Evaluating Opportunity In Retirement: The Zone of Genius Vs Excellence

Black dress shoes next to an arrow going left and right representing retirement opportunities

It’s About Selecting, Not Being Selected

Often our retiring clients are motivated to “land another opportunity” quickly. While they typically do not need the income that such an opportunity would bring, they fear irrelevance and boredom.

However, we caution them to be quite choosy about their future commitments. For folks who have often competed for clients and business (working hard to be “the one selected”), it can seem strange to flip the script and place themselves in the role of the one doing the selecting. But that is precisely what we recommend, because every commitment they make has a tradeoff in terms of time and freedom. That tradeoff should be worth it in terms of fulfillment or satisfaction.

Understanding the “Zone of Excellence” vs. “Zone of Genius”

How do you make that assessment? One model for this analysis that we love was developed by bestselling author and psychologist, Gay Hendricks. In his book The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level, he contrasts what he calls the “Zone of Excellence” versus the “Zone of Genius.”

As Hendricks puts it, the Zone of Excellence refers to the activities that we are very good at,  often enjoy to some degree, and are rewarded (usually financially) for doing. These are activities that highlight our skills and proficiencies. While these activities can bring us a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, as well as income and validation, they do not necessarily reflect our true passion or purpose in life. For many, their career arcs have kept them squarely in their zones of excellence.

On the other hand, the Zone of Genius refers to those activities that showcase our unique gifts and that bring us a deep sense of fulfillment and joy. These are activities that come naturally to us, that inspire us to action, and that we feel encoded to do—so much so that we’d likely choose to engage with them whether we were paid or not. When we are in our Zone of Genius, we feel like we are fully utilizing our unique talents and abilities to make a meaningful impact in the world.

Encouraging a Shift in Perspective for Retirees

Part of our focus with clients is to dig deeply into what might be their Zone of Genius, especially in cases where we can tell that they’ve sacrificed it in order to remain in their chosen profession. And once we hit upon one of these veins of gold, the question is almost always, “But how?” Our response: how can you not?

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The experienced retirement coaches at Encoraco work with highly accomplished professionals to craft a path to fulfillment and purpose in retirement. Our team helps find the gaps, guide you through them, and leaves you with a ready to implement plan.

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