I love to read. As a doctor, a big part of my job is to read and analyze new medical studies in various journals. I will be the first to tell you that these readings are not the most inspiring, as they are long, dry, and full of statistics. To take a break, I also make sure to read non-medical texts to learn more about others’ stories and gain perspective, insight, and motivation. In 2020 I specifically sought out authors who write about resilience, so that I can stay strong for my family, friends, and patients.

It’s not easy to choose just one, but the book I loved most this year was The Big Leap:

Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks. This book has taught me to redefine success for myself, by making me more aware of what Gay calls the “Upper Limit Problem” and the “Zone of Genius.” 

Let me explain both of his concepts in more detail, and how they have encouraged me in 2020 and will continue to push me in 2021 to take more leaps!

Upper Limits Problem

Gay holds a mirror up to the reality that we are in a lot more control of what goes wrong than we may think. The Upper Limit Problem is the theory that we limit ourselves by what we believe to be true. In other words, we play it safe.

As a female growing up in Iraq, the culture limited my beliefs on everything from my involvement in sports to what I “should” become when I grew up. My beliefs as a young woman held me down and are a big reason I decided to leave my parents and eight siblings in search of a better, more unrestrictive life in the US. The land of opportunity allowed me to change my beliefs about what was possible. After years of diligence and hard work, I have a medical practice to show for it. 

But I still find myself complaining to others and blaming myself when things don’t go the way I want. In my mind, I have created limiting stories that have turned into beliefs, and I find myself thinking these thoughts more often than anyone should. 

The Big Leap has shown me that the stories I tell myself which hold me back are just stories. They act as limiting beliefs, and they don’t serve me. 

When I take a practical approach to recognize these stories, and the power to change them, it gives me a new-found sense of purpose and determination. From learning how to use my breath as a tool, to aspiring for bigger dreams, this book will break whatever limit you place on yourself. The result is more dreams, more hope, more liveliness.

The Zone of Genius

We all have to evaluate what we invest our time on. Long ago, when I decided to become a doctor, I knew that it would mean years of dedication, studying, and sacrifice. When I am on the job with my patients, I feel at my best. I feel confident and know how to diagnose problems. I know which treatments and medications will help my patients recover.  

When it comes to sharing my stories, through writing and speaking, historically I have not had the same confidence. I have heard people say things like:

  • Why do you think you have an interesting story to tell?
  • Who would listen to you? 
  • Why would people even care?

As a result, I have defaulted to not sharing my stories with the world. Over the years I internalized people’s questioning of me so much that it created scar tissue on top of existing scar tissue. People told me not to share my stories, and that held me back from writing and speaking up.

But in 2020, a year when everything seemed to go wrong, I came to realize that I should not succumb to other people’s judgment. I realized that I am good at writing and speaking, and it is part of my Zone of Genius. Gay inspired me to realize this and double down on it. So I decided to start sharing my stories, through writing and speaking. Saying it out loud seems simple. But for years, I let the opinions of others stop me from exploring my strengths.

Over time, as I published more blogs, and accepted more opportunities to speak at conferences and on podcasts, the feedback showed me that I do have stories to tell. I know that people are listening and that they care. When I share my stories, a few pieces of wisdom, and advice from my experiences, it fuels my passion for speaking and writing even more!

I believe people are genuinely interested in what I have to say because they know I am coming from a good, caring place. When I invest in my Zone of Genius, the more I connect with my patients and audiences. I have found that people are more comfortable with the more authentic and flawed me. This applies to us all, but personally, it has taken me a tremendous amount of fearlessness to be my true, unmasked self.

In Conclusion

If you are telling yourself stories that limit your beliefs, you are only limiting yourself. And if you listen to others tell you what you are good at, instead of listening to your internal voice, you may be missing an opportunity to find and share your genius with the world. If you are going to grab one book in 2021, I say you leap. Grab your copy of The Big Leap! It will help you remove your limits and tap into your unmasked genius.
Since you know I love books, I want to know what your favorite book is from 2020, so I can check it out! Reply in a comment below or tweet me at @ReyzanShali. Thank you Gay Hendricks for giving me the confidence I needed.