Broken souls, Sam Harris and smashing the Upper Limit Problem in South of France Style

Things have ramped up a little over the last week or so at SH HQ.

First: We had a full page feature in the Daily Mail, which brought with it mixed feelings from me but also a LOAD of new Shelf Help members. So, regardless of what I thought of the headline (more on that later) I am taking it as a huge WIN for the Shelf Help mission to connect people to inspiring books and ideas (and each other).

Second: I’m writing this update from my breakfast table in Monte Carlo where I’m beyond stoked to be here working at wellbeing festival In Your Element (if you can call hosting Self-help Speed Dating sessions work?).

So that’s two awesome achievements for Shelf Help. And me, I suppose. Which brings us on to the first ‘work in progress’ point for this week…

Tackling my ‘Upper Limit Problem’ in a hotel bar in Monte Carlo with a Self-Help Speed Dating workshop

Tackling my ‘Upper Limit Problem’ in a hotel bar in Monte Carlo with a Self-Help Speed Dating workshop


June’s Book of the Month, The Mind Monster Solution, was all about self-sabotage, and author Hazel Gale also recommended The Big Leap to me, in which author Gay Hendricks talks about something called the ‘Upper Limit Problem’ (ULP) aka the self-sabotaging switch that we tend to flick when things are going well and we are achieving a level of success that deep down we don’t think we deserve.

If we have limiting beliefs (and most of us do) then no matter how far we seem to get in life - and this could be in love/work/finances/personal development/physical health - we’ll often do something to bring ourselves crashing back to our comfort zone (start a fight, get drunk, say exactly the wrong thing, say nothing, fail to prep, turn up late etc etc) meaning that we never get past our perceived ‘upper limit’ and on to achieving the things we are really capable of.

This book was filled with ‘aha!’ moments for me because I am excellent at fucking up immediately after I have done something brilliant. In fact, sometimes I like to really fuck up a brilliant opportunity before it has even happened! Just to make sure that I don’t do too well! Because nobody likes a show off, right? And because then I’d have to run the risk of trying the next thing, and probably failing…

When it comes down to it, most of us are terrified of change and what happens if we do prove ourselves wrong and push through that ‘upper limit’, because we have no idea what happens next.

But what happens next is where the magic happens, according to Gay and every other self-help expert who has stretched themselves enough to get there, and so - if we really want to create something amazing out of our lives - then we need to keep on pushing out of our comfort zone and past this ULP.

And how exactly do we do that…?

FIRST: We become aware of it. Read, learn, talk, listen - we work out what our limiting beliefs are and where they came from. SECOND: We start to re-programme those beliefs. I’ve been listening to the hypnotherapy audio that Hazel recorded especially for Shelf Help as I drift off to sleep. It’s all about radical self-acceptance. Apparently. I’m normally asleep by the third minute, but Hazel says it’s still working and that in fact as we’re falling asleep is the best time to re-programme our subconscious (multi-tasking WIN!). I also love Gay’s USM - ‘Ultimate Success Mantra’ - and repeat it in my head ten times a couple of times a day (morning, commute, swimming, waiting in the queue at Waitrose etc)….

I expand in abundance, success and love every day as I inspire others to do the same.
— Gay Hendricks, The Big Leap

THIRD: When we start feeling uncomfortable/unconfident/unsure of ourselves that actually means we are on to a winner and so we should LEAN IN to that feeling. Acknowledge that we feel unworthy (say it out loud for extra self-help brownie points!), thank ourselves for the alert, remind ourselves that this is our ‘Upper Limit Problem’ wanting to be heard/felt, then feel it - like properly feel it, even when (especially when) it feels sad - then move on and DO THE THING! Feel that fear and do it anyway. And the more we do this the easier it gets and the more we’ll start trusting in and believing in ourselves at a deep level. (Like, for instance, saying ‘yes’ to hosting an event in Monte Carlo despite having no idea what was involved, being intimated as hell by the line-up, and crowd, and basically all of it, but then doing it and smashing it and LOVING it. And wanting to do it all again. A bit like that).


On to that headline. PR friends tell me that the feature the Daily Mail ran about the club is more than £20k’s worth of publicity. Which is, of course, incredible. And we’ve welcomed hundreds of new members as a result of the piece, which is, of course, amazing. And the opportunities that are coming in for me - both personally and professionally - are brilliant. And yet…

And yet I’ve found it really tough to make peace with the headline and just feel the #gratitude.

Despite having worked for the Mail for a couple of years (irony!) and tabloid newspapers for YEARS, and therefore knowing that headlines need to be sensational to sell a story (especially a story that’s ultimately a positive ‘puff piece’) I spent several days stewing over the fact that I felt the DM had totally missed the point of Shelf Help. I feel really strongly that SH is a celebration of self-help and that self-help can work magic for everyone, not just people at crisis point. I also feel very strongly that none of us are broken. Ever. No matter how low we are feeling. We might need some direction and support and TLC and tools to help make some changes, but chasing the goal of being ‘fixed’ doesn’t work (just ask Marianne Power!) and assuming we are ‘broken’ is part of a victim mindset that is the first thing we need to shift if we want to feel/be/do better (more on that in this month’s Book of the Month, Crazy Good by Steve Chandler).

Did you read the feature? Maybe you’re here because of it? If so - hey! - and I’d love to know what you think and whether I should just get over myself in the comments below…


Last week I mentioned the brilliant Sam Harris ‘Waking Up’ app that I have been using after seeing the affect it has had on my husband Dan, who was already pretty zen and happy, but is seeming even more peaceful lately as our lives get increasingly hectic.

Neuroscientist Sam is all about ‘spirituality without the religion’ and his meditation style is super straight forward and practical, but during last Saturday’s session, as I was trying to meditate my way out of serious Glasto FOMO (lol) he introduced the idea of emotions as energy and asked listeners to think of someone they really love being happy, and getting something they really want. And then noticing how that made our bodies feel. My mind immediately went to two of my best friends who were busy being VIPs at Worthy Farm in the sunshine and as I thought about how happy they would both be feeling it made me SO so happy that I felt it in my bones. At that moment the FOMO that had been blighting my weekend (the struggle is real, folks) totally lifted. I wasn’t there at the festival, but I suddenly didn’t care. At all. I was just so happy for them that I knew the rest of the weekend I would be able to happily scroll social media and dip in and out of the Red Button coverage and feel nothing but joy and love for everyone there. Really! How totally Glasto of me!

I had surrendered my massive want/need to be there and the result was a lovely sense of peace (‘surrendering’ is something I read about a lot in self-help, but very rarely get right in practice). And then guess what happened? Ten minutes after I finished the meditation session, still with a smile on my face and a glow in my heart, I got an invite to Glastonbury for the next day.

It’s not easy to get a ticket to Glastonbury. It’s pretty much impossible to get a ticket to Glastonbury with one day’s notice. Unless you believe in a bit of mediation magic…:)

Toni Jones6 Comments