How to Find Your Zone of Genius When in Crisis of Purpose

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I was working with a client recently, and she was lamenting how she has been working too hard. She enjoys her job but is craving balance with her personal life. Unfortunately, it’s a challenge that I see and hear about all the time.  The question is, how can one achieve that balance, and can hard work equal happiness at work?

I commonly see three scenarios related to working too hard:

1. You love what you’re doing but you simply have too much to do. You enjoy your work so much that you lose sight of other aspects of your life. The challenge is balancing that out with your other life commitments.

2. You don’t get much satisfaction from the work itself, but you thrive on accomplishments. So  you work harder and harder in order to extract enough satisfaction from accomplishments to compensate for the dissatisfaction with your actual work.

3. You’re working too much because you’re overwhelmed. You aren't particularly excited about the work or the accomplishments, but you continue to work extremely hard because it’s a requirement of the job.

Scenario #1 can be handled fairly easily with some time management and work efficiency boundaries. Scenario #3 calls for potential change on all fronts, which is another topic altogether.

I want to delve into Scenario #2. This one is the one that the most people tend to struggle with. In fact, it’s a problem that is so common it has become almost the norm. Typically, highly motivated people put everything they have into the work they do. And if they don’t enjoy the work itself, they drive themselves into the ground to get their fulfillment from simply knowing that they got the job done.

In the end, however, rather than feeling satisfied, they feel unhappy, burned out, and left thinking, “What am I to do?” All the exterior signs point to success: they reap financial rewards and accolades from team members and managers and they've met the requirements of their job. The problem, of course, lies on the inside, in how this person feels. The result is a feeling that something is deeply wrong but with no ability to identify the source, like going to the doctor for an ailment but leaving being told that everything is fine.

The problem is, of course, burnout.

Burnout happens when you are pushing yourself too hard in an area that may not be what you are best at or a reflection of your passion. It’s a crisis of purpose.

The key to solving this problem lies in uncovering your Zone of Genius. As I have described before, your Zone of Genius is where your talent and passion intersect. To get there you must identify your innate talent, your “superpower”, how you do what you do. Your greatest passion 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. It’s critical to have both of these elements in order to reach your Zone of Genius, and that is my roadmap for achieving guaranteed purpose, results, and fulfillment.

The key is to make the process of your work as enjoyable (if not more so) than the outward rewards it brings. The achievements are the icing on the cake, not the cake. The problem with attaching your happiness to the achievement is that you are never satisfied. The thrill of an achievement is fleeting. Sure you can celebrate for a few hours (I always celebrate every accomplishment) but it quickly dissipates and you are left with most of your time spent on creating the accomplishment. When you get unending joy from the process, it’s a game changer for how you feel.

The only problem with loving your work so much is that you will fall into the first category and you will not want to stop. But burnout will be a thing of the past, you will be experiencing the opposite which is unending energy for your work and life.

Born as a book, Delivering Happiness is now a culture coachsultancy and a movement on a mission to inspire passion + purpose in workplaces around the world.

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Laura Garnett


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