how maybe you could do more of that. You can consider the thing that you'd love to do and you're not getting to. So if you notice yourself saying things like, if I had more time, I'd love to, Do what? If I had more time, I'd love to. Often that is our saying, there's an area that I think I would get a lot of enjoyment from, that I would be really good in, but I don't find the time, or I don't make the time. You could journal about the activities that you're engaged in, or the ones that you wish you were engaged in, that you think bring together your unique skills and experience, that might be harder or impossible for others to do, but you can do, because They're not you because they don't come with that story that you come with. You have your own unique story. A trusted friend can help you identify where you are in each of those four zones. And particularly if we've got a trusted work friend, they might help you to look at what is your zone of incompetence, competence, excellence, and genius, and really be open to thinking about the zone of genius and, and how tempting it is to stay in the zone of excellence. And you can think about your journey to now and look back and notice patterns. Notice the moments where you were really happy or the things that you did in your free time. You know, what do you read about? Where is your creativity or interest stimulated? Are there things that you know that you would be doing for free if you had the time, which is often a thing that we say, because you love it so much and maybe there's something there for you. And when you get closer to this, start testing it, set aside some time every day to function in it, even if it's 15 minutes, put down Instagram, move to your zone of genius and see what happens. I've been really living with this over the last couple of weeks as I've been thinking about it. And Gay has just released a new book called Your Big Leap Year, which I'm working through. And it's really provoking me and encouraging me to think more and more about What are the things that I am best placed to do that that do bring together my unique set of skills and experience the journey I've been on the things that I've read and how could I do more of those because that will be good for me and I think in all of these it's also helps us to bring a contribution to others. So whether you are a leader or an accountant, whether you are working with people or working alone, to be really curious about the gifts that you bring, the place that is your zone of genius, to notice the inner voice that says, who am I to have a zone of genius, to quiet it and to Focus more on it. I really believe that we can all be operating more from this zone and we can find more moments of happiness and that in doing that, in us functioning from that pace, the world would be a better place.