When we think about comfort zones, what often springs to mind are all the things that we do our best to avoid. Some examples of this are getting physically hurt, being upset, embarrassed, feeling like we are in over our heads or avoiding situations where we think we may be put under more pressure than we’re happy to handle in the moment. All of these things exist in bottom area or lower reaches of our comfort bubble, and in our preoccupation for doing our utmost to avoid them, we’ve forgotten that we also have an upper limit to our comfort zone that dictates how much success, happiness and positive results we are willing to allow.
In short, the more elevated reaches of our comfort zone dictate how much good stuff we can handle and when we hit this threshold, we can sabotage our constructive efforts and results to cycle us back down to the comfortable limits of what we already know.
I agree that on the face of it, this seems completely nonsensical. Give it to me, you shout to yourself. I can handle all of the success! But the truth of it is, well, you can’t. None of us can. “All the success” feels nice in theory, but when it comes to practice, we need to be aware that acclimatizing ourselves to things going well, to receiving positive results or even the accepting the most basic flow of good energy coming our way- our ability to receive a compliment- takes practice.
You see, discomfort is indiscriminate. It’s not concerned about growth or failure. It’s not concerned about “good” discomfort (like success) or “bad” discomfort (like being physically hurt). The primary concern of your comfort zone is to keep you within the confines of what is familiar and keep you away from the danger of uncertainty and the unknown. Lack of certainty and the unknown feels risky and dangerous; consequently, we make decisions, engage in behaviours and take action based on what feels known to us, even if what is known does not equate to what we want.
Here are some examples of success thresholds that I’ve discussed working with riders in my membership program, JoyRide:
A rider in competition finally starts to experience the results that she’d always dreamed of. Shortly after, she finds herself getting really busy at home. The busy-ness she creates stops her riding as much as she needs to and she finds herself pulling out of competitions as a consequence of feeling unprepared.
After digging beneath the surface, we discovered that her success was challenging to her social circle. Winning was making her “different” to her friends (who were still struggling to achieve the same results). She felt like maybe they would think she was “full of herself” or “better than them”, and so sabotaged her results through lack of preparedness and half hearted effort.
A JoyRider I worked with found herself not riding consistently- despite wanting to and having every opportunity to do so. Once we broke it down, she was concerned that if she rode consistently, people would expect her to do “more” with her horse, and she wasn’t sure if she was ready for that. As a consequence, she had stopped herself from riding in the first place.
People pleasing or criticism can be a big one. Not allowing yourself to be yourself, to do what you love or put yourself out there can be symptomatic of going out of your way to avoid criticism. It’s a convenient excuse to keep ourselves small as we attempt to shield ourselves from negative feedback or criticism.
All of these are examples of upper limits or hitting our success threshold. We reach the ceiling of how much we are familiar with or feel worthy and deserving of and the only option from there is to cycle back down.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. While the specifics are always individually dependent, it’s important to recognize when the feelings of discomfort creep in and to understand that they aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Constantly reframing and elasticizing the edges of our comfort zone involves being willing to get uncomfortable, especially when it comes to breaking through the limits of your own glass ceiling.
4 thoughts on “Hitting The Glass Ceiling: Understanding Your Success Threshold”
Thank you for this, Jane. I was just struggling with whether to take my ‘new’ horse to a competition all by myself (no one else is able to make this trip with me). If this was my other horse, whom I deeply trust, then there would be no question!! — it would be a fun adventure. But with this guy, it is more of a ‘scary unknown.’ But I am struggling to form a relationship with this horse, so a trip with just the two of us could be the answer to bring us closer together. I am taking this Blog post as a Sign From The Universe that I should just sign up and go. I so appreciate all of your insight, positive energy, and miraculous timing!
Such a pleasure Alisa, looking forward to hearing more about your adventures! xx Jane
Oh my goodness. That’s me … example 1. This week.
I’ve achieved great things with my beautiful but high energy green horse in the last 8 weeks. However I talked it down on Wednesday at a goal setting catch up meeting. You see on Weds I didn’t achieve what I’d wanted to. A different environment and change of weather made it difficult for Poppy but we did other good stuff. But I allowed just that one day to give a miserable feedback about disappointment. Yet we’d been to our first clinic 10 days earlier which was a massive achievement and a goal met and our progress since has been huge .. in small steps. Now I dislike myself for not being positive and happier. I nearly always speak positively as I believe what you speak is what you feel. But I voiced what I felt in a sort of being authentic about that ‘days’ disappointment.
Loving your information.
It’s such an interesting cycle to be aware of Julie- you most definitely aren’t the only one! It sounds like you have so many exciting things happening- you deserve to marinate in the goodness of it all! xx Jane