A Tiny Bit of Limbo

In my day job I’m affiliated with, or support, various US space programs. One of my favorites for the last 15+ years has been the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), which sits in orbit at the L1 libration point, “which is a point of Earth-Sun gravitational equilibrium about 1.5 million km from Earth and 148.5 million km from the Sun.”

The key from the quote above is “gravitational equilibrium” which is fancy mission control talk for ‘the gravity of the earth and the gravity of the sun are almost perfectly balanced.’ In even simpler words, the spacecraft basically sits in limbo and is expected to stay that way until 2024.

Why am I bringing this up? I’m glad you asked. Over the past 2 weeks, we have been having numerous discussions regarding how we support this particular spacecraft. Throughout those discussions I’ve had to explain the L1 libration point several times and the word “limbo” has wedged itself into my mind.

Along with this, I’ve been doing some soul searching about some issues I just can’t seem to resolve. Certain bad habits like procrastinating, especially in regards to something I perceive to be boring or distasteful or unpleasant.

As I ponder my procrastination habit, I keep remembering something I learned from Tony Robbins. Tony once said that all human motivation boils down to two basic components: (1) avoiding pain or (2) pursuing pleasure. You see, that basic idea makes plenty of sense to me.

But it doesn’t really explain what I find myself doing over and over…those behavior patterns I seem to be stuck in. The limbo of habit, or habit of limbo, I seem to be stuck in. So, after thinking about it a bit in the context of the ACE satellite and the context of the pain/pleasure idea, I came up with the picture below.

Copyright 2012, Greg Lauer



The picture represents that smack in the middle of the pain, we experience maximum “YUCK.” And smack in the middle of the pleasure we experience maximum “YAY!” But as we move away from the pain and towards the pleasure, we get to a point where the level of pain is minimal.

Too often, though, that’s the same point where the pleasure is minimal, at least for me. In other words, the amount of pain is so minimal that it doesn’t even hurt anymore and it is no longer a motivator. And the amount of pleasure is so minimal that it provides no pull anymore…it is no longer a motivator. And it’s that point in the middle where we flatline emotionally. It’s that point in the middle where we get stuck in a limbo of sorts.

What’s the worst thing about that limbo state? There’s usually no progress. Limbo is neither a heaven nor a hell. It’s just…there. And if we’re not careful, that flatlining can lead gradually to a depression. From my own experience, once a depression kicks in, it builds up like a snowball rolling downhill until it’s out of control.

So…now comes the REALLY important thing. How do you get out of limbo?

For me, the answer seems to be as simple as this:

  1. Recognize I’m in the limbo state between pain and pleasure and give myself permission to change that state.
  2. Take some time out to think about what I want from life and give myself permission to dream again.
  3. List ALL the things that come to mind and give myself permission to pick one that feels exciting.
  4. Do something right away to begin accomplishing that one thing.

One example I would like to share with you is this:

Recently, I found myself in this very predicament and my solution to the situation can be found at 13 Equals 13, my new side project.



  1. Yay! I get it, your visual hit me square in the face. I’m a huge procrastinator, especially of the things I dread doing, like paying taxes, or making certain phone calls… The anticipation is the worst… And I do hang in this limbo until its done, becoming a little indifferent or numb to things. And if I can manage to muster up the oomph to get it done, it is rarely as painful as the anticipation… The drawing you share, makes much sense to me! Glad you are sticking around!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment. I always appreciate your thoughtful comments. And I’m glad the visual helped. GREAT point about the anticipation being the worst part.

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