Building Your Tolerance for Success and Doing Well

I was talking with a dear friend yesterday, who was sharing some really good news. I was struck by the tone of her voice as she shared it. She sounded cautious and reserved. I asked her about it and we laughed when we both recognized that she's practicing building her tolerance for things going well.

Often when we're so used to feeling like we're not doing enough or it's not going well enough, we feel uncomfortable when we do have success or things do go well. I'm practicing this myself. I'll be sharing about something that happened last night, as I've been experimenting with improving my diet. It was going really well until I couldn't tolerate it anymore. So, today, I'm beginning my practice of tolerating success (again). I'll keep practicing until I get where I want to be.

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My Dear, if we are meeting for the first time, my name is Amy Jones. I am a Progress Coach and Strategist. A lot of people go, "Oh, so you're a life coach!" You can call it that if you want. I see it a little bit differently. My focus is helping people figure out what it is that they really, really want, what goals would be the most meaningful and satisfying to them, and then how do we actually achieve them—how to get what it is that you really, really want.

So, today:

We are going to be talking about building your tolerance for success, for things going well. 

Because that is a tricky bit that we don't often talk a lot about and seem to have this common popular narrative that once you start taking action, once you start making different decisions, that it all just sort of falls into place and it goes in a linear process and it just turns out. In my experience, not really. Sometimes for some folks it can but for most of us and I imagine for you, if you are anything like me, given that we are both human people, it can get a little bit more complicated.

So I wanted to share about something that's going on in my life currently and kind of inspired by a conversation yesterday with a dear friend of mine. She and I are both entrepreneurs, we are both building our vision, this big thing that we want to bring into the world to help a lot of people and change the way people think about things and it's exciting. Both she and I have been really in the beginning stages of our business, especially over the last year, year and a half, we have often had conversations about wanting to achieve certain milestones or find certain partnerships or whatever the things are that we think we need to be able to get where we want to go. 

What was so interesting yesterday, was that she was sharing about some really great things that have been happening and it was funny because we were talking for like a good twenty or thirty minutes before she even mentioned this big, amazing thing that happened. You know, it's like burying the lead, as we like to say.

It was so fascinating because as she was telling me this incredibly good news, this news that she had been wanting for so long now and had been working toward for so many months. It was fascinating that her tone was very reserved, it was very cautious, Not unlike if you would imagine her being held hostage and being forced to read a statement—it was a little bit like that. 

I asked her about it I said, "You know it's interesting; that's really, really good news and the tone of your voice is just a bit reserved," and we started laughing about it because it's like there's this distrust when we start moving outside of what is known and familiar. Especially if it's a struggle that we're familiar with and comfortable with.

When things start going better, when we start having successes, when the things start materializing that we have been dreaming about for a long time, it can be very, very uncomfortable.

My comment to her was like, "Sweetheart, it sounds like you’re building a tolerance for things going well. Building a tolerance for it turning out." And we laughed more about that because it's like, yes, joy, success, can be something that we don't always trust. Our Clever Brain, which is the part of our brain that I describe as that which runs on fear, which is valiantly trying to protect us by convincing us that going outside of what is known and familiar, whatever that comfort zone is, is suspect, is a threat to our survival, bad things happen, people are going to die and we should never do it.

Even if our comfort zone is uncomfortable. 

Even if our comfort zone is that we are in a lot of debt, even if our comfort zone is that we are carrying a lot of extra weight or we're in a job that makes us feel like we're dying every day when we go to work. Or we're in a relationship that makes us feel like we are hidden. There's all kinds of dynamics that we can intellectually process on a certain level and say, "I want to change this. This doesn't make me happy. I know this is not what I want, I know there's more for me, I know that this is not what I'm supposed to be doing with my life." We can know that on a certain level and that's an important part of us recognizing what's going on, having an awareness and a consciousness about it, and then beginning to take action and practicing new skills and new habits that will allow us to move in the direction that we want to go.

And yet, when we start to take some of these new actions, when we start to see some tiny wins, some victories in just making a different choice, not buying something that we would normally buy. Not eating something really calorie-heavy that we would normally eat, or not staying late to the detriment of our health but going home from work and going and being with our family or loved ones. Those are decisions that are positive, are constructive in that they are moving us towards the things that we said we want. It's just that it's counter to what is known and what is familiar. 

Even if it's uncomfortable, even if you know it's not good for you, it can still be comfortable in that it is familiar. 

You know what's going to happen, it's a pain that you know, it's an enemy that you know and when we start to move outside of it, then the new success, the new habits, the new health, the new things going well, seem suspicious to our Clever Brain. It seems like we can't trust it. It seems like maybe something is wrong.

Maybe we need to engineer a series of decisions to bring us back down into the comfort zone and I was reminded of this last night when I had this experience. Recently, within the last couple weeks, I've started an experiment with tracking what it is that I eat and I've been using this app called "Noom", thank you Isobel, one of our members of the Tribe had shared that she was using it with success, so I thought, “all right, let me try it, let me see what's going on.” Because I have a goal of eating things that are worth it to me. Meaning, eating things that either give me a feeling in my body or contribute to my health in a way that I feel good. Feels loving, feels kind to myself. Or if it's not the most nutritious thing, at least I damn sure enjoyed it. Like the piece of Banoffee pie that I had the other night, which I don't know if you know what Banoffee pie is, don't even know that I'm pronouncing it correctly but apparently it's a thing in Britain. It's like a toffee, tart-type thing with fresh banana and whipped cream and chocolate and it's, so good and it's so rich in calories and I did not care because it was worth it. So, I'm fine with eating anything that feels worth it to me.

Why I decided to use this app and start tracking what I was eating was that I noticed that I would get into a habit ... I have been in a habit for many, many years of eating to numb out or to not feel certain things, or as a distraction. I love to literally—it's sitting here—grab a pint of some of my favorite ice cream and a spoon and then just go to town. So, back to what I was saying: I’m doing this experiment of me paying attention to what I'm eating and then tracking it. I’m tracking it in the app and noticing how many calories are in things. I don't normally pay attention to how many calories are in things, whatever, and I imagine most of the population has a pretty skewed view of how many calories are actually in anything. So since I've been tracking, once I know, "Oh shit, this is actually 600 calories," and I have a goal of staying within a 1500 calorie range, then I'm making different choices, right?

So, I've been doing this for a week to ten days and it's been going well. I have been making different choices, I can already tell that my body is responding to it, I can see that I am feeling more lean and more slim, I'm feeling very adult, like I'm making better choices and feeling very accountable like I'm winning at life and being a good person and all of that. Then I notice yesterday that I had a calorie defect of 452 calories that were still there until I reached my day’s goal. That felt extremely uncomfortable to me. Like, what? There's still 452 calories? I've already eaten dinner and I've got 452 calories, what could I do with those? It reminded me how it's almost like that with money too, like it’s burning a hole in my pocket, like, "What do I do with this? I don't know." I didn't want to just turn in for the night and know that there's 452 calories that I didn't eat and I didn't enjoy when I could eat a cup of my favorite ice cream and still have calories left over. That just felt, like, I don't even know, that was a very new experience for me.

I had made choices throughout the day that apparently were not very calorie-heavy, I checked the math twice because I didn't believe that was possible and here I was and ... Hey Meg! So good to see you, Dear. With these 452 calories, what am I going to do with them? So I even went into the Noom app, shared this with my group, because it’s kind of like a group chat where you connect with other people who are also using this and declared this anomaly of doing so well that I have this surplus of calories and what was I going to do. And initially I was really feeling proud and a bit smug in that I was checking with my body and thought, you know what, I don't know that I really want ice cream. I don't know that's really a thing that I even need.

So then I just I relaxed. I was watching TV, hanging out and then I felt the urge. This urge to go downstairs and get myself the cup of ice cream that I can still have and still be within range. So that's what I did. Ate it, enjoyed it, and then I felt this other urge. This other very deep urge to go back down and finish the rest of the ice cream. Now at this point, it's like, okay now we're crossing the Rubicon, we're going over the line of calories, of winning at adulthoodness. If I keep going then I'm going to blow my goal and it's not going to have mattered, which is totally what I did and then it wasn't enough to just blow the goal for the day because I kept going and I promise you, I ate another entire pint of my favorite ice cream, that is why this is here. And I knew, as I was doing it, I knew as I was walking down to the kitchen, I was pulling open the freezer doors, “Oh Sweetheart, here we go. You know what we're doing? We're sabotaging right now.” We are going so far over the line, we are so not tolerating at all this supposed deficet, this much victory, this much change in this short period of time. We can't have it.

And it was fascinating because as I'm ripping open the container and grabbing the spoon, there was part of it, there's someone inside me that was like "I don't give a shit, we are eating all of this ice cream, nobody can tell us anything different, get out of the way." Yes, Meg's saying, "Been there done that, going for broke." I so was and it was fascinating because I was very conscious of: You know…this is where we can make a different choice. This is where we can just put it back in the freezer, we could just set the spoon down. Checking in with my body, did I really want it? My body didn't want it. My body was like, "Yeah, no, we're good. We're all set. Here would be victory." But I kept going and I even thought, do I feel like I can stop this right now? It was almost like it was on autopilot. Like I was being driven by something else.

Now it's past Noon where I live and I still have yet to eat anything today because my stomach is still like, "You just ate two pints of ice cream last night!" So, my body was not on board but my brain, what I would describe as my Clever Brain, was taking over the steering and just wanted to plow us into a more comfortable, familiar, less successful place. It just wasn't tolerable.

So what happens now? 

When we catch our self in that type of experience where we've been experiencing success, we've been doing well, and then we just seemingly cannot take it anymore and it's like Clever Brain takes over, we go into sabotage mode and then there's some sort of One in us that's just like rebellious and "I don't care what happens," and "I'm going to do it anyhow." To me, there's a certain element of freedom in that. Like, "You can't chain me! You can't stop me from eating ice cream!" So what do we do about that? How do we build our tolerance?

So a couple things that I came up with. Meg is sharing, "Autopilot that I'm not allowed to have that much winning." Yes, there's very, very, very good reasons why we do what we do and when there are aspects of ourselves that have not yet caught up to our new behaviors that are not yet believing that it's okay, things can get messy and that's where we start to kind of go into these modes where we tear down the progress that we seemingly have made.

So, really important:

1 // Notice what you are comfortable with. 

And if you're like, what does that mean what am I comfortable with? Notice what is normal for you. What is routine, what is within the normal parts of your behavior. When you consider whatever your goal is, if your goal is around eating better or weight loss or things like that, then you know, you might relate to my example.

Where you normally would sit down in front of the TV and just be eating until the point where you kind of feel a little bit sick. Or normal would be going out to a restaurant and ordering a couple drinks and ordering an entrée or whatever and spending $50 on it. Maybe that's normal for you. Maybe normal is checking your email late at night when you have a goal to kind of detach more from work and have a better work/life balance but you pick up your phone yet again, you check more emails yet again late at night and start getting sucked into that. Whatever is normal for you as it relates to the behavior that you're wanting to change or the goal that you're wanting to reach, notice that.

And this is not about judging it, it's not about shaming or criticizing or saying that you're wrong, saying that you should know how to do it better. Anything painful, any sort of thoughts that you have about your normal that feels painful, that hurts, is your Clever Brain, is that aspect of you that would like to use shame and criticism and any other painful feeling to keep you in it.

Because as long as you are believing that whatever your normal is, even if it's uncomfortable, even if it's not really working and not giving you the results that you want intellectually, there is still a deeper part of you that is very committed to that normal. Really committed. 

Anything that is outside of what is normal to you is going to be challenged. 

Especially, you know, when we have those goals that we've gone over or we've tried to reach, rather, again and again and we get to a certain point and maybe it goes well for like a week, maybe a couple weeks, maybe a month. Then we just don't have the tolerance anymore so something will happen and sometimes it can be something that's more obvious. Like that we obviously initiate like me taking down the pints and sometimes it's something that is a little bit more subtle. Where our subconscious kind of works to engineer the circumstances where we have a really, very, very good reason as to why we can't continue. That's a thing that happens all the time.

Meg is saying, "It's like resetting the thermostat." Exactly. We have our internal thermostat of how much success we are allowed to have and when we start to push past that, it wants to bring the temperature down. So it's going to kick on the Clever Brain to adjust the temperature and bring just the right amount of thoughts and feelings and destructive beliefs to bring us back down to right size us. 

Whatever we are believing about what we deserve or what we are capable of is going to be reflected in the results that we're creating. 

2 // Realize that this idea that you *should* be happy about something, might actually be getting in the way of you being able to create a momentum that then you can sustain. 

This idea of ... Like if I were to in the conversation I was having with my friend say, "Sweetheart, you should be so happy about this, isn't this what you wanted? Isn't this what you've been working toward for months? Isn't this what we've been talking about, now it's finally happening. You should be happy. This is good."

It's not a useful conversation, I found, because it over simplifies the process and it doesn't account for the giant subconscious belief system that is deeply rooted in who we are, that has tremendous impact around our tolerance for these new results. So I do not advocate for shitting on yourself or anybody else in this scenario. I really encourage you to be curious and to notice where the thermostat settings are. Where are those boundaries? How much success are you allowed to have. How much weight are you allowed to lose? How much money are you allowed to save? How much debt are you allowed to pay off? Because there are very, very good reasons as to why we believe that is safe and why that's okay. Until we have an awareness of what those parameters even are, it can be challenging to consciously build our tolerance for going outside of them. When we go outside of them, just knowing, "oh okay, this is the game the Clever Brain's playing."

So when I go outside the bounds, I just need to pay attention to what's going on. So doing well can be a very uncomfortable thing if you do not believe on a certain level that it is okay and safe for you to do well. 

3 // This is not, in my experience, a linear process. 

Success, achieving, going further than you've gone before, I have not found it to be a linear process. I have not found it to be a simple clean straight line where you just begin and then you just do this and it's ... How many magazine articles have we read? Five ways to do this and then go like this and it's going to be fine if you just do this, this and this you're good. It doesn't work like that in my experience. Progress is a practice, it is not necessarily a process. And your practice of progress is going to be different perhaps than somebody else's. So whether you're listening to me or anybody else suggesting ideas, sharing stories, offering experiments, different perspectives, I want you to really just check that against your own knowing. Against your own truth, against your own body and what feels like it resonates with you. What feels true for you or what feels like when you're putting on a pair of shoes that don't fit, you're trying to squeeze into an idea and pretend like it's comfortable when it really is painful and awkward.

Trust yourself and be really kind to yourself in that when you are starting to go outside of what is known and familiar. 

Even if it seems perfectly logical and adult like eating better, saving more money, going home at five so that you can have dinner with your family, regardless of how logical and responsible and adult of the year winning award like it sounds, just be sensitive to the fact that that is scary for a certain part of you. That your Clever Brain is not going to be on board. It is not interested in you going anywhere outside of what you already know, even if it's for your health, even if it's for your financial well being. It doesn't care, it is not its job to do that. It becomes your job. What I describe as the aspect of yourself, that inner captain, the captain within you that operates from love that navigates the vessel of your being, it's your captain's job to be able to make good decisions and when you empower that aspect of yourself, when you empower the captain over your Clever Brain, then you are able to move forward.

Except for the times that you don't. 

Except for when you reach that tolerance, that level of failure, it's kind of like when you're building your muscles physically and you push and go to the point where you're not going to be able to do anymore in that moment. You've pushed yourself and you've exercised that muscle as best you can in that moment and then it's just being really kind and patient with yourself. When you can't push all the way, when you can't go as far as you want in that moment, you haven't yet learned how to do it better. You haven't yet learned how to shift your mindset or how to build upon the strength that you're creating with practicing and building whatever musculature is required. You're not a robot, you're a human person.

So when you come up to those situations where you've kind of maxed out in that moment, it's okay. 

It's okay that you're not a robot it's okay that you're a human, it's okay that you will be going and doing really well and starting to build momentum and then just sort of knock yourself down, because it's too uncomfortable. 

It's a process in practicing, you're not a machine, you're just not. So when you notice that has happened, myself here with the pint to remind me, it actually is evidence that you have had victory. It is evidence of your success. Your not being able to tolerate a certain point of success and well being, means that you have successfully gone outside of your comfort zone. You have broken new ground, you have gone into a place that is still new to you, that you haven't fully integrated into your beliefs in terms of what is okay for you to have and experience. So when you catch yourself going off the rails, binging on the ice cream, over spending, staying late at the office yet again, I want you to be really kind to the one inside of you that believes that you need to.

My job in today, this morning, is to be really kind to the One in me that still wants to binge. That still believes that binging is freedom, that still believes that I'm safer when I blow it. 

That's the One inside you that really needs your compassion, needs your kindness, your tenderness, and a lot of patience because when you're not fighting against those Ones inside of you, when you're not shaming yourself or screwing it up yet again or believing your Clever Brain narrative that you just don't have what it takes and you're never going to have what it takes and all of that really painful, toxic, internal propaganda that is designed to deceive you, discourage you and shut you down. When you don't go down that road but you can just be with yourself in whatever the consequence is. Whatever that painful previously shameful circumstance is, then you have the opportunity to build your tolerance. Then you have an opportunity to just take a breath and a rest and then begin again.

I mean this is what I do in barre class. 

I go to barre class, five, six times a week and spend an hour pushing my body well outside of its comfort zone and getting into a position where it burns so much that I have to come out of it and take a breath and then go back in. It's the same thing with any goal that you have. When you start succeeding, when you start pushing outside that comfort zone, and it becomes too much, you just take a breath. You just be with yourself, you just love yourself right where you're at, exactly as you are, without condition and then take a breath and as soon as you're ready, as soon as you can put one foot in front of the other and take that next right action, then you begin again. Beginning again doesn't mean you start over from square one, unless you really are starting over from square one, fine. It doesn't mean that you failed and that it's terrible that you won't be able to do it at all, it just means that you were successful in moving outside of your comfort zone.

Meg says, "Showing yourself compassion just like you would for someone you love." 

Amen! That's the thing. Most of us don't treat ourselves as someone that we love. We are dicks to ourselves a lot of the time because we are believing our Clever Brain. Because we're letting Clever Brain steer. Because we're empowering that part of our self that thinks it's doing the right thing I mean it really is well-intentioned and yet really not at all conducive to us being successful, feeling well, being at our full power, doing our best work in the world. So that's what there is to practice, my Dears. Be really, really kind to yourself in these moments and know that this is evidence of your progress. This is where so many of us get thrown off and then we go into this shame spiral and get thwarted and it becomes hard to recover quickly and come back because we're just believing all this toxic bullshit. Bless! Bless us and the ones who believe the toxic bullshit.

All right Dears, so good to be with you, Meg, thanks so much for being here. I will be back on Tuesday; Tuesday and Thursdays are when I'm doing these live #progresscoaching sessions here on Facebook. 

The beauty of technology is it allows us to take the audio of these sessions and shoot it on over to our SoundCloud page. So if you would like to listen to these or catch up on any of the dozens and dozens of sessions that I've done at this point, you can do that over at our SoundCloud page and it has a great app, you can download it onto your phone and it's almost like it's a podcast. You can listen to me sharing these ideas and encouragements while you are driving, while you are cleaning, while you are walking the dog and really find the pockets in space in your day, in your life as it is right now to be able to hear different perspectives and to get ideas as to how you can start taking next right steps and experiment with going outside the bounds of what is comfortable and familiar, because that is how you grow. That is how you make progress and that is also how you build your tolerance for success and well being.

All right Dears, great to be with you and until next time, go be brave. 

Go be as brave as you can and take the bravest next right step you can, it is always, always one you can do and if you just keep that practice and keep doing it, one next right step at a time, you will get where you want to go.

Ready to stop holding back and hiding out?

God, I hope so! The world needs you.