Working From Your Genius Zone

While few people are intellectual geniuses, each of us has an area of outstanding ability that allows us to perform at a high level and adds to our overall energy and satisfaction. This zone of activity is what I call the genius zone.

When you’re operating from within your genius zone, you experience high energy gains. You tend to feel deep engagement, high personal satisfaction, and elevated productivity. You also produce outstanding work. When you’re operating outside of your genius zone, you experience the exact opposite.

The secret to having greater satisfaction while growing your business is to align the activities of your own genius zone with the activities that simultaneously add the most enterprise value to the company. If you can get this mix right (and I’ll show you how), that’s when you’ll experience that rare and intoxicating blend of genuine success and satisfaction.

Take a moment and reflect on this question: On average, how much of your work time is currently spent operating from within your genius zone? 10 percent, 30 percent, 80 percent, or more?

What I’ve found in my coaching practice is that, if you’re personally spending 80 percent or more of your time working in your genius zone, then you are usually quite productive and happy in your work. If you’re operating outside of your genius zone most of the time, then you’re suffering from lower productivity, greater stress, and dissatisfaction. The bigger the gap, the greater your desire to make a change.

If you’re constantly running from one mini-crisis to another in your work, then it may take a bit of introspection to get a sense of what activities actually represent your genius zone. If you’d like to explore this further, you can do it easily by completing this free life purpose exercise.

The Vector of Happiness and Productivity

While lowering energy drains, increasing energy gains, and spending time in your genius zone are the foundation of a happy and fulfilled life, one final element allows you to experience the highest levels of satisfaction and productivity across the board. I call this element your “vector of happiness and productivity.” Using this concept to reflect on your life can help you express your genius zone more fully in all areas of your life.

There is a simple model that can help you visualize what this means. Its basic concept was developed by Dr. Ichak Adizes, who created a Venn diagram mapping dimensions of personal experience that he calls “Is,” “Want,” and “Should.” I’ve represented these dimensions below as “How you are,” “How you want to be,” and “How others want you to be,” respectively:

“How you are” refers to how you currently spend most of your time and energy. Think of it as how you “show up” in the environment. “How you want to be” indicates how you’d prefer to spend your time and energy. “How others want you to be” indicates the demands and expectations others in your environment place on you. The greater the alignment or overlap among these three dimensions, the less internal and external conflict you will experience, the greater the opportunity to work in your genius zone, and the greater the integration with your external environment. In other words, the vector of happiness and productivity brings it all together.
Conversely, when there’s a significant gap among the three dimensions, there’s likely a personal energy loss that results in lower happiness and productivity:

The greater the gap, the less happy and productive your are.

Let’s see how this works. Imagine that you prefer to be innovative and creative in your work and consider yourself to be damn good at that. For a variety of reasons, however, you’ve been forced to show up each day bringing stability and structure to the company. In a nutshell, rather than being creative and visionary, you’re forced to focus on the details and bring order out of chaos. What happens? Despite the fact that you’re putting on a brave face and doing your best, you’re also becoming burned out and the work is a struggle. In essence, it’s costing you more energy than you get in return. Sure, you can do this for a time. But if it continues for too long, you’ll try to find an escape that more closely aligns with what you truly want to do.

For the highest level of internal and external alignment, however, it’s not enough to only do work you want to do. This is because no one operates independently of his or her environment. You also have to feel that you’re meeting the needs of others, or how others want you to be. Understandably, if you feel that your environment is telling you to operate differently than how you are or want to be, this will create energy drains and stymie your productivity and happiness. You will therefore need to either work towards a newfound alignment with your current environment or find a new environment where you can both be authentic and thrive.
Your goal, therefore, is to create as little gap as possible among the three dimensions, which looks like a version of this:

The narrower the gap, the more happy and productive you are.

So how do you accomplish all of this? How can you spend most of your time in highly productive activities that add to your energy and joy and simultaneously meet the needs of your growing business? How do you reduce the energy drains that are occurring across your business today—within you, the team, the company, and its operations—and maximize its gains?

While every situation is unique, the solution always lies in first understanding what’s really going on—learning to recognize and work with the universal laws that operate within your team, strategy, and execution. Once you understand the principles, then you can deploy the right tactics. Organizational Physics shows you how.

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