And the journal reveals

by Sara Marchessault

Sometimes things in life are really great. Work is going well. The family is healthy and happy. You’re about to leave town for a dream vacation.

You are feeling good.

So, isn’t it weird how sometimes when things are so good, we end up feeling crabby? We start a fight with our spouse. We get a twinge in our neck that won’t quit. We can’t stop thinking about our worst fears.

We have hit our upper limit.

The upper limit I’m talking about here is from a book titled “The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level” by Gay Hendricks. Big Leap

The message in this book is pretty eye opening.  Hendricks explores why we sabotage ourselves when things in our lives are going well. This is referred to as the “upper limit” and we all have one.

The theory is that we each have a different threshold for how much good stuff we can handle before we hit our upper limit. When we hit our upper limit the fights with others start, the finances look really gloomy, we start beating ourselves up with “shoulds” and we feel just – blah.

Okay, so at this point you’re probably wondering why I’m writing a book report, right?

Simple – it’s because of my journal!

The author includes reflection questions in the book and on my second read, I took the time to respond to the questions in the trusty pages of my current journal.

And you know what I found out? I don’t just have an upper limit. I don’t just pick fights with my spouse when I feel really great.

I have a toolkit of crappy events from my past that I dig out and use when things are going a little too great.

That’s right, you read that correctly!

I have a secret toolkit of unhappy thoughts that I subconsciously open up and bring out when a trigger in my brain tells me that things are TOO GOOD! Instead of celebrating how awesome life is, I remember something that brings me down.

I tell myself that even though things are great, I “should” be doing x, y, and z.

I think about a sad event or time in my life.

Or I think about things that will happen in my future that make me sad or a little anxious (raising teenagers, paying for college, aging, etc.).

My journal revealed this to me.

This came out in my journal because I was taking the time to write, to answer the questions posed in Hendricks’ book, and to pay attention to the responses.

One of the coolest things about journal writing is what you learn about yourself. The things you learn about you can change your life.

I’d been writing in my journal for about eight minutes last week when I came to that realization. I could identify the specific tools I was using to bring myself down from my good feelings, and I could start deciding that those tools no longer serve me.

I recognize now what I was doing and I can make a choice to swap out my heavy, unnecessary tools for thoughts and feelings of gratitude and peace.

That realization is eight minutes of time well-spent.

How about you? What do you think is your upper limit? Share with me on Facebook.


  1. Yolanda | 8th Nov 13

    This is some great insight! I always tell myself I should journal, but it always seems like such a tremendous task. I have a new viewpoint. I can journal to let my inner self reveal my secrets; my fears and other unknowns that keep me from taking the BIG LEAP. Thanks for sharing!

    • sarajoym | 14th Nov 13

      You are so welcome, Yolanda! You are totally right – your journal can become a safe place for you to process and sometimes even let go of the things that might be holding you back. I look forward to hearing how it works for you!

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