A few weeks ago, my signature marked the culmination of a lifelong dream: I signed a deal to publish my book in 2023. To publish a book has been a dream of mine since elementary school. As I hit “send” on the signed document, I was elated, and a swoosh of excitement ran through me.

And then…

Within 24 hours, I was struck with horrible headaches. Nausea. And a debilitating fatigue. I don’t get ill often, so this really threw me. Did I have Covid (despite being double vaccinated)? Food poisoning? Something more sinister? (The answer to all of these was: no)

The Upper Limit Problem

As I sat with this ill feeling, I was reminded of a book I had read many, many years ago: The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. I wondered: Could this reaction I was having be an Upper Limit Problem?  The Upper Limit Problem is a term coined by Gay in the book and it goes something like this: we each have a limit on how much abundance, success, and love we think we are deserving of. It’s like we each have our own thermostat setting for these things.

Now this thermostat setting depends on a number of things: our upbringing, limiting beliefs that we might hold, fears we may have, things that were told to us growing up or by influential others in our lives. (If you want to dig deeper on this, I highly recommend the book).

From joy to self-sabotage

Once you cross this self-imposed threshold – whatever you unconsciously deem as your appropriate level of success, abundance, love – you will suddenly self-sabotage. And you’ll do it unconsciously…

You may fall sick when you achieve a significant milestone (ahem).

You may pick a fight with your partner or colleague.

You might suddenly injure yourself on the way to a significant event.

There are a number of ways this self-sabotage might show up. But it is designed to pull you back to your “normal” comfort zone.

This limit is mighty problematic if you’re looking to grow in your life and bring in great love, great success, and great abundance. For myself, as soon as I revisited the teachings of the Upper Limit Problem, I knew that’s what was going on for me. A hugely personal and significant dream had manifested for me, and I suspect was pushing up against my self-imposed upper limit.

So what can we do about an Upper Limit Problem?

Here’s what you can do following a significantly positive, joyful situation in your life to avoid going into unconscious self-sabotage:

  • Pay attention. When something significantly positive happens in your personal or professional life, notice the tendency to self-sabotage. Check yourself before taking any action after a big win.
  • Pause and express gratitude after achieving a big win. Let it land.
  • If you feel yourself about to make a rash decision, pick a fight, or engage in some other behaviour that may derail your recent win – just stop.
  • Pay it forward. Take stock about how your win, success, or abundance can be leveraged to benefit others – think about how can you support and inspire others to move into greater levels of success.

Bottom line: stay conscious, pay attention, and pay it forward.

So I’m curious: have you experienced an upper limit problem? Maybe you didn’t know it at the time but now, in retrospect, this might have happened to you in the past? Share in the comments below!

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