How to Find Your Zone: Gems from Dr. Grant’s Workshop Part 1

The world doesn’t stop changing after you graduate, so Neeley makes sure your education doesn’t stop there, either. Sometimes we take deeper dives into topics covered in the course curriculum, sometimes we talk about new hot topics, and sometimes – like at the recent “How Do I Find My Zone?” workshop – we focus on improving ourselves.

Dr Nick Grant

Ever have one of those days when you felt completely in your element, solving problems, conquering to-do lists and winning on every level?

It’s called being in the “zone,” and industrial psychologist Nick Grant says you don’t have to just wait for it to happen; you can create the perfect conditions for getting into your zone and staying there.

We first met Dr. Richard “Nick” Grant, Jr. as new students at the In-Residence Seminar. He helped us take our first steps into understanding our personalities through the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. On May 20, Dr. Grant returned to show us more ways to bring out the best in ourselves and in the people around us.

About 30 EMBA alumni and current students met in Smith Hall for a delicious lunch catered by Mi Cocina. Then we settled in to listen, alternating laughter with enlightened gasps as Dr. Grant, with his easy smile and occasional Scottish brogue, dropped a gold mine of psychological insights into our laps.

In the first segment of the workshop, we covered how to find your zone.

How to Find Your Personal Zone

Dr. Grant shared an exercise developed by Richard Bolles (of What Color Is Your Parachute? fame) for identifying the psychological components that can help you find your zone, or get your second wind. Here’s how it works:

  1. Think of your benchmark experiences. Think of 5-10 times in your life you were happy, in the zone. They can be anytime in your life, even childhood experiences, whether at work, at home or, Dr. Grant joked, the detention center.
  2. Describe each experience. Write down the details of each event like a journalist.
    • What was the physical environment? Inside or outside, cluttered or clean, new or familiar?
    • What was the social environment? Were you mostly alone, or with people? What kinds of people were with you? Was there a lot of interaction and teamwork, or mostly independent work?
    • What were you doing? What activity were you doing that you liked so much? Planning, organizing, designing, building?
    • What was the reward? What made the experience rewarding to you? Being creative? Working with a team? Pleasing customers? The salary?
  3. Look for recurring themes. Look for trends or similarities across all your benchmark experiences – similar environments, similar activities, etc. In the workshop, we teamed up with partners to talk out some of our experiences and help each other identify those similarities.

The trends you identify in Step 3 are your personal optimizers. When all those things come together at one point, you respond with your happiest, most fulfilled, most productive self.

How to Find Your Team’s Zone

You can apply the same principles with your coworkers. Dr. Grant suggests you schedule a casual get-together, like a lunch or happy hour, to keep things low-pressure.

  1. Share your best work experiences. Go around the room, taking turns sharing times you really enjoyed your work.
  2. Ask specific questions. Ask where they were, what they were doing, who they were with.
  3. Look for recurring themes. As you move around the group, people will start feeding off of each other’s answers, and you’ll start to see similarities emerge – or one person’s experience might spark enthusiastic agreement from the whole team.

This can help you be happier and more effective as a team; it can even help you identify your team’s mission or vision, so you’re building your company philosophy from the ground up instead of adopting it from the top down.

Try it for yourself – you may be surprised at the results – and stay tuned for recaps from the rest of the workshop, covering Emotional Intelligence and Type & Coaching.


Want Dr. Grant to teach your team how to improve everything from your leadership to your sales meetings through psychology? Contact him here.