What’s your limit? How much are you willing to take? How bad does it have to get before you pull the plug?
“I can’t take this anymore”, in and of itself, doesn’t really mean anything in terms of real change. It just means I’m tired, I’m afraid, I’m hurt. Rarely does it actually mean “I’m going to do whatever it takes, right here, right now, to change this.”
Why? Because it’s risky and what we have going on is evidence of what we think we deserve unless we challenge that. I know you’ve heard this before…and you’re probably rolling your eyes or wanting to stab a pencil in mine. But hear me out. It’s not always as direct as it’s presented.
If you’re in a toxic relationship, I’m not implying that you think you only deserve toxic relationships. Or if you’re treated unfairly at work, it’s not that you think you only deserve to be treated unfairly. To assume such things would be isolating these experiences separate from the whole of who you are and the life you are making. Our belief of our deservingness doesn't always show up where the belief is rooted.
We THINK we have these separate compartments in life - love, work, relationships, money, body image - but the reality is that there is a giant happiness quotient that all those things reside within and we’ve inadvertently crafted that happiness quotient to be a certain size - big or small - according to whatever amazing or not so amazing ideas we grew up having about ourselves and how much we deserve to feel happiness in life. If any of those compartments swell (with happiness and goodness and this-is-a-perfect-life-ness) to the point that it might exceed the size of our quotient, without knowing it we find some way, somewhere to shrink the happiness of something down to size to stay within the bounds of “this is how happy I am allowed to be.”
Sometimes we shrink the very thing that is growing the happiness. Sometimes we trim off of something else to make room for the growing happiness.
Getting that raise turns to missing a deadline at work. Or getting that raise might mean picking a fight at home. Finding the real truelove of your life might mean picking a fight with that gift of a soul…or it might mean blowing all your savings on a romantic getaway. We work out and eat right for the first time in our lives, and then we get sick…or we choose the workaholic route to exhaust ourselves mentally and physically. We engage in meaningful work and then give our hearts over to the endless struggle to “find our passion”. An amazing opportunity comes along and we say “sounds too good to be true”. (How small does the good have to be for us to decide it’s an acceptable amount of good to be true for us?)
The happiness lives in our hearts as a single, whole entity. The ideal is to increase the size of our quotient, to raise the upper limit on what we think is the maximum amount of bliss we believe we deserve.
But that’s hard work and doubt plows in and we might find ourselves choosing cynicism as a means of protection.
For good reason.
We can find evidence a’plenty of people who have been tossed about on rough waters and we believe that it was just bad luck. We don’t see the belly of the whale where they wrestle with their own upper limits.
So how do we stay awake? How do we do the work of raising the ceiling on our happy quotient? When the sails of our hearts are torn and coming loose, how to we mend them so that we can reach the shores of brave, conscious living?
First off, ditch the cynicism.
Stop wearing it like a badge of honor. I get that you’re wounded and afraid and unsure and for good reason. But is that who you want to keep being?
Resculpt that to be cautious optimism. It is far more reliable, generous, and empowering.
Cynicism assumes the worst and makes ‘bad’ end results if it cant find them in the thing itself. It’s a know it all. It raises a suspecting eyebrow to anything good - especially if that good is the very thing that might bump into your ceiling and cause you to reach your maximum allowed happiness. Cynicism says things like “it sounds too good to be true” because whatever “it” is has within it the solutions to resolving the things that are keeping you from busting through the ceiling and expanding your happiness quotient ten fold.
Cynicism thinks it’s keeping your safe when really it’s just keeping you scared.
Cautious optimism is not blind trust. It is not just “leap and the net will appear”. It is not deceived, irresponsible, or dangerous.
It’s awake. It’s open. It’s smart. It considers all possibilities - without assumption - and then weighs them against each other for the specific purpose of examining how the happiness quotient can be expanded. Even if that expansion means going through a little temporary discomfort. It looks at the bigger picture.
We think that cynicism prevents us from risk but that is a lie too. It’s a lie told to us by fear and its goal is to keep us small.
In the best writing I’ve ever read about risk, Stephen Palmer says:
Cynicism keeps us blind and stuck and limited and afraid. It touts that what we have going on is the best thing out there and that anything that might build on that good thing we have going on, is somehow flawed because it wasn't our idea. We forget that when we open the door to a tiny bit of growth, other opportunities to grow even more will beat a path to our door.
Why would we invite the realm of possibility to live in our hearts and then decide what belongs there and what doesn’t?
Cautious optimism removes the film of fear from our eyes and opens the door to greater vision because it WANTS growth, it INVITES expansion, it SEEKS the very risks that cause us to open to greater joy, love, abundance, and expression.
Cynicism paints the ceiling to look like the sky.
Cautious optimism opens the front door so you can take in the whole, wide, REAL horizon.
So when I ask you “what’s your limit?” I’m really asking deeper questions. Mostly of myself:
How deep are you willing to go?
How high are you willing to raise that upper limit?
What risks are you willing to take to blow the roof of your happiness?