Are you in your zone?
I’ve always loved music. My parents tell me that even as a baby I was so sensitive to melodies that hearing tunes in minor chords would instantaneously bring tears to my eyes. I remember being told off at school for singing all the time during classes, especially when doing exercises, drawing in arts class or during any such activities that required my concentration. It’s like I needed to sing to think.
A lot has been said about the importance of identifying our individual strengths and understanding our natural talents, those gifts that make us stand out and shine. It’s the stuff of legends isn’t it? When we play to our strengths we not only perform at our best and excel therefore delivering optimal results, but we also get a sense of pleasure and fulfilment from it, often finding ourselves in ‘the zone’ or working ‘in flow’. In fact, those activities that engage our strengths and natural talents can be so enjoyable that we wish we could do them all the time, even without getting paid. When we find the work that feels like play for us, that’s when we are in our zone.
For me, music is one of those activities that feel like play. Hopefully I will keep writing music for the rest of my life and if necessary, I’d even pay to do it. Besides music I’ve always been fascinated with communication: its processes and systems, its different meanings, its development and importance in the fabric of humanity. As a child I would spend hours reading books out loud, practicing my rhetoric to the mirror and imagining how I would be sharing stories and ideas with the world. When later on in life I became a journalist and TV broadcaster, all those childhood dreams came true and I could finally apply my strengths in activities that both required and rewarded those talents.
Although there is a growing body of research on this subject, it’s still not enough. For many individuals and organizations the notion of actually loving your work is still a foreign concept, even a utopia. Our education system is still more focused in making sure that students follow the ‘one-size-fits-all’ programme than in helping them to truly identify what makes them unique, what individual strengths they have been gifted with and how they can develop them, build on them and truly flourish. Studies show that matching our talents to our job description will result in increased well-being and feelings of happiness and fulfilment. Furthermore, it also leads to better results and therefore improved performance and organizational effectiveness. It sounds like a no-brainer: when you know your strengths and unique talents you can work on developing them, you can learn how to best utilize them and monetize them and the organization that you work for will naturally benefit from your engagement and optimal performance.
How about you, are you in your zone yet? If not, what can you do to get there?