5 Ways You’re Holding Yourself Back, And What To Do About It

“You’re putting a ceiling on our lives!” I exasperatedly said to my husband.

“We just talked about this – how people inadvertently hold themselves back by unconsciously creating ways to keep themselves in their comfortable – old space. Remember? That book I just read?!”

We’re better than this, I find myself saying to myself, and to him.

We had had the conversation I was referring to the week previous, while we were sitting, enjoying an adult beverage after a day of touring in the Amazon jungle on a trip of a lifetime with our two teenage daughters.

Don’t you find everything seems more possible when you’re on holidays?

When you are away from your regular life and you have just blown the ceiling waaaaaay off of normal living?

Yes, a hacienda in the Amazon, enjoying a bevvy by kerosene lantern before attending five-star dining that we’d saved all year for, was pretty far off of normal for us.

This is why I love “blue-skying” while I’m away from my regular life. Because you can somehow dream bigger, brighter and bolder when you don’t have the Tuesday afternoon carpool and weeknight dinners breathing down your neck.

And really, how many of us read a book – usually when we’re on holidays and have time to read books – which makes the idea seem so simple, and then we continue to live exactly in our same old way?

This time, I’m talking about The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.

In The Big Leap, Hendricks talks about how many people have a tendency to keep themselves small and to live life and work daily in the comfortable space of how you’ve always done things.

And as we know:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” ~ Henry Ford

So then, how do we bust through our personal plateau, and how do we even know when we’re stuck?

This book had been sitting on my bookshelf for some time and I recently pulled it out when I was leading one of my business mastermind programs.

Hendricks talks about how we all have four levels, or zones, of expertise: Incompetence, Competence, Excellence and the ever-elusive Zone of Genius.

I challenged my Accelerate Mastermind members to investigate their Zone of Genius and to work from there.

It makes perfect sense, really.

Incompetence  I get – yup, lots of things I can’t do and don’t enjoy doing.

Competence – OK – many things I’m competent at that don’t differentiate me from anyone else – things like washing dishes, driving children to school, bookkeeping and managing my social media accounts.

Excellence – that’s the good stuff. We have often achieved further education to be excellent at something and this often pays the bills. For me, my zone of excellence is corporate communications, writing, crisis management, media relations, and leadership coaching.

Genius? Ooooh. That’s the hard one. It’s the area where we’re so amazing we’re almost embarrassed by it. It comes so easily we often don’t even want to charge people for it. It just feels so easy, like we should give it away. And really it’s what we should be charging the most for.

It’s something no one else does exactly as you do it, AND, people would pay a premium for your gift in this area.

It’s the sweet spot between life satisfaction and life productivity.

The sweet spot between life satisfaction and life productivity is your zone of genius.Click To Tweet

For me? This zone involves skills that I didn’t pay anyone to teach me. They come from a place of birthright, gift, and upbringing. They come from an understanding of people combined with a passion for creativity and building new things.

I’m a builder.

I love to create from nothing.

Corporate departments, companies, ideas, programs, a not for profit …

If it wasn’t there before, I love to imagine it – together with my clients – and make it happen.

I love to see ideas become REAL.

And I’m amazing at it.

What’s more, I have a gift for being able to identify that sweet spot in others  – the “thing” they really should be doing because they’re so gifted at it they don’t see it even when it’s right in front of their faces.

And often, they then need to be convinced that they have something special to offer.


Because it’s their zone of genius. It’s their zone that keeps on giving they don’t even realize it’s a gift.

“In your zone of genius, work doesn’t feel like work.” – Gay HendricksClick To Tweet

It’s the ‘do what you love’ and ‘love what you do’ zone.

The sweet spot between life satisfaction and life productivity is your zone of genius.

Could I really do that….. (fill in the blanks) and make money?

Could I really live that way?

Hendricks contends that we prevent ourselves from living in our Zone of Genius by unconsciously holding ourselves back. We actually put limiters in our lives so we almost never really get there.

Why is that?

Because we keep doing things to sabotage ourselves so we stay in our zone of excellence versus growing into our zone of genius.

Do these things sound familiar?

1. Squabbling

Go on an amazing holiday and then have an argument with spouse when you get back (gets you back into the old world, don’t live in fantasy holiday land too long!)

2. Deflecting

Kick a$$ on a presentation and then belittle your accomplishment when you’re complimented on it.

3. Worrying

Worrying about something you said, did or imagined that you have no control over.

4. Criticizing

Criticizing when it’s not useful – many people are chronic criticizers – and ignoring all the positives about a situation, i.e., criticizing work colleagues, children, your relatives for things they did not do in instead of things they did well.

5. Getting Sick

Getting injured or sick right before a big presentation, game or life event.

All these things result in emotionally holding us back from achieving the next level or staying in the new level of achievement long enough to get comfortable there so you can continue moving onto the next level.

I bet you could look back on your past week and find a few examples of how you’ve seen these behaviours in others, or yourself.

What’s underneath that? What really wants to emerge? How can you remove your limiters so you can move into your Zone of Genius and a new level of success more often?

This week, I challenge you to stop and notice when you find yourself experiencing one of the above five behaviors. What is unconsciously self-sabotaging you and what really wants to emerge?

I can hardly wait to see what surfaces and the success you achieve when you more fully, and consciously, step into your Zone of Genius.

To your successful – and genius-embracing – life,

Susan Elford

PR Launchpad Guidebook ABOUT SUSAN ELFORD

Susan Elford is a Leadership Coach and PR Strategist who especially loves to work with women who want it all: a fulfilling career or business while living a full and satisfying life. Susan helps her clients get real about their strengths and celebrate and promote them so they get more of what they want: success at work; success in business & success in life.

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