Sometimes some of our biggest successes are followed by lows. Some of our deepest lows are followed by our greatest peaks.
There are two concepts that I find helpful to understand if you find yourself in this ebb and flow between success and burnout. Stuckness and success.
"Ceilings" of growth" and hitting the "upper limit"
We hit a ceiling when we arrive at the limit of the story we tell ourselves about what success is.
Gay Hendricks, the author of The Big Leap, calls this the “upper limit problem."
The upper limit problem is how, right as we begin to achieve what we have always wanted, we yo-yo back down because we don't actually believe we deserve it, or we don't know who we are past that point.
The upper limit problem means we have a hard time breaking through a barrier and then actually staying there.
This could be in diets, work opportunities, sales, etc.
By knowing that this is happening while it's happening (realizing, "hey, I'm running into an upper limit problem") we have a chance of leaning into the discomfort of the new territory to stay with our success.
Recognize you're at a peak and that it's time to get aware of any ways we might sabotage ourselves to go back to where it's comfortable.
There's another way we can help manage this growth and energy better...
Hot streaks are common in sports.
Basketball players, for example, get "hot hands" and are able to hit an abnormal number of shots in a row.
There are also "cold streaks." Stan Druckenmiller famously doesn’t allow people on his team to trade when they’re in a cold streak. He actually counter-trades them! (meaning, he does the opposite of what they suggest).
Founders, entrepreneurs, and knowledge workers go through "hot and cold streaks" as well, even at the micro-level.
The problem people face is that when they hit a hot streak, they tend to take their foot OFF the gas, instead of pushing harder.
Because they may think to themselves "wow, this was a good day, I'm going to go rest now and feel good about it."
The trick here is to do what's counterintuitive.
The tendency to ease up on the gas when things are going well. To go back down when we hit our perceived upper limit.
In reality, we should take advantage of our hot streak and push harder on the gas pedal.
You don’t want to push so hard that something breaks, but I think that people tend to struggle more from easing up when they're hot, rather than breaking things by pushing too hard.
When you're hot, double down and push further, despite your intuition to slow down.
When you're cold, take small steps to recover and build momentum again. Being less ambitious actually helps you here. Shoot free throws or layups, not 3-pointers.
All of us have ebbs and flows with our weekly rhythm.
The trick is knowing ourselves enough to take advantage of the energy patterns that help us do our best work.
As always, let me know if I can help,
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