I was only nineteen when I married the love of my life. I remember thinking I was the happiest I had ever been. I now had a loving husband and father to my son, and our future was wide open with hope and possibility. I was going to school to be a teacher. He made good money selling parts and tools. And, we had our little starter home in Harrisburg, North Carolina, where my son had his own bedroom with bunk beds and his favorite toys. He was no longer sharing a room with me in my parent’s house.
Life was good—great even. So, I did what any happy bride would do in that situation. I started worrying about losing my husband and all the goodness that surrounded us.
In his book The Big Leap, (one of my All-Time Favorite Books), Gay Hendricks termed this tolerance for how happy we are willing to let ourselves be an Upper Limit Problem. Gay talks about the self-imposed limits we place on ourselves because we don’t think we deserve for things to go well all the time. Unfortunately, this negative belief and our fears around it cause us to sabotage our own happiness.
It’s mind blowing to me that we would actually deliberately limit our own happiness. Why on earth would I, a recovering people-pleaser, limit happiness in any form? I don’t like dealing with the unpleasant. I want smiles and good times, and all the happy things. There’s no way I would knowingly limit happiness. What I do unconsciously is another story.
The scariest feeling is not fear but JOY.
In a podcast episode with Cathy Heller, Gay Hendricks said, “The scariest feeling is not fear but JOY … Because joy is where we are most vulnerable.”
Hope hurts when we get let down, and I had been let down before. I didn’t want to lose my husband the way I had my first-born’s father. I didn’t want to be blindsided and left holding the baby and shattered hopes and dreams again. I was scared to be too happy, because I knew how bad it hurt when I fell out of a cloud of bliss and smashed into the reality waiting for me back on the ground.
Practice Receiving love and happiness—JOY.
On that same podcast, Gay went on to say that the key to resolving this Upper Limit Problem is to practice receiving love and happiness—JOY—and the good things that are present in our lives. That sounds simple, but I know firsthand that it can be oh-so-hard when we have conditioned ourselves to live in a place of what if.
And by What if I mean all of the negative, horrible things that could happen, instead of all the beautiful, wondrous, happy and good things that are also possibilities in that same speculative what if.
I’ve been married for twenty-nine years now, and there are moments I still fear losing my husband to aging and disease and all the other unexpected things that could rip the joy out of my life. Still, I can’t control all the outcomes or plan in enough safety or certainty to eliminate all the risks. I can always fear something ruining my happiness, or I can choose to receive love and happiness.
I want to experience joy without limits, and that means I have to change my mindset around how happy I am allowed to be, which is a whole lot happier than I’ve allowed myself to be for the last 30+ years.
Happiness is limitless and it is available to us all—ALL the time.
Let’s give ourselves Grace, and allow ourselves the opportunity to receive, and to wonder and explore and fail and recommit. Let’s tap into Grit and stay in the experience, even when we don’t know how it will turn out in the end.
Here’s to another twenty-nine, thirty-nine, hell let’s say fifty-nine (that would make my husband and me one-hundred and seven!) years of happiness, with NO limits!