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Has this ever happened? You win an award, you have an amazing day, or you get a big promotion — then all of a sudden something negative happens in another part of your life, perhaps you have a big fight with your partner, you get sick or experience a set-back in your health? Or, while enjoying a general feeling of bliss or happiness with your life, those positive feelings are all of a sudden hijacked by negative thoughts and worries about all of the bad that could soon occur?

I’ve often heard parents talk of this happening while they watch their children sleep, or peacefully play — and soon after admiring them lovingly and thinking about how much they love and adore them, those feelings of deep love and contentment are soon clouded by worry and fear.

Why do we do this? 

Because we all have an invisible set ceiling on how much joy/satisfaction/happiness/success we are comfortable with. Even the most successful and celebrated individuals have their own ceilings.

In his book, The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks calls this the “Upper Limit Problem” and refers to that invisible ceiling as our “inner thermostat setting”.

Hendricks explains that “when we exceed our inner thermostat setting we will often do something to sabotage ourselves, causing us to drop back into the old, familiar zone where we feel secure. Unfortunately, our thermostat setting usually gets programmed early in childhood before we can think for ourselves.”  As adults, they trigger from our subconscious to keep us “safe” and comfortable, but away from our “Zone of Genius” – the zone, Hendricks says, where we are in full expression of our genius and are utilizing all of our unique gifts and talents to their fullest.

Hendricks defines the most common” Upper Limit Behaviors” we use to sabotage ourselves as:

  • Worrying
  • Blame and criticism
  • Getting sick or hurt
  • Squabbling
  • Hiding significant feelings
  • Not keeping agreements
  • Not speaking significant truths to the relevant people (the actual person we’re upset with)
  • Deflecting (for example, brushing off compliments)

Hendricks suggests that by becoming aware of and then zapping our “Upper Limit Behavior” we can operate in our “Zone of Genius” and ultimately achieve our greatest levels of success with wealth, work, and love.

I too have been challenged by worry. When something is going extremely well, I tend to find myself searching for something to worry about or ‘fix.’ After understanding the “Upper Limit Problem” was the root cause of this, I started becoming aware of and observing when those times of worry and anxiety crept up. Most often, I realized they came soon after something really wonderful happened, or I was feeling a great sense of joy, satisfaction and overall wellness. By identifying it, the worrisome thoughts soon started going away and I became more comfortable with positive feelings, the feelings of success, and my ceiling began to lift.

I encourage you to think about and test this yourself.  Observe the next time you feel worry, deflect a compliment, feel physical pain or experience one of the other “Upper Limit Behaviors” listed above. When did it occur? After something really great happened?  Becoming of aware of the signs– and shining a light on them — is an important step to operating in your “Zone of Genius”.

Have you experienced this?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.



*image courtesy of Mycathkins

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