The Enlightened No

the-enlightened-noAre you starting to dream big for 2017? Maybe you’re thinking of daring greatly and want to push the limits in your life next year. If so, here’s something to help get you ready!

In his book, The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks aims to solve the Upper Limit Problem that people frequently encounter when they try to push themselves to, well, their Upper Limit.

Hendricks says: “Deep inside your mind a little voice says, ‘You can’t possibly feel this good’ (or ‘make this much money’ or ‘be this happy in love’). Unconsciously, you then do something to bring yourself back down to the thermostat setting you’re familiar with. Even if you do achieve a glorious new height, it is often short-lived.”

This glorious new height is what Hendricks terms The Zone of Genius. You’re in your Zone of Genius when you’re doing activities that you are uniquely suited to do – that draw on your special gifts and strengths.

There’s a particularly helpful concept in the book that I was reminded about recently. It’s called the Enlightened No. Basically, as he puts it, “You’re not saying no for all the usual reasons, such as money, dislike, lack of time, and so forth.” But rather it’s when you turn down something that doesn’t fit into your Zone of Genius.

My Zone of Genius is when I get to:

  • Do things that inspire me or others;
  • Help individuals realize that they are more empowered than they think;
  • And use my writing and speaking ability to do all of the above.

For example, assisting individuals with their resumes fits because when clients go through my unique process, we look at more than their skills. We bring to light the difference they make. For many, it’s the first time they’ve really owned their distinctiveness, and that is heady stuff. I’m truly inspired by the people I get to support this way. On top of that, it involves writing. So, when I say yes to a resume project, I get to operate in my Zone of Genius.

When I mentioned that I was recently reminded about the Enlightened No, it was because I had a chance to use it in conjunction with my Zone of Genius. A few months ago, I was approached by a popular job board to run a test with them. They wanted to select 10 to 15 job seekers and offer them my resume rewriting services. Afterward we would send a survey to evaluate how this affected the job seeker’s experience of engaging with their company. Since working on resumes fits well into my Zone of Genius, I said yes.

It was a blast to do the project, I got to work with some cool job seekers, and we received consistently very high scores in the survey responses. Then, because the company likes testing and because the project leader liked our results, she asked if I would be interested in their test to help HR Professionals write job descriptions to post on their site.

While this is within my ability because I used to do it when I was a recruiter, it wasn’t going to involve the inspiring and empowerment of individuals… at all. I gave her an Enlightened No, and it was all good. Now they’ve come back to me for another test with the job seekers that is in my Zone of Genius. The results continue to be outstanding and the work super enjoyable.

So that’s a clear example of the Enlightened No in action… and I suppose we could say it’s the Enlightened Yes in action too! Anyway, as you’re looking ahead to the New Year, I hope you too will choose to use the Enlightened No when it’s time to choose your Zone of Genius. I know you’ll find it rewarding to take the big leap. 🙂


Angela Loeb is into self-development… learning it, teaching it, and supporting others who do too. More at

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