When things go really well in your life, can you handle it? Of course I would, you’d say. Who wouldn’t want everything to go well all of the time?
In reality, though, you often unconsciously sabotage yourself. Say, you are having a breakthrough in your job. Do you go and have an argument with your partner? Or get ill? Start worrying and leaking energy?
The way Gay Hendricks explains this phenomena in his ‘The Big Leap’ book is that all of us have an inner thermostat for feeling good. The moment we exceed that upper limit of the thermostat, something ‘negative’ happens and brings our positive energy down. It seems that human race has been suffering for so long, it knows well how to handle hardship. Give it lots of positive energy and it flips out.
Here’s my example of upper-limiting last week. I started the week full of anxiety. In the next 6 weeks I’ve got to write 2 articles from a scratch. Then, as soon as it’s all done, I need to revise another article, write a policy brief, and this is without other tasks at work and I’m not even considering any of my own interests at this stage. Needless to say, I felt overwhelmed. I know well by now that pushing through overwhelm causes more overwhelm.
So, I stopped… and had a 1:1 session instead.
Immediately, I felt the fog lifting. I calmed down enough to make a commitment to working on these articles for at least 2 hours a day. Instead of fretting about the enormity of the tasks, I decided to concentrate on having focused attention and getting work done every day. My energy has lifted and I felt positive: I’ve got this. With that attitude, it’ll all be done in no time. I diligently put in my 2 hours of work and I was surprised how much I got done that day.
That very night my throat started hurting. I woke up in the morning with flu, but carried on with my plan. The next day my son woke up with croup. He was off school, didn’t sleep very well, keeping us both awake. So on top of my flu symptoms, I had several nights of sleep deprivation.
What does this have to do with upper-limiting, you may say? Perhaps it was just coincidence?
After all, people get ill, it’s that season, etc. The timing was uncanny though, plus I practically never get colds. I had one last January which seemed out of ordinary. The one before was probably 10 years ago. I’m pretty sure this is a symptom of an upper limit.
How to overcome it?
‘Just noticing how you limit love and positive energy solves much of the problem. Do you bring yourself down with food? Do you drink too much? Do you deflect compliments? Do you get sick the day of an opportunity for intimacy in the relationship? Do you hold back on communicating instead of reaching out to people?’ Gay Hendricks, ‘The Big Leap’.
Start with noticing when you bring your positive energy down. Then you can have an opportunity to transform it.
Here’s what happened for me: I wondered (and this is important – bring curiosity to the process and don’t use it as another opportunity to beat yourself up) – is this flu some form of self-sabotage?
Awareness is power.
‘Understanding why we’ve limited ourselves liberates a new energy in us, which we can draw on to propel us to new heights of abundance, love, and creativity.’ Gay Hendricks
The next morning I woke up and decided to stick with my commitment of putting in 2 productive hours of work. I ended up working from 8am till 5pm catching up on a lot of backlog. I still had flu and poorly off-school 5 year old in the house. By the end of the day, despite my symptoms I felt great.
So the next time things go really well for you, notice whether you can handle a surge of positive energy.
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If you live locally, why not come to my workshop at Wolverhampton Literature Festival on Saturday 27 January (3:30-5:00pm) and set yourself up for a creative year ahead?