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The Success Prison

Updated: Mar 18

I once had a client who described her relationship like living in a cage made of gold. Her every need was taken care of in the most loving and caring of ways, yet she felt trapped and suffocated.

If you’re not careful, your business can end up doing something similar. Instead of using it to create a better life, life is often sacrificed for a better business, and if you didn’t already know, that doesn’t work.

I, too, created my own golden cage.

It’s a challenge I’ve been dealing with for a few years, having transformed my offline business into a digital-based service back in 2015-16, allowing me to relocate and create a new life in the Canary Islands.

At first, I was engulfed in a wave of excitement, awe and gratitude but not long after, doubts and fears around the future and income began to creep in and I suddenly fell off cloud nine and landed in a pool of anxiety..

Many people believe that business owners overseas or nomads spend the majority of their time sipping cocktails on the beach. While that had been my original plan, my fears pulled me in the extreme opposite direction, working more than ever in order to sustain my “perfect life”.

This “perfect life” had become a golden cage. I may as well have traded it all back for the city, early morning commutes and a live-for-the-weekend routine. I was actually working seven days a week, not a beach nor refreshing beverage in sight.

I couldn’t see it but I was punishing myself. I was self-sabotaging my own success in order to stay in my zone of excellence.

I worked more to earn more.

Doing things for enjoyment were no longer ‘necessary’.

Time off meant slacking and being unproductive.

I had created my very own prison of success and thrown away the key.

Digital nomad working remotely
Working when I first moved to Santa Cruz, Tenerife

The Upper Limit

After many conversations with my partner, friends and coaches, I discovered there were many issues I had to confront and overcome.

I had never had ‘issues’ before, so why now? It turns out we all have them, it’s whether we confront them or ignore them that changes.

My mindset around money, work and life was completely misaligned with my values (once I had begun to actually investigate them) and my attention to my personal well-being had completely evaporated. I had been sucked into the hustle and grind mentality preached by many a guru and it was making me ill.

Reading The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, I realised that what I felt as a prison, had actually been quantified and analaysed as an “upper limit”.

The basic concept conceives that upon creating success in one area of our lives, we unconsciously sabotage a different area simultaneously, in order to calibrate and keep us (safely) within our current zone of competence or excellence rather than graduating comfortably to the next level (consider the high percentage of lottery winners who go broke or become broken).

Reasons for this include underlying negative beliefs about ourselves and what we deserve or are capable of, often rooted in our past, relationships or environments.

So how do I get out of prison and into my zone of genius?

For me it was reflection, discovery, clarity and taking tiny action steps towards my values.

This meant putting myself and my relationships before my work. It meant working less, creating free time to use for something fun, sport and creativity. It meant doing what I do best and serving people and impacting their lives powerfully.

“If you want security, go to prison.”
- Keith Williams

My grandfather always tells me, “If you want security, go to prison.” Life is the pursuit of happiness and when I work with clients, who are based abroad, uncertainty is usually high on their worry list.

Instead of finding a remedy to eliminate it, we find ways to embrace it and lean into it, because that’s where the gold really is.

The buzz of meeting someone new, feeling a fresh emotion or the satisfaction of learning a new skill, lies just on the other side of that uncertainty.

Predictable is potent in small doses. It can be otherwise fatal. It can be used positively or negatively.

Uncertainty is possibility. It too can be positive or negative, so which would you prefer to live in to?

Every ceiling becomes a new floor

When you feel stuck, it usually means you have reached a ceiling and are ready to break through to the next level. Realise that and relax. What seems impossible to reach will eventually become your new normal.

Avoid fixating on the how, focus on being.

As of writing, I spend one day a week on my language academy, three days coaching and one day for new projects and research. The weekend has become sacred and is my time to snorkel, socialise or do absolutely nothing, because that’s ok too.


Think of a time you achieved something, did any setbacks come about around the same period?

How are you creating your own success prison right now?

What are your top three values and how are you following them?


PS Feeling like you've reached an upper limit in your work or personal life?

Let's explore what's holding you back and what you truly want to create in your life.

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