So I’ve been re-reading the book The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, lately. Do you ever read something and feel like the person who wrote it, wrote it for you? Like they somehow magically knew that you’d need to hear this particular thing? See the thing that stands in the way of my greatest successes is me. Not intentionally, not at the front of my brain, but it’s me and my choices, just the same.
I started re-reading this book because I noticed that lately I’ve had some success and received some accolades from my mentor and as soon as that happened, I stopped doing the work to continue moving forward. All the momentum I’d built up, the rapid growth and the money coming in came to a grinding halt and not for any real reason that I could point to. I just couldn’t make myself focus and do the work. I’d get overwhelmed or start a fight or get mad about something unrelated that would spin me out for the day.
Gay Hendricks calls this an Upper Limit Problem. Basically, I hit the top level of success or joy that my internal barometer is set at, the top level of what he calls a persons “Zone of Excellence”, that space where things are easy to do well, where I’m not challenged to be better/more/the best of what I can be, and the moment I started to push past that to my “Zone of Genius”, the place where I could really thrive and risk and grow, I promptly sabotaged myself so I could stay where I’m comfortable. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve done this in my life. Been skating along, doing well, better than well actually, just on the edge of really great and then some sort of crazy thing happens to keep me in the place of struggle that I’m used to. Oh the stories I could tell. I mean, how many times had things been going really well when I’d be overtaken with the sense of dread, just waiting for “the other shoe to drop” because things really can’t be this good; where I’d become nearly obsessed with the bad thing I couldn’t see on the horizon, so I ruined the good thing right next to me?
I swear, this book was exactly what I needed right now. See, this current downward spiral was triggered by my mentor expressing her belief that my goals were too conservative, that she could see me hitting my next two major goals in the time I’d allotted for the next minor/conservative goal. Her utter belief in me was echoed by my wife. My brain switched to buzzing white noise, I went home and got ill. Like physically ill. Hitting these goals in 3-4 months rather than my allotted 2 years suddenly felt like I was being offered all the freedom (financial and time both) I’d dreamed of out of nowhere and that judgmental voice in the back of my head started chanting “you don’t deserve this”. And because I have always listened to that voice first, like a filter to color how I see everything else, I immediately stopped doing the things, the easy, daily things that just require me to show up and do them, that were bringing me success. It’s so weird when shit like this happens because I have a million rationalizations for it, but really what I’m doing is saying, “I haven’t worked and suffered enough to earn this joy.” What a load of shit that is.
So I’m listening to the author explain how to acknowledge these thoughts when they come up and instead of going with them, take a breath and wonder what good thing am I about to learn or receive? Accept that this self-sabotage mechanism is a sign that I’m about to level up in the game and that I need to be ok with the noise and the fear and just take a breath and wait it out. See the fear is there to keep you from risking anything, that fear is there to keep you safely in the place where you can do the things you’re doing without stretching to work any harder. This takes more self-awareness than I’ve previously invested in. It’s scary. It’s a new level of personal responsibility to look at the way my brain starts to pick apart any time I feel like I’m doing well, any time I’m succeeding, to stop in that moment of making myself feel bad for feeling good about myself and my accomplishments and take a breath so I can acknowledge the thoughts and look for the good thing that is about to happen, and then, and this is the most crucial step, let it happen. That’s the work now.
I wish you more joy than you think you deserve.
The Kitchen Witch