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Three Signs You Have an Upper Limit Problem

Psychologist Gay Hendricks theorizes that we all have an upper limit problem. He says we have an inner thermostat where we set how much love, happiness, success and money we feel we deserve. If we go beyond this self-imposed limit, we do something to sabotage ourselves to bring us back down to that old and familiar level.
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Couple fighting
Couple fighting

I enjoy sharing positive stories with you all, but I'm going to switch gears today in the interest of honesty and transparency. The truth is, last week was rough. I was hit out of nowhere with health issues causing me to cancel commitments I had been looking forward to. I completely dropped the ball on a speech. And I found myself getting really frustrated and short-tempered driving around the city (something I usually enjoy).

I could have dismissed it as bad luck or a simple crappy week but -- me being me -- I decided to dig a little deeper. I thought back to a book I read last year called The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. Hendricks theorizes that we all have an Upper Limit Problem. He says we have an inner thermostat where we set how much love, happiness, success and money we feel we deserve. If we go beyond this self-imposed limit, we do something to sabotage ourselves to bring us back down to that old and familiar level.

Since reading this brilliant theory, I noticed a pattern -- I would get sick immediately after a big accomplishment or breakthrough. And last week, not only did my immune system kick my ass, but I also dropped the ball on something important and then found myself creating stress out of nowhere. It wasn't just one sign of my upper limit, it was a triple-whammy.

Many of you may know that buying a car was a big deal for me (and you can read more about this in my HuffPost blog here). For those who don't know, here's the scoop. After years of being afraid to get back behind the wheel -- 11 years to be exact -- I obtained my driver's license last year. I plucked up the courage to drive on my own, which was terrifying at first but it soon became an incredible, empowering and joyful experience for me. Initially, I used car share programs and it worked well at first, but the limitations of car sharing started to hold me back. So purchasing my very first car meant I had something I'd never had before -- true freedom. I should have been buzzing all week long about this exciting addition to my life. But I wasn't. I had hit my upper limit.

Now my confession is off my chest, here are three ways an upper limit problem can show up in your life along with coping strategies for each one.

You receive a promotion at work then pick a fight with your spouse at home

You know the feeling. The late nights, overtime and chronic networking have paid off and you landed that new job you've been angling for. Maybe it's a new job, perhaps it's a promotion or a raise, but either way you feel on top of the world! That is, until you arrive home and your other half does something to annoy you (so you tell yourself) and a battle of wills erupts right there beside the kitchen countertops. Coincidence? Think again my friend. If you have a habit of picking fights with those you love immediately after professional success, make sure you become hyper-aware of your trigger points. Take deep breaths and choose to respond calmly instead of reacting abruptly. Talk a long walk around the park before coming home. Workout, do yoga, go for a run. I could go on... but you know what works best for you.

You're happier than you've ever been, then you become clumsy

This can manifest in a couple different ways. It can be in the form of accident or injury - bumping your car or twisting your ankle -- or it can be making mistakes and dropping the ball at work. If this is how your upper limit shows itself, be sure to pay extra attention when things are going especially well for you. Drive a little more carefully, pay extra attention when you're walking down the street, watch out for banana peels... all joking aside, you get the idea. Stay on high alert.

You reach a major milestone in your life -- and then you get sick

This is how my upper limit problem rears its ugly head. When something amazing happens in my life, my immune system craps out. It took time before I recognized it was an upper limit. It was easier to say, "I'm tired, I've been working a lot, I'm just really run down. I was working hard for that thing and now I have it, my energy levels are low and I'm just running on empty. I'm bound to get sick."

The solution? Scheduling time out after that big breakthrough. After I bought my car, I should have taken it easy for the next week or so, knowing this is a pattern for me and I needed some R&R to counter the upper limit. But nope -- I plowed on through. This time, the lesson has most definitely been learned.

One caveat to the theory. Sometimes, unexpected things happen that are sad or even tragic. This isn't an upper limit. It's an upper limit when you see the same thing happening repeatedly -- every time you reach a huge milestone, you injure yourself in a freak accident. It might show up in a different way (one time it's your knee, the next time it's your back), but it happens every time. It's repetitive.

And if you start to notice this pattern in your life, it's time to start exploring the possibility that you have an upper limit problem.

As to the question, "Why do I have an upper limit?" That's a whole new can of worms!


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