Ah, September. The start of the autumn season when we fall back to regular routines, winding down from summer vacation — whether it’s back to school for the kids, resuming work at the (virtual) office and undoing the dietary debauchery of the all the BBQs, family get togethers and late nights binge watching multiple seasons of Lucifer (“the devil made me do it”, you say).
While you were part of the 10 per cent who successfully kept your 2020 New Year’s Resolution to lose those “freshman 15” pounds (we commend you for your quest for self-improvement)…fast forward to today, you’re wondering how did those 15 pounds find you again, and where did that other five pounds come from?
You want to lose weight. Yet, you undo all your hard work and self-sabotage of your efforts? What gives?
It’s not you. Well, it’s you, but not really you. We’ll explain.
The Upper Limit Problem: it’s all a mental game
We’ve all seen Sigmund Freud’s illustrative metaphor of the iceberg as the mind with the tip representing the conscious, visible mind of our ideas, goals, behaviour, willpower and feelings. Versus what truly lies beneath the surface, our subconscious mind, which is the vastly invisible bulk of our mental container of all our habits, beliefs, fears, doubts and myriad of deep rooted beliefs.
Self-sabotage is the root of all evil (according to your perfectly laid out, planning conscious mind) yet if you asked your subconscious mind, self-sabotage is its way of keeping you safe.
Seems ludicrous and even counterproductive, right?
Well, there’s a saying that your brain is designed to keep you alive, not to make you happy. And fortunately, there’s also a psychologist who discovered how to crack the happiness code while disarming self-sabotaging behaviours.
Dr. Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level coined the term Upper Limit Problem, a mental limit we put on ourselves to the extent of which we believe we deserve to be happy or successful.
His book provides the blueprint of how to overcome the self-imposed barriers we place on ourselves, as a self-defence mechanism, when we become successful in certain areas of our life — whether in our career, finances, relationships, and our personal development, including our fitness goals.
Hendricks explains when we reach these new heights of unexperienced success, it actually makes us nervous or uncomfortable (for many different reasons). And because we don’t know how to handle the new level of success, we return to bad habits or old patterns as a form of self-sabotage to get back into our comfort zone.
“Each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy,” Hendricks says in the book. “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.”
Let’s see if you can relate to this Upper Limit Problem in action: you’ve tracked all your meals and workouts, so when it’s end-of-the-week weigh-in time, you’re down two pounds – amazing!
The next day, you get into a big fight with your partner: one hour and a pint of ice cream later, you look at the bottom of the empty container wondering how you found yourself there (again). Or, you suddenly find yourself bailing on your workout buddy, for no reason, except, we both know why now: because the anxiety or fear of success quietly tugs at you to retreat into your safe bubble. Now, here are four ways to burst that bubble.
Expose your Upper Limit Problem
The first and most important step is to acknowledge self-sabotage is merely you hitting your upper limit, and a mindset shift needs to occur to go to the next level. Sometimes we think we’re only deserving of a certain level of success, yet it all comes back to our beliefs of self-worth. Get out of your own way and accept where you are at on your fitness journey so you can strategically plot your next steps towards your destination.
Rewrite your story
Change the narrative taking up prime real estate in your mind. Evict the doubts, clear the negative clutter and welcome positive self-talk. Script or journal what you would like your future self to be, look and act like when it comes to progressive healthy behaviours by rewiring your brain to create your new self-image and positive outcomes you would like to see moving forward.
Master your mornings, master your day with affirmations
Hendricks recommends saying daily affirmations such as “I expand with success, love, joy, money, and abundance every single day and when I do that it inspires others to do the same.” Tweak and adapt this example for your fitness goals on your cell phone or a cue card to keep with you on the go.
Replace creeping doubts with your affirmations or when lurking negative thoughts pop up. Or even recite them in your mind throughout the day as a proactive punch when naughty mid-afternoon cravings sneak up. Even more powerful is to say your affirmations 30 minutes upon waking up in the morning and 30 minutes before you go to bed when your subconscious mind is primed in its most receptive state.
You can also use these affirmations to reward good behaviour to encourage yourself when you succeed in staying in control of your mood and food. The reinforcement also encourages others around you to do the same too, because the more they believe in you, the more it helps motivate them to achieve success in their own goals.
Your mental diet is key
Words matter, and your self-talk or limiting beliefs can ultimately make or break your fitness success. You deserve success; you deserve to be happy; and you deserve to achieve your fitness goals. Rather than falling back into a “start-stop routine” of your fitness goals, break through that invisible ceiling in your mind, and level up to a limitless mindset.