Personal Growth

Do You Have An "Upper Limit" Problem?

August 26, 2010

Hi! I'm Marie

You have gifts to share with the world and my job is to help you get them out there.

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Last week was the first time I’ve ever left a yoga workshop, in my life.

Let’s be clear – the teachers were fantastic.

But after my fourth downward dog, I started breaking into a cold sweat, got nauseous and my head felt like it was about to explode.

“Oh great,” I thought.

“Not only do I have to walk out of this yoga workshop, but we’re right at the end of my B-School launch and about to open registration for RHH Live! I can’t get a 24 hour stomach bug now! There’s too much good stuff going on!”

Well, that 24-hour stomach bug turned into a week of being completely out of commission.

And I do I mean completely. For the past six days, I’ve been a hot, sick mess.

Skull crushing headaches. Stomach pain so severe it had me doubled over for 70% of the day. And whatever tiny amounts of food I managed to get down came out faster than a rocket ship.

Not cute.

After the first 3 days with no signs of improvement, I started to get concerned.

I’m “strong like bull” and rarely, if ever, get sick. When I do, it’s pretty minor stuff and I’m back in action within a day or so.

In the moments between bathroom runs, I scoured the web looking for what could possibly be wrong with me.

“Is it salmonella?  Hmmm…there was just that big egg recall.  Some kind of nastyass 10 foot long parasite or tapeworm?  Maybe, but highly unlikely.  A life-threatening stomach disease?  Boy, would that suck.”

It’s important to note that during the first half of my sick week, Josh was in LA shooting an NBC show so I was flying solo in the Hamptons.

Thank God, I had a crew of awesome girlfriends staying in a house not far down the road to help keep an eye on me.

“You’re pregnant!” was the first thought they all had.

No shot in hell. I didn’t need to pee on a stick to know that wasn’t it.

Then my friend Kate, who knows me well, made a very astute observation. “I think you’re having an upper limit problem Marie.”


Cut to day four. I’m pale and emaciated.

Josh is back from LA and it’s clear whatever I had was not going away on its own. We headed straight to the doctor so he could run tests.

Later that same evening, I wanted to get out of the house so we stopped by the girls’ house for tea. One by one, everyone took bets on what was causing my mystery illness.

Then Rachel, Kate’s uber intuitive cousin said,

“Marie, I really think those test results will come back negative. It’s definitely an upper limit problem. You’re going through some major growth right now and I’ll bet this is just part of you busting through your upper limits and increasing your capacity for success.”

Kate giggled and nodded in agreement.

Josh smiled, gently squeezed my hand and said “Yeah, that and you really need a break.  You’ve been going non-stop. Since you weren’t about to take one willingly, your body decided for you.”

(Damn him for always being right ;))

So in case you’ve never heard of an “upper limit problem”, what Kate and Rachel are referring to comes from Gay Hendrick’s incredible book called The Big Leap.

Here’s the basic idea.

Each of has an internal thermometer for how much success, wealth, happiness, love, and intimacy we’ll let ourselves experience. That’s our upper limit setting.  Kind of like our success comfort zone.

When we exceed our internal thermostat setting and life gets super duper OMG good (we have an influx of money, get healthy and thin, find a great relationship) – we unconsciously do things to sabotage ourselves, so we can drop back to the old, familiar place where we feel in control.

Upper limit problems can manifest like this.

You’ve just had a huge win and then you…  get in an accident, break a limb, fry your computer, over-drink, over-eat, over-spend, start a fight with your significant other, get really sick, etc.

You know, fun self-sabotaging stuff like that.

The truth is I was so ridonkulously excited about the success of B-Bchool AND the miracles aligning for my RHH Live event this fall (partnering with Donna Karan’s Urban Zen; securing all of my dream speakers…)

That I didn’t just bump into my upper limit… I demolished that sucker with a sledge hammer.

So, yeah. I guess I was bound to have a little re-adjustment time.

Cut to Sunday morning.  I’m reading Breaking Dawn in bed when the phone rings.

Test results time.

“Hi Marie. It’s Dr. Mott. We got the results back from the lab – really good news. There’s nothing wrong with you. No bacteria, no parasites or anything we need to worry about.  You got a regular old stomach virus. Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll be just fine.”


The girls and Josh, were right on. Upper limit problems – I can handle that. Alien-like intestinal parasites eating their way through my stomach… not so much.

So here’s what I did:

I gave myself total permission to relax. Zero computer time. I told everyone in my world not to expect anything work related from me for a few days.

I rescheduled appointments. Released myself from guilt and totally indulged in healing, coziness and every guilty pleasure I could think of.

I emotionally and energetically celebrated by giving myself permission to relish in a series of non-productive, silly and frivolous things.

(Translation: a whole bunch of Edward, Bella and Jacob plus back-to-back episodes of Mad Men.)

Funny enough, the moment I stopped beating myself up for being sick, my body kicked into speed recovery mode.

Wild how that happens, right?

How To Dismantle Your Upper Limit Problem

Unless you understand this whole upper limit thing, you may mistakenly believe that you’re flawed or simply not “good enough” to handle a big jump in your success or happiness.

It may feel like you’re always on the verge of a life altering breakthrough, but you either can’t seem to ever get there or maintain it.

I can tell you first hand that everyone on the planet has varying degrees of “upper limit problems.” Thankfully, they’re a snap to overcome if you’ve got the right tools and an open, willing heart.

Step 1.  Get that dealing with “upper limit problems” are a necessary part of the journey.

Look. No one escapes this. So don’t feel weak, bad or alone if any of this sounds familiar.

Thankfully, upper limit problems can be super easy to dissolve when you bring compassion and self-awareness to the table.

Which of course means checking both your ego, and your victimy “Why does this always happen to me?” BS at the door.

Important note: Moving through upper limit problems is not a one time event. If you’re committed to continually expanding your levels of wealth, love and happiness, strap in for the ride, baby.

Step 2.  Increase your tolerance for how good you’re willing to have your life be, starting right now.

What’s does this mean? For starters, it means treating exactly where you are and what you have with all the love, honor and respect you can muster. And this isn’t just a mental exercise, you need to act on it.

Tell your your family that you love and appreciate them; be truly grateful for whatever money you have in your bank account; take care of your physical environment and the roof over your head; thank your clients for their business, and nourish your body and soul in every way you can possibly imagine.

Step 3.  Go on high ULP (upper limit problem) alert when loads of good stuff starts to come your way.

Pay special attention to your thoughts, behaviors and actions when things in your business and life start getting OMG good. Here’s a question to regularly ask yourself, “How much wealth, love and happiness am I r-e-a-l-l-y willing to have?”

If “An epic ton!” is close to your answer, then make sure your behaviors and words line up with that answer.

Then keep a watchful, observant eye and open heart.

If you catch yourself about to start an argument, go into some manufactured mental drama or make a royally stupid and rash business decision – stop. Take a few deep breaths. Call your most grounded friend and have a chat.

Remember, any time you’re in the midst of busting through your own upper limits, it’s bound to be a little scary and uncomfortable. You may want to pull back and contract.

Don’t. Hang with the discomfort. It’s a good sign.

It means you’ve just increased your capacity to experience wealth, happiness and love – both for yourself and for us all.

Got thoughts on this one? Ever have an upper limit problem yourself? A story about how you’ve overcome it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below.


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