What happens when you look at your “to-do” list? Are you excited to do every item on your list? Are you excited about 50% of them? 10% of them? None of them???
Being happy and satisfied in your career is rooted in how much you get to use your true strengths.
Your true strengths are those things that you are good at doing AND you love doing. They’re different from just things you happen to be good at. They’re MORE than things that make you say:
“I’m fine with that.”
“I don’t mind doing it.”
Or even, “It’s okay, I’m good at it.”
True strengths are the things you would give anything to be doing.
As an executive and career coach, helping clients name their true strengths is something I spend a lot of time doing. And for business owners, managers, and executives, this can be a real game-changer in finding work that is meaningful AND successful.
It can become easy to say yes to tasks that you would rather not do. You may say yes because they simply need to be done and there doesn’t seem to be anyone else to do them. Or you may be looking to broaden your skillset. Or you want to increase your value within a company.
And it isn’t the saying yes that is a problem. Because without trying something out, how will you know if you like it or not?
But along the way, your daily list may have slowly filled up with things that hold no passion for you. It is at this point you may find yourself stuck in a career that pays well but you dread going each day.
Fortunately, Gay Hendricks provides a framework for sorting through your task list and creating the life you love in his book, The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level. Gay begins by asking you to categorize each task on your list into one of 4 “zones.”
The Zone of Incompetence.
This zone does not sound like a lot of fun. And, to you, these tasks are not fun. These are the tasks that are not in your natural skillset at all. Doing them is painful. You do not feel confident. They take forever for you to do. You avoid them when possible. And after investing a lot of time and uttering a few choice words of frustration, the results are average at best.
If you are not good at technology, then hooking up your computer to a new printer may fall into your Zone of Incompetence. You try to follow the instructions. You keep getting error messages. You spend half your day trying to set it up and nothing seems to be working. You finally give up and call an IT specialist. In less than 30 minutes, they have your system running smoothly.
The key to this Zone is that everyone is a master at something.
Whatever is in your Zone of Incompetence, pay someone else to do it because these tasks are easy for someone else.
Everyone is good at something, but no one will be good at everything.
Stop wasting your time with tasks in your Zone of Incompetence. If you are worried about spending money, consider how many other things you could be getting done if you just paid someone else to do it for you. AND consider how much happier you might be.
The Zone of Competence.
These tasks are not nearly as daunting as the Zone of Incompetence. These are tasks you can easily do. They are routine tasks. The key is that because these tasks are easy, there are lots of other people that COULD be doing this work instead of YOU.
Perhaps you do not mind entering information into your accounting system. You can do it. You might even be quick at it. But there are lots of other people out there who are accurate and efficient at data entry.
The key here is to consider what else you could be doing with this time.
Is this really the best use of your gifts and talents? While you are not frustrated doing these tasks, you are not productive either. Yes, you are checking tasks off your list. But have you moved anything important forward?
The Zones of Excellence and Genius
These last 2 zones are tricky. Let’s start by understanding each of them and then work through how to sort your tasks into each zone.
The Zone of Excellence contains the tasks that you are very good at doing. Not a lot of other people can do them at the level you can. Thus, people are willing to pay you a lot of money to do them.
The Zone of Genius contains the tasks that you are very good at doing. But there is an added bonus: you LOVE doing these tasks!!!
These are difficult waters to navigate as this requires you to dig into some Courageous Authenticity. It is easy to get caught up in being recruited and paid well to do work that holds no passion or meaning to you. It is hard to focus on only doing those things that hold purpose and meaning AND can pay you well.
Getting from Here to There
So, how do you get to only doing things in your Zone of Genius?
You will not be able to move entirely to working within your Zone of Genius immediately. Start by identifying the tasks in your Zones of Incompetence and Competence first. One by one, find ways to get them off your plate. As you find ways to free up more of your time, be intentional about filling it with items from your Zone of Genius. If possible, avoid allocating that time to your Zone of Excellence. Slowly, your to-do list will shift and be filled with things you love to do.
When you do what you love, you look forward to your work. Your days seem to fly by. You are calm and engaged because you are doing what you love. You are confident in your work because you love to learn more. You hone your Zone of Genius skills into becoming an expert.
If you want to find more joy in your work, read The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. It might be the thing that leads you to the work you are truly called to do – work you are uniquely skilled at AND love doing. A career that fits YOUR vision of success.
You never know what doors might open when you do more of what lights a spark in you.