Have you ever heard of the Upper Limit Problem? It’s a theory and term created by author Gay Hendricks in his book The Big Leap. The idea is that we have an internal happiness set point, our own limit on how much good we can comfortably handle in our lives.
Well, whenever we surpass that limit, we can subconsciously create situations for ourselves that keep us from feeling TOO good. They keep us in our current comfort zones. If that sounds a little “out there” to you, here are some common examples: Someone wakes up on their first day of a long-awaited vacation feeling sick to their stomach. Or, maybe they finally find themselves in the blissful relationship they’ve always wanted, and freak out because it all feels “too good to be true.” So they pick a fight or quickly put their guard up. Or, perhaps they're about to give the speech of a lifetime yet unexpectedly lose their voice before their big moment.
Here's a personal example:
For months, I noticed that every time I was planning on getting back into a vigorous workout regimen, I woke up that same day feeling sick or having some kind of physical restriction that prevented me from being able to exercise. According to the Upper Limit theory, I was creating my own “perfectly acceptable” obstacles to keep me from working out.
Meanwhile, my life was really on track in every other area. I was happier than I had ever been up until that point, and I was ready to get in killer shape (or so I thought). Yet I knew that if I was eating super clean and feeling more energized than ever, I would experience an even higher level of happiness. What would that even look and feel like? My joy levels were flying sky-high, and the thought of up-leveling another area of my life was apparently enough to stop me in my tracks.
It’s amazing how something like too much joy can scare the crap out of our egos. The more our internal happiness set point creeps up…the less we need our egos. They can take a back seat, because they become less relevant. And let me tell you, as anyone who has worked to “quiet” their ego knows, they very much prefer to be behind the wheel.
Growing up, my dad told me that people are only able to be “as happy as they can stand to be.” I remember noticing that people naturally varied in their capacity to take in the good around them. At the same time, this ability can be learned ― and stretched. This is great news, because it means that anyone has the ability to become more joyful, grateful, expansive versions of themselves…should they choose to do so.
Fast forward decades later, and my coach taught me about the power of checking in with yourself and asking, “how good can I stand it?"
This has since become a regular practice for me. A never-ending challenge to consciously become more aware of the good around me AND (most importantly) let those feelings seep in with full receptivity. Knowing that I am not only capable of tapping into more joy but I am also worthy of every last ounce of it. My process goes like this:
1) Start with gratitude. Notice and appreciate the good in your life. Really take in any and everything that comes to mind. A simple way to do this is to create a daily ritual, like writing out 3 things you’re grateful for before bed each night. Doing this every day forces you to get creative and specific if you challenge yourself to vary your answers and not write the same things down over and over again. You’ll start to deepen your appreciation for each day’s moments, conversations, meals, and experiences.
2) Consider any little Upper Limit moments that might be surfacing in your life. Even the subtle little glitches here and there. What’s getting in the way of what you want? What’s bringing you down? The answers that come forward are keys to where might you be self-sabotaging or getting in your own way.
3) Conduct a loving inquiry into what's showing up. Ask yourself if there is any downside to getting what you want. How might your ego be trying to protect you? Actively monitor and explore your own limitations with a genuine curiosity, and take an honest look at your fears. Explore them without judgment, to the best of your ability. Acknowledge them for what they are — fears doing their job, trying (in their own way) to keep you safe.
4) Reassure yourself that experiencing this much goodness IS your birthright. That it is safe and okay. That you are worthy of joy. And that you have a choice, always, to choose between fear and love.
5) Choose love.
To your limitless joy,