Why do people struggle with creating meaningful work?
It’s a common problem: the part-time health coach, personal trainer, yoga teacher, photographer, mystery writer, jewelry maker, app developer or web designer who has incredible talent… but just can’t seem to get their meaningful project off the ground.
Talented creatives often end up working for someone else, often at the expense of feeding their creative ambitions. There’s nothing wrong with a job, of course—if that’s what you really want.
But if my recent conversations are any indicator, for every happy employee, there are a dozen who desperately long for something different.
The alternative is to go it alone. Hang out your shingle! But as you may be aware, many people often struggle to go it alone.
Why do talented and creative people stall-out with a winning idea? There are many obvious reasons like choosing a bad business model, not validating your product or service to make sure people will buy it, and not implementing a solid pricing strategy.
But today I want to focus on the things that lurk in the background and cause the most trouble.
Finding Your Zone of Genius
Most people go through life in a zone of competence at work. They are good enough at some skill and someone else pays them to do it. They go to work and get paid. Over and over and over again.
Fewer people take the next step and reach the zone of excellence in their work. This is where someone finds their work satisfying and they get paid very well for it. Think of the business person that employs many of their natural talents in their job while feeling like they’re making a difference in their world of work.
Then there’s the highest level of work where people are the happiest and most satisfied. This is what I call the Zone of Genius. This is where the intersection between work and play merge to become the same thing.
Many people get stuck on their way to the Zone of Genius because they run into what renowned author Gay Hendricks calls the “Upper Limit Problem.”
The upper limit concept is based on the fact that most people tend to have an inner thermostat that determines the amount of love, success, and money that we allow in our lives.
When we exceed our setting, we tend to unknowingly sabotage ourselves so that we can return to the old, familiar zone where we feel secure.
There is something important you should know about this upper limit problem: when you attain higher levels of success, you often create personal dramas in your life that cloud your world with unhappiness and prevent you from enjoying your enhanced success over the long run.
You hear about this happening to lottery winners all the time. They win a million dollars and often find themselves in a worse situation than before they had the windfall.
Why is this?
This is the upper limit problem at work. The upper limit problem crosses the boundaries of money, love, and creativity.
If you start a new business, your upper limit problem may kick in and create a situation that causes you to doubt yourself and block your ability to enjoy your new found success.
In short, your upper limits may be causing you to rubber-band back to where you were before you started, or sometimes even worse.
An example of hitting my own upper limits:
A few years ago I had a big financial surge forward in a job where I helped close one of the biggest deals for the company all year. The same month that I received the bonus check for my efforts, I got a new boss that I didn’t get along with and he gave me a negative review. The following month I was let go from one of the best job’s I’ve ever had.
I have many other examples of hitting my upper limits with relationships, money, and other work scenarios.
Here’s the thing. Once we are able to identify and confront our upper limits, we can then begin to operate from our Zone of Genius.
And once we make it to the Zone of Genius, we find that the fearful part of ourselves disappears and dissolves.
Shelley Hawkins and I have designed a program specifically for dissolving your upper limits and moving into your Zone of Genius.
Shelley is the coach that I turned to for resolving my upper limits and we are collaborating to offer a 7-week program called Raising The Bar: Embracing Your Wholehearted Work in the World.
Last week we recorded a free training session on the Cycle of Reinvention in your work life. This is a prelude to our program and you can view a replay of the training here.
If you want to learn more about the details of program, go here.
The most important thing I’ve learned over the last five years is that struggle is optional. Of course life has it’s ups and downs but there is a much better way to deal with it all.
Artists are not destined to starve and struggle.
Entrepreneurs aren’t meant to fail.
Unhappy lawyers and engineers aren’t meant to stay in dead-end jobs forever.
Sure there’s a linear process that I recommend for aspiring entrepreneurs to follow and make sure their businesses off on the right foot.
But laying the groundwork to resolve your upper limits and find your Zone of Genius is the most important work anyone can do.
There’s a better way than struggling and fumbling and wondering why everything is so hard.
Shelley and I — and many others — have improved our work lives immensely by following a few important steps to creating our own Zones of Genius.
Question: Have you ever struggled with creating meaningful work? Have you hit upper limits at work or in pursuit of self-employment?