Boxed in at work?

Whilst many people talk of hamster wheels, I reached the conclusion that I felt like I was boxed in at work. Sometimes it feels like we are running at full speed and not getting anywhere, for me, I felt trapped and stagnated, I didn’t feel I had any momentum at all. It had nothing to do with the workload and everything to do with not learning, not growing and not progressing.



I now understand that that variety, creativity and achievement are key drivers for me (more on motivations in the future) and, at the time, I restricted myself by insisting on walking round the same four walls of my career box, rather than trying something new. Let’s be clear here – I made and maintained my box – it’s often the way.


In Gay Hendricks words, I was stuck in my ‘zone of excellence’ [The Big Leap Gay Hendricks – worth a dabble]. Your zone of excellence is where you are doing something you are, well, excellent at. Here you are using skills that you have developed over time and likely invested heavily into, in all respects. It’s often coupled with a healthy financial living and as such it’s a place of comfort. Your inner critics love it here – it’s known, you are respected here, friends and family may well also want to see you stay here, it’s sensible and it’s safe, and of course you are excellent here.


But there’s likely to be a niggle… something missing. In my case the niggle got bigger and eventually I was able to determine that what I had just wasn’t enough. The selfishness I felt at this realisation, that I wanted more, when I had so much, is a whole story in itself for another time, safe to say I felt rather ashamed of not being satisfied with my lot.


So, what’s wrong with being here and staying here? Absolutely nothing, when that is a conscious choice from your side and that choice is made with an appreciation of the alternatives. And one such alternative is your ‘zone of genius’. In this place you are using those skills that you have naturally, it’s the place where everything else disappears and you get lost in flow. This isn’t anything you have learned, it’s innate to you and as such effortless. When you consistently combine natural talent with practice, the impact is significant. And almost always there is a sense of fulfilment and purpose.


How to start getting unboxed and identify what’s in your genius zone. Consider:


  • “What work do you do that doesn't seem like work?" [1]

  • "In your work, what produces the highest ratio of abundance and satisfaction to the amount of time spent?" [2]

  • "What is your unique ability?" [3]

In other words:

  • When are you in flow? What are you doing? What problems are you solving?


When I was able to deeply reflect on these questions by myself and with my coach, I was able to notice what areas of my role felt natural and meaningful and which left me low in energy and motivation and needed more effort. Armed with this knowledge, I was able to start actioning change and shape the work I wanted to be involved in.


Not many people make the ‘leap’ because to do so means to take risk, to be uncomfortable and fear is a massive boulder in the road that we all come up against time and time again. But if we can make the transition, then we are consciously choosing not to just conform, not to try and fit ourselves into others’ boxes for us. Importantly also we change our focus to our already existing strengths, what sets us apart from others, what skills we naturally have, that others do not, and double down on these. And then move away from other areas – this is a great time to delegate. Identify others to whom these areas are innate skills. As a leader the gift of autonomy to your team is a great one, it also creates additional space for you to focus and create.



Sometimes we need to make small shifts in our mindset, our behaviour, and our habits to effect big change. So, if you are feeling boxed in at work consider if you are using your innate skills and whether the impact you are having at work is meaningful to you. If the answer is no, there may well be an opportunity to change lanes, climb out of the box and start to explore your genius.


If you are curious about how I can work with you , you can speak to me directly, you can book a free initial 30 minute coaching session with me here and there's no hassling from me if it's a no thanks after that.


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[1,2,3] The Big Leap Gay Hendricks

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