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What Is Your Zone of Excellence?

In this article, we’re going to discuss the Zone of Excellence and help you uncover whether you’re languishing here.

This is a certain level you reach in your career and one that you’ll likely have experienced at some point. This level is alluring because it promises security and stability, but it’s damaging.

Many people find themselves locked in the comforting yet unsatisfying cradle of the Zone of Excellence. If you realise that you’re one of them, get excited, because we’re going to help you move into your Zone of Genius.

The problem is that a deep, sacred part of you will wither and die if you stay inside your Zone of Excellence.

Gay Hendricks

Let’s look at what this zone is.

The Zone of Excellence

The Zone of Excellence is an area of low-medium passion and high competency. Think of it as a career or set of tasks that you do really well but don’t enjoy too much.

If this mostly describes your work, we say you’re living in your Zone of Excellence.

If you’re a professional, it’s likely you’re in this zone. Bosses and clients notice your competence and reward you for it. This is where you feel comfortable, and your friends, family and coworkers like you to be here because you’re successful and dependable.

The problem? You feel comfortable, but empty too: comfortably numb, you might say. What we’ve observed in professionals working in this zone is that it creates a comfort zone. Past a certain point, they no longer need to grow. They know the profession inside out, and they earn enough money to live a good life. Why change or seek passion when they can just stay in this little bubble?

Well, ultimately, it’s because this zone slowly sucks your soul out of you. Professionals at this level aren’t passionate about their work. They’re the proverbial big fish in a small pond. They know there’s something else out there for them, a new career direction, but the comfortable Zone of Excellence locks them in, and slowly they’re robbed of their verve and excitement.

A theme in Gay Hendricks’ book on this subject is that many people remain in the Zone of Excellence because of trauma, which often goes back to childhood. Often we feel subtly guilty for trying to push out of here and live our life calling. Or we feel unworthy, or fear we’ll be disliked, or hold a similar irrational, limiting idea. This feeds into our tendency to construct webs of excuses for our stagnation.

Most people have a carefully crafted, well-justified story about why they can’t take their Big Leap.

Gay Hendricks

My Story in the Zone of Excellence

I was lucky to see this problem before I’d even begun working in the profession I was supposed to.

At school I got great grades, particularly in maths and science. Teachers and family encouraged me to cash in by studying to become a professional in a lucrative field. I did some research and, based on very naïve notions about the profession, decided I’d become an actuary.

It wasn’t until I did two internships during university that I realised the harsh reality of being an actuary. I wouldn’t be solving equations and expressing my mathematical ingenuity, as I’d innocently imagined as a teen. Rather, I’d be doing the 9-5 grind: spreadsheets, boring meetings and bureaucratic, hierarchical corporate structures.

Reality hit me hard, and my life flashed before my eyes. Was this really what I wanted to be doing for the next 45 years? I had the wisdom, despite not knowing what I would do instead, to kiss goodbye to the corporate world before becoming imprisoned in it. It lead to a years-long identity crisis that I’ve only recently resolved, but it was so worth it.

That was nearly a decade ago. And I’ve been through the Zone of Excellence twice since then: first as a self-employed maths tutor, where I was earning good money and could have expanded it into a fully-fledged business, then as a freelance translator and content writer.

But in both cases I knew something was missing. I could feel it in my bones, every single day. I could barely stand to do it for one day, let alone the rest of my life.

It was only when I started Deep Psychology that I finally felt I was moving beyond my Zone of Excellence and into my Zone of Genius.

What’s Yours?

Now that you know what the Zone of Excellence is, I want you to identify whether you’re in one right now.

First of all, are you competent in your career, and do others recognise your skills? Do you feel low-medium level passion for it?

Do you feel like you have more to give? Is there a project you really want to undertake but you find 100 excuses not to? Do you feel unfulfilled despite material success?

If you answer several of these with a “Yes”, you’re in the Zone of Excellence. Now you have a choice.

You either choose to remain comfortable there, knowing that you’ll be materially successful but lack deep fulfilment, or you can do what few do, and start working towards the high-competence, high-passion Zone of Genius.

If you want to take your career to the next level, it’s time you learn about the Zone of Genius.

Into the Zone of Genius

The highest Zone in life is the Zone of Genius, and it comes directly after the Zone of Excellence. Most people have to experience the Zone of Excellence before they make the move to this final level.

Woohoo! Let’s all jump into our Zone of Genius, right? This should be fun!

Not so fast. The Zone of Genius is scary. The thought of it conjures up all kinds of fears and limiting beliefs. This is why most people never even try to go there, even though deep down they know they should.

But let me tell you, it’s so worth re-engineering your career such that you live in your Zone of Genius. If you want to get started, follow these links.

Learn about the Zone of Genius and start moving into it with my articles on the Zone of Genius and Life Calling.