Can You Handle Your Success?

A few years ago I was in the middle of a yoga class and things went all willy-nilly. I broke into a cold sweat, my head began to throb and I was moments away from tossing my cookies. Yoga class had never felt like that before. What was wrong with me?

Turns out, it was the early warning signs of illness, leaving me bedridden for seven days. Of course, this seriously impeded me in the productivity department.

I was up to my earrings with work on my B-school program as well as enjoying opportunities from all corners of the planet. Things were outrageously good for me. But I needed to be performing at the top of my game. Every hour mattered. Getting sick was not a part of the plan.

I tried to self-diagnose via the web (a terrible thing to do by the way). Was it salmonella? A ten foot long tapeworm-demon? A life-threatening illness and my days were numbered?

Of course my friends were trying to diagnose me too. The bets were on that I was pregnant.

Nope, I didn’t need to pee on a stick to know that diagnosis was bogus. But I still couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Lucky for me, I have some pretty intuitive friends. One of them told me this:

Marie, I really think the doctor’s 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.

My fiancé quietly reminded me that I had been going non-stop and that I severely needed a break. He was right (nothing new there).

What is an “Upper Limit Problem”?

An Upper Limit Problem (ULP) is a concept outlined in Gay Hendrick’s book, The Big Leap.

The idea is this: each of us possesses an internal thermometer for how much success, wealth, love, happiness and intimacy we let ourselves experience. That is our upper limit setting; it’s our success comfort zone.

When we exceed our internal thermostat by achieving a serious win, it blows the mercury through the roof and metaphorically pops our head off. Something negative sideswipes the goodness: we break an ankle, fry our computer, get involved in family drama, overeat, overspend and get sick. We apply the brakes to our success through the dirty little game of self-sabotage.

Why do we let this happen? Because it will bring us down to our normal range of capacity where we can cozy up with our security blanket.

And it doesn’t stop there. We think that happiness comes when we are winning: a great relationship, a better job, a bigger paycheck. The sad reality is that for all our huge milestones (and even the little ones), a stampede of negative emotions and actions can dismantle our progress.


Have you ever felt like you don’t deserve something? Have you ever believed that something is too good to be true and it can all vanish with one false move?

That is pretty standard fare of an Upper Limit Problem, which is just a negative reaction to positive change.

Spoiler alert: dealing with our ULP can significantly expand our capacity for palpable and lasting personal success while maintaining loving relationships.

This is fantastic news! By calling out the vampires that suck the life from our wins, we can up our ante but not undermine the gains we make along the way.

My friend was right, I was experiencing unbelievable growth. I was excited about the success of B-School and I had succeeded in booking all my dream speakers for my Rich Happy & Hot Live event and had even partnered with Donna Karen’s Urban Zen in NYC. Things were amazing.

I didn’t just bump into my Upper Limit; I smashed it with a sledgehammer. I was unstoppable – almost – until I spent a week in bed.


Why we need to understand our Upper Limit Problem:

  • So we don’t mistakenly label ourselves as flawed or broken or, worse yet, “not good enough” to handle a big jump in success or happiness.
  • So we can harness life-changing breakthroughs that actually linger and provide real traction to build on.
  • So our relationships with our partners (and others) don’t suffer or dissolve.
  • So we can check our ego and victim, “why does this always happen to me” BS at the door.

Look, no one escapes this dialogue so don’t feel weak, bad or alone if any of this strikes a pain point. Everyone on the planet experiences Upper Limit Problems at some point. Thankfully for us they are easy to diffuse when you have the right tools and a willingness to overcome them.

Remember that moving through your Upper Limit setting isn’t a onetime quick fix. If you’re committed to continually expanding your levels of wealth, love and happiness then strap in for the ride baby.

How I rose above my Upper Limit Problem:

I acknowledged my tolerance for how good I was willing to have my life be. If I wanted to shoot for the moon, can I actually handle my own success?

I also came to grips with how amazing my life was at that point. At the exact point where I was – not in the future when I wrapped my next big deal. That meant treating people and events in my sphere with all the love, respect and honor that I could muster.

I told my family how much I loved them. I let myself be grateful for the money currently in my bank account. I thought about the roof over my head and the bounty of food on my menu and the amazing clients that I had worked with.

I acknowledged my abundance in a real way and I verbalized this to the people around me.

Then I gave myself a permission slip to chill out. I released myself from the guilt of non-productivity. No computer time, no work: just me and Haagen-Dazs and back-to-back episodes of Mad Men for three days. It was a step in the right direction of figuring out how to live inside my life with more ease.

Funnily enough, the moment I stopped beating myself up for being unproductive and sick, I went into speed recovery mode and was “strong like bull” in no time.

Being cognisant of my success “comfort zone” has been a huge leg up for me when it comes to turning up my own success thermostat.

Now I do it more often with less fear of getting burned. And that tastes sweet.

[Ed. Note: Marie Forleo is a marketing and lifestyle expert who teaches entrepreneurs to live Rich Happy & Hot. Her company delivers small business and personal development programs that are easy to consume, outrageously fun and get results. She’s been featured in media outlets such, Oprah Radio and The New York Times among others. Get access to free training and more when you sign up for email updates at]