Bust out of your incompetence zone

I just finished reading The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks which is a fantastic book addressing self-sabotage and creating our own glass ceiling. Gay refers to that glass ceiling as the Upper Limit Problem. As we move through zones of competency we reach our own unique Upper Limit Problems.

I was thinking about the first zone of competency that Gay identifies, which is the Zone of Incompetence. He doesn’t use incompetence in a derogatory sense. Rather, he describes this zone as skill sets that we simply do not have and should accept that we do not have them.

My first reaction to this was a chuckle, because based on this description men tend to spend a fair amount of time in the Zone of Incompetence. Hands up if your man insists on fixing, installing, or building something that ends up taking hours and hours and hours for a fifteen minute job. Yep. This is because at the primal level men are builders and fixers. They are like Stuart in this Mad TV video clip saying “Let me do it!” when they should hand the task to someone else.[youtube]http://youtu.be/iKXXnauURBs[/youtube]

As a woman, I was feeling pretty self-righteous about this. Silly boys not willing to admit they cannot do something. But, then I brought myself up short! I believe that women have the opposite problem. Quite often we claim we are incompetent when in fact we are not.

Case in point, one of the reasons I stayed in a toxic relationship for so long was because I couldn’t image doing certain ‘guy things’. You know, like fix a clogged drain pipe, take my car to garage and speak shop talk with the mechanic, or operate any form of power tool. In retrospect, this seems a ridiculous reason to stay in a toxic relationship, but at the time my self imposed fear was very real. After all, I had lived in this Zone of Incompetence for almost twenty of my adult years. I was comfortable there.

Of course, in the end, I did all the ‘guy things’ I was convinced I could not do. The first time I fixed a clogged drain I actually did The Happy Dance. I even moved onto taking my car to the garage and operating power tools. In fact, although fixing a drain is pretty mundane, it busted through an Upper Limit Problem I had set for myself, freeing me up to move into the Zone of Competence. That felt pretty good, so for some ‘guy things’ I was able to move into the Zone of Excellence. Shingle a roof? Hire me. I am really good at it.

Take a moment to make a list of the things you are absolutely convinced you cannot do. Then ask yourself if they truly are not in your skill set or whether you are imposing an Upper Limit Problem on yourself.

You might be surprised at what you discover.

The Big Leap is available through Amazon: The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level

You might also enjoy:

Ugly as Sin: The Truth About How We Look and Finding Freedom From Self-Hatred
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
Discover Your Psychic Type: Developing and Using Your Natural Intuition


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  1. The Big Leap is a phenomenal book! Love it! My first reaction when I read the first paragraph was to think about all the times my men have taken tools out of hands and taken over the job themselves. Because I grew up with a handy dad and loved to hang out with him as a child, I learned my way around basic power tools and most hand tools early on.

    Then, my first husband and I re-built a house. I learned plumbing, wiring, and all sorts of carpentry.

    Now, I get really annoyed when I ask for help with an overtightened bolt or with a short 2 person job, only to wind up watching as HE tries to finish the job. GRRRRRR….
    Jeanne Andrus´s last blog post ..The Ultimate in Courage

  2. I am reading the Big Leap right now too and love it! And I have a blog post brewing based on something I read in the book :-)

    My husband is not only very handy, he finds such projects to be relaxing. He has, however, evolved over the years to know when it’s better to pay someone else to do certain jobs. As for me, I am sure I could learn to do anything I wanted…it’s just a matter of wanting :-)
    KCLAnderson (Karen)´s last blog post ..Practicing: Mind Over Matter (“The Labyrinth” Edition)

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