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Getting to the “Green Zone”: Being Ready for Effective Career and Life Conversations

by Jayne Greene-Black and Mark Franklin


Helping clients move into what we like to call their ‘green zone’ broadens possibilities, builds resilience and improves career and life conversations and choice-making. This metaphoric zone is characterized by feeling energized, balanced, open, and positive. In the green zone, clients can identify and focus on what they want, are more perceptive and can take action to achieve their desires).
When clients are in the ‘red zone’ they feel depleted, burned-out, de-energized and pessimistic.  They are cut off from their sources of happiness and are often closed off from possibilities.  The world looks bleak and they lack the energy to clarify their desires and take action.  Engaging in important career conversations from the red zone is far from ideal.
The benefits of the green zone are supported by empirical findings from the burgeoning field of positive psychology. Fredrickson (2004) developed a research-based theory that demonstrates how positivity is energizing and can “broaden people’s attention and thinking,… fuel psychological resilience… and trigger upward spirals towards greater well-being in the future”.
In her recent book, Positivity, Fredrickson (2009a) identified a tipping point of positive emotions in a 3:1 ratio to negative ones which facilitates growth and positive change. She identifies strategies people can employ to increase their positive emotions and offers a free online assessment to measure positivity ratio (
How can career professionals guide clients into the green zone? There are a variety of tools and techniques, but it is important to remember that each client also has a unique personal recharging system.
A simple strategy is to ask clients to recall what has re-energized them in the past and help them plan to reconnect to these activities. While recharging, clients enter a ‘yellow zone’ where they begin to re-experience some of the happiness from which they have been cut off. A feeling of relief accompanies a client’s transition from red to yellow, observable in body language, facial expressions and language. They begin to develop more clarity, see options, and engage in positive career conversations. Developing new habits of thought and activity helps clients stay energized and move fully into the green zone.
By exploring a client’s career story through a holistic, narrative approach (Zikic, Franklin, 2010), a career professional gets important clues about what zone the client is in and what activities and changes are needed to assist in recharging them.
Career professionals too, may find themselves engaging in more effective career conversations when they are in the green zone. Positive psychologist Lyubomirsky (2007), describes 12 useful activities including “expressing gratitude,” “practicing acts of kindness,” and “savoring life’s joys.” And by imagining their clients’ best selves and attending to the good feelings that flow from such thoughts, career professionals can nudge themselves out of the red zone and into yellow and green.
Jayne Greene-Black, M.A, brings 30 years of career counselling experience using a strengths-based approach; she is a Career Specialist at York University.  Mark Franklin, M.Ed., practice leader of CareerCycles, has enriched the career wellbeing of 2000+ clients, is host of Career Buzz radio show and developed the “Who You Are MATTERS!” career and life clarification game. Together, Jayne and Mark form part of a team of Associates in the career management social enterprise, CareerCycles, and train helping professionals toward the Holistic Narrative Career Professional designation. Visit


Fredrickson, B. (2009a). Positivity. New York: Random House.

Fredrickson, B. (2009b). Positivity. Retrieved November 23, 2010, from

Fredrickson, B. (2004, August 17). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. The Royal Society. Retrieved 22 November, 2010, from

Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). The How of Happiness. New York: Penguin Press.

Zikic, J., Franklin, M. (2010). Enriching careers and lives: introducing a positive, holistic, and narrative career counseling method that bridges theory and practice. Journal of Employment Counseling, 47-4

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