Solving the Upper Limit Problem

Have you ever achieved success in one area of life, only to find yourself stumbling in another?

Or you finally reach a goal you’ve been striving for, only to have something go wrong soon after to bring you back down to earth?

Gay Hendricks, in his book The Big Leap, writes about this issue and why he believes it’s the most important challenge you will face in life. He calls it the Upper Limit Problem.


The Upper Limit Problem is a limited tolerance for life going too well.

Our subconscious has certain expectations for our lives. These expectations are due to genetic predisposition and childhood trauma that we carry throughout our life.

The Upper Limit Problem is caused by a too-low thermostat setting on our ability to achieve and enjoy our ultimate success. The thermostat gets set low early in our lives, at a time when we could not think for ourselves … Unless we solve the Upper Limit Problem, we will keep finding ways to bring ourselves back down when we’ve blown past our old setting.

Whenever you are doing great in your life and you are surpassing levels that you’ve never attained, the Upper Limit Problem kicks in. When you attain higher levels of success, you often create dramas that cloud you in unhappiness and prevent you from enjoying the enhanced success.

People often experience big breakthroughs…and then find a way to avoid relishing their achievement. They receive an award at work and then have a screaming argument with their spouse later that same night … The newfound success trips their Upper Limit switch, and they plummet back to the familiar setting they’ve grown used to.


The Big Leap takes the reader through the four Hidden Barriers that cause the Upper Limit Problem.

The Hidden Barriers unconsciously feel true and real, but they are mirages. The key is learning which of the barriers applies so that you can raise awareness of the issue and erase them from your mind.

Because few people understand how the Upper Limit Problem works, many of us believe we are flawed, not destined for greatness, or simply not good enough to deserve the dreams we want to achieve.

The four Hidden Barriers are:  (1) Feeling Fundamentally Flawed, (2) Disloyalty & Abandonment, (3) Believing that more Success Brings Bigger Obligations, and (4) The Crime of Outshining.

Feeling Fundamentally Flawed: People with this barrier have a fear of failing to reach their potential. This causes them to stay safe and small in order to never risk failing.

Disloyalty & Abandonment:  People with this barrier have an inner monologue that believes they cannot expand to their full potential because it would be disloyal to their past and leave people behind.

Believing that more Success Brings a Bigger Burden: People who have this barrier believe they are a burden on people who love them. They believe that they can’t expand to their full potential because they will become more of a burden than they already are.

The Crime of Outshining: People with this barrier believe they cannot reach success because they would outshine others and make them feel bad. Gifted children are particularly afflicted by this and you may see them “turn down” the volume of their genius so others aren’t threatened.

At least one of the four Hidden Barriers afflicts you and triggers your Upper Limit Problem. You must take time to reflect on which of these barriers effects you. And then you can knock them down.


Find your Genius.

In order to defeat the Upper Limit Problem, you must first raise awareness of the issue.  Once you can see the cause, then you can notice whenever these barriers and problems crop up. But to go to the next level, you must live within the “Zone of Genius.”

There are several questions to ask yourself in order to find your Genius. You should take time with these questions and “wonder about them” to see where your heart leads you.

Ask yourself:

(1) What do I most love to do?

(2) What work do I do that doesn’t seem like work?

(3) In my work, what produces the highest ratio of abundance and satisfaction to about of time spent?

(4) What is my unique ability?

After you spend time “wondering about” and answering these questions, you should have an idea of your genius. You must then make a commitment to living in your Zone of Genius.

Your capacity expands in small increments each time you consciously let yourself enjoy the money you have, the love you feel, and the creativity you are expressing in the world. As that capacity for enjoyment expands, so does your financial abundance, the love you feel, and the creativity you express.

Finally, the author gives an affirmation that he recommends you use as a mantra. This mantra, along with your commitment to living in your Zone of Genius and your awareness of the Hidden Barriers, will help you avoid the Upper Limit Problem in the future. Repeat the mantra anytime you feel the Upper Limit Problem approaching after a success in your life:

“I expand in abundance, success, and love everyday as I inspire those around me to do the same.”

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