How to discover your zone of genius

The Zone of Genius is a phrase created by Gay Hendricks in his book, The Big Leap in relation to fulfilment, success and finding ‘your calling’ in your career.

Your zone of genius is what's most effortless for you. If you are truly able to relax and begin the work, you can create almost instantaneously, and without too much thought. The important thing to recognise is that your zone of genius is not just what you're ‘passionate’ about. In fact, it can often be something you may not love a whole lot initially, but it's something you recognise you are naturally gifted at. When you can identify those skills or interests, you can capitalise on them by working on them consistently. The combination is what will help you strike gold.

There are four zones we can sit in:

1. The zone of incompetence: In this zone, you are engaging in something you inherently do not understand or are not skilled at.

2. The zone of competence: In this zone, you are doing what you are efficient at, but recognise that many people are likewise efficient at it, therefore not distinguishing your capabilities in any significant way.

3. The zone of excellence: In this zone, you are doing something you are tremendously skilled at. Often, the zone of excellence is cultivated, it's practiced and established over time. A lot of people can sit in this zone and think they’re in the zone of genius.

4. The zone of genius: In this zone, you capitalise on your natural abilities which are innate, rather than learned. This is the state in which you get into "flow," find ceaseless inspiration, and seem to not only come up with work that is distinguished and unique, but also do so in a way that excels far and beyond what anyone else is doing.


So how do we find what our Zone of Genius is?

Finding your zone of genius takes some work and introspection. Chances are that you've already been given subtle or not so subtle clues throughout your life, but swept them under the rug.

Your zone of genius is going to be something idealistic that you're hesitant to admit to for various reasons: it could be a risky decision, it would mean you've been wasting your time in your current career or even education choices or it might go against social conventions, etc.

Step 1: Reflection

If you’re not sure whether something is a zone of excellence or a zone of genius, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you passionate about it? Could you spend all day long immersed in it with a giant smile on your face?

  • Does it generate ideas, activities, challenges that you leap out of bed for and happily keep you up at night?

  • Does it come so easily to you that you can’t believe someone would actually pay you to do it?

If yes, you’ve found your zone of genius. If no, it might be a zone of excellence instead.

You can absolutely be successful in the zone of excellence. But to take your life to the next level, you cannot keep playing by other people's rules.

Step 2: Find your why

Your purpose is why you do what you do, and it’s also what gives you endless fulfilment.

Your greatest purpose is linked to a core challenge you have conquered in your life. When you are helping others conquer that same challenge, you experience an unending feeling of joy for what you are doing. For that reason, your purpose is closely related to the impact of your work.

Here are some questions to help identify yours:

  • Write the three major transitions or struggles that have led you to this moment. What was most difficult about each? What did you learn from each?

  • What work would you do even if you weren’t paid to do it? This is often something you just love to do. Why do you love to do it?

  • Our purpose is often the thing that’s been calling out to us for some time, even years, but we just ignore it because it seems like a big risk. What’s been calling out to you?

Now you should have a clearer understanding about your zone of genius. You may not be able to dedicate 100% of your time to working in your zone of genius., but the more time you spend in it, the happier both you will be. Staying in your zone may require that you say ‘no’ to things that don’t align with you, to delegate or outsource tasks (if you run your own business) and work through self limiting beliefs and sabotaging behaviour that might hold you back.

For further resources check out:

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

Podcast: How to live in your zone of genius with Gay Hendricks

Written by Lucy Green; founder of Homebody Club, obsessed with coffee, the moon, deep conversations, nights in and any form of personality test (she’s an Aries / INFJ / Generator / Pitta Vata / Type 1).