Are you familiar with the “upper limit problem”? It’s a term coined by Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks in their book, The Big Leap. It’s a delightfully destructive form of self-sabotage that kicks in riiiiiight around when things are getting good.
Here’s how Hendricks puts it:
“The ULP is the human tendency to put the brakes on our positive energy when we’ve exceeded our unconscious thermostat setting for how good we can feel, how successful we can be, and how much love we can feel.”
Think maybe, possibly, perhaps that might be you? Here are 11 warning signs to look for.
1. You’ve got an income cap that you can’t seem to break.
New businesses – ones that haven’t attained traction yet – should experience what I call relatively explosive growth. $7,000 the first year, $29.000 the second year, $64,000 the third year – you’re not a millionaire yet, but they’re huge year-on-year gains. Existing businesses grow a little more calmly, but they should still show significant annual increases.
If you can’t seem to break a certain number (and especially if that number is suspiciously close to your old day-job salary), you’ve got an upper limit problem.
2. You’ve got a launch cap you can’t get past.
Now what about launches? You do a product launch and it makes what it makes. Maybe it’s even really good! Then you do the next launch… and it does about the same. And again. And again. Your list grows, you make the same. Your list shrinks, you make the same. You marry Prince Harry, you make the same.
If you can’t seem to get past a certain dollar value on a launch, there’s a number you’re not letting yourself go over.
3. You can’t get past a certain number of buyers.
This one was a problem for me for a long time. For years, I couldn’t break 520 buyers for a new product or class. Consistently, I’d have 498, 512, 519 – I think I had 511 twice in a row. Bizarre, right?
Once I realized it was an upper limit problem – and not zeitgeist or competition or the Moon in Virgo – I was able to break through it and sold 1300. (Awareness does tend to be curative on this issue, thankfully, otherwise I might still be hovering there.)
4. You pick fights about nothing when things are going well.
So, you just signed a new client. You just finished your webinar series. You just had your best launch yet. Congratulations! What happens next? Something gets you really, really, REALLY mad. If you have a significant other, they’re probably the one in the line of fire. Otherwise, siblings, parents, colleagues – even the government might be the one taking the heat.
If you’re far madder than you would otherwise be, and that feeling takes place juuuuust after something good happened? Probably not a coincidence.
5. You never invest in hard assets.
You might buy classes, or training, or membership groups, or masterminds, or retreats – and those figures might add up to a lot. But buy a decent video camera? That’s for “when you have money”. A professional logo? “Maybe next year, when money’s a little more stable.” Get a professional streaming plugin for all of $27? That’s for “after the launch”. $2,000 on a seminar is fine. $2,000 on a website is for “later”.
If you don’t have a problem spending to learn, but you refuse spending to earn, your unconscious is probably keeping you in perpetual student status. You’re not letting yourself graduate from your mental apprentice phase and strike out on your own as a pro. That’s upper limit.
6. You abandon money-making projects right after the idea generation stage.
OK. You’ve got a tiny, fledgling embryo of an idea. It’s going to be a big one. It’s going to be REALLY good for you, and your customers, and your brand. It’s awesome. You flesh it out. You make notes. You make a project plan. You figure out where it’s going to go in the marketing calendar. Phew.
Now you never look at it ever again. Repeat with something new next month. If you’re abandoning ideas before they can become projects, it’s likely you’re subconsciously leaving them in the idea phase so they don’t come to fruition.
7. You leave projects 70-90% done.
Similar to the last problem, where you abandon projects at the idea phase, in this example you’re leaving things when they’re almost fully grown. Your book is almost done, your seminar is almost finished, your new coaching package is thiiiiiis close to live. And yet…
If this is you, you’re leaving projects in the final phases so they never come into being. Upper limit, baby.
8. You get sick right after a success, or at the very last moment.
Sometimes it’s not your mind that rebels – it’s your body. Something goes wrong, and it just so happens to be the kind of something that stops you in your tracks. Migraines, laryngitis, stomach flu – you’re hitting your internal thermostat and there are no ends to which your body will not go to stop you from exceeding it.
As Hendricks puts it, “The illness or accident is your unconscious mind’s clunky way of doing you a favor… It’s in these moments that the unconscious mind goes to work on a solution. The solutions it comes up with are often inelegant and primitive, but they are direct and effective (and usually involve pain of some kind).”
But consider the significance of the illnesses and injuries we get – migraines stop us from thinking, laryngitis stops us from speaking, and stomach flu stops us from standing up. Notice how nobody ever hurts the wrist on their non-dominant hand. Where would be the fun in that? That wouldn’t wreck anything at all!
9. You walk away from deals.
You get a new potential client, or offer, or partnership deal. It’s just what you’ve always wanted. It’s more money than you thought you could get, and the terms are favorable. And for some reason or another, you walk away. Sometimes you walk away because you didn’t like the feeling you got. Sometimes something suddenly pressing comes to your attention. Sometimes you just procrastinate and by then, whoopsy daisy! It’s too late to follow up!
The details may change between this deal and that deal, but if you find yourself consistently abandoning potentially lucrative situations, it’s probably your thermostat kicking in.
10. There’s money in your inbox.
That contract you haven’t sent over, that invoice you haven’t finished yet, that inquiry you haven’t followed up with? It’s funny how the number one problem we complain about is “not enough money” and yet, we don’t claim the money that’s sitting right there in our inbox.
Often this issue gets miscategorised as “procrastination” or “disorganization”, but that’s not appropriate labeling here. We don’t procrastinate good things, we procrastinate bad things. We don’t procrastinate shoe shopping or sex – we procrastinate calling the dentist or cleaning the toilet.
So… why are we treating invoices like we treat going to the dentist when we should be treating them like shoe shopping? Shouldn’t money be a good thing? That’s upper limit for you.
11. Other people’s problems throw you off your plans.
When you’re not hitting your upper limit, nothing in the world can throw you off your game. Your mother calls with a drama, your kid shoots an eye out, your cat can spontaneously birth a live dolphin and you’re still on task. But close to the limit? A neighbor’s hangnail can unbalance your whole day.
The most organized and productive person in the world will throw it all away when they’re hitting their upper limit. If things that don’t phase you are suddenly phasing you, you’re probably hitting your limit.
So what do you do about this?
Two words: benign vigilance.
In his book, Hendricks refers to benign vigilance as “paying keen but relaxed attention”.
It’s been said many times that upper limit problems are solved by remaining aware of them, and I agree with that, but I’d add one thing.
You might want to start looking for specific patterns. Which things keep coming up for you? Are you always getting sick? Getting sidetracked? Avoiding “big kid” expenditures? Those are the ones to be especially vigilant with.
Upper limit problems can be cured, and it all starts with awareness.