These past few weeks, I've been talking about how tired I am of women beating themselves up for not doing enough when in fact we are already doing so much, it's just hard to see it.
The answer isn't to try to do more, it truly isn't.
Instead, I've been talking about speaking up for yourself, and about feeling and expressing your feelings without defending them (and listening to others in the same way too).
Today I want to talk about another component to this that I believe is critically important as we rise up as women to stand up for what we believe, increase our impact, and make the world a better place for ALL.
And that is that:
Just because you're good at something, doesn't mean that you should do it.
I'll admit, this has been a revolutionary concept for me that has taken a long time to learn. And apparently, I'm not the only one.
Another one of my favorite books in the "life changing" category is Gay Hendricks' book "The Big Leap." In it, he talks about the concept of your “Zone of Genius" as opposed to your “Zone of Excellence." Most people, including many high performing executives and other successful professionals, spend most of their time in their Zone of Excellence - doing what they are good at, even excellent at, but not necessarily where their unique abilities lie.
Your Zone of Excellence is safe. Your Zone of Genius is more risky because what if you really put yourself out there and you fail? Or what if you discover you don't actually have a Zone of Genius?
It's ok to feel those feelings, and to make the "Big Leap" anyway. And that Big Leap doesn't necessarily have to look like a Big Leap to begin with. You don't have to quit your job tomorrow to move into your Zone of Genius.
The first step is to figure out exactly what your Zone of Genius is.
Hendricks goes into detail on this process in Chapter 4 of The Big Leap, well worth reading, but in summary he poses the following “genius questions":
1. What do I most love to do? (I love it so much I can do it for long stretches of time without getting tired or bored.)
2. What work do I do that doesn’t seem like work? (I can do it all day long without ever feeling tired or bored.)
3. In my work, what produces the highest ratio of abundance and satisfaction to amount of time spent? (Even if I do only ten seconds or a few minutes of it, an idea or a deeper connection may spring forth that leads to huge value.)
4. What is my unique ability? (There’s a special skill I’m gifted with. This unique ability, fully realized and put to work, can provide enormous benefits to me and any organization I serve.)
Note that while these questions sound work or professionally oriented, you can think about it in terms of all areas of your life, including volunteer work, hobbies, and of course, parenting.
Also in the book is the following exercise to help you drill down and get very clear on what your unique ability is:
I’m at my best when I’m _____
When I’m at my best, the exact thing I’m doing is _____
When I’m doing that, the thing I love most about it is _____
Once you have a clearer idea of what your Zone of Genius is, you can start making small shifts towards spending more time in this zone without necessarily making drastic changes in your life right away.
Maybe you can shift the activities you start your day with. Maybe you can change how you are delegating to your team at work. Maybe it's an adjustment in how you and your spouse and/or kids divide responsibilities at home.
Think about your spouse's and your kids' zones of genius too, and tall to them about it - it's different to what their strengths are, and more about what they are truly passionate about, what comes really easily to them, and where they provide value to themselves or others.
It might not be what you expect and what you conventionally think of as "strengths" or even "talent." Maybe they are really good at explaining things, or encouraging others, or rallying a group, or noticing what other people are good at.
So again, just because you are good at something doesn't mean you should do it.
Think of how this applies to everything you have on your plate, including volunteering for activities, and think about everything your kids have on their schedule.
Are these activities really leveraging unique abilities? Or are you checking off boxes based on external "shoulds" or recognition?
When you know what your Zone of Genius is, you can stay really focused, and this hugely increases your impact.
Sometimes you don't even have to change what you are doing; it can be more of a reframe that puts a project, task or activity into your Zone of Genius.
And conversely, it also means that just because you're not good at something, it doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.
Yes, that's right, and I'm talking here specifically about photographing your kids. I hear all the time from parents that they just don't have the visual or creative talent or "eye" for photography.
So maybe professional photography is not for you, but as a mom photographing your kids, it's not about how your photos look - it's about the process of staying present and connected with your kids, and finding joy and validation as a result.
It's about using photography as a tool for discovering what your Zone of Genius is as a mom and placing yourself in that zone as much as possible.
For example, when I did this exercise, I came up with the following:
I'm at my best when I'm coaching people.
When I'm at my best, the exact thing I'm doing is listening to someone's struggles and hopes and showing them how to get from one to the other. I can see what is blocking them and what they could do instead to get what they want. The next steps appear almost magically in my mind.
When I'm doing that, the thing that I love most about it is the feeling that I am unlocking potential and finding the extraordinary within the ordinary. I love uncovering things that others have a harder time seeing, and thus helping people create what they really want.
When I did this exercise, I did it specifically in relation to my work with Photosanity, but it applies to my previous work as an architect, as well as when I’m at my best as a parent. And some of my favorite and most meaningful photos capture that moment of interaction with my kids.
Today's action step:
What is your Zone of Genius?
How does this apply to your role as a mom?
Notice when you are in your Zone of Genius as a mom and take a few photos of it. Don't worry about how they look, focus on how it feels.
Pick the photo that best reflects that feeling of being in your Zone of Genius.
Make it the wallpaper on your phone. Print it and put it up at your desk or on the fridge. Look for more of it.
Because you deserve it.
And the world needs it.