What Is An Upper Limit Problem & How To Cure It

When I was in university, I told myself countless times, I can’t wait till I’m out of here! Then I can devote ALL my time to growing this blog!  Of course, now that I’m done uni, I realize that it’s not that simple.  It’s been hard to manage my schedule and learn to prioritize.

For the last several weeks, I couldn’t seem to get much done, no matter how hard I beat my keyboard.  I tried different time management tactics - Pomodoro, scheduling software, changing my environment - but nothing stuck. 

Even with calming meditation music on, I couldn’t focus.  I would start one thing and get sidetracked again and again, until next thing you know, I go from writing a blog to editing my LinkedIn Profile to cutting the grass!

After several weeks of spiralling in and out, I’ve finally got some answers.  

Whenever you’re in a period of fast growth - starting a new semester, a new job or embarking on a backpacking trip - there is an aspect of yourself that is stoked to take action.  That part generates feelings of excitement and exhilaration as you adapt to new information and evolve. 

However, the part of you that felt safe and secure in your current life - hanging out with your old friends, attending your old school you, or working in your old job - is still alive and inside of you.  Your old self will go along for the ride, but if the growth happens really fast, your old self feels threatened.  It starts causing you to act up and do things that slow down your progress, partly by convincing you that it can’t be done.  

This happened to me recently when I had some meetings with important contacts.  I started telling myself, slow down, you can’t handle this.  You should move all your downtown meetings to one day because you’re wasting time on the commute.  I even went so far as to cancel a meeting with no good reason.  

I also threw my back out and got in a car accident in the last two months.  

I finally realized that these incidents are all symptoms of my upper limit problem. The concept of an Upper Limit Problem was developed Gay Hendricks in his book The Big Leap. He describes it as when we subconsciously sabotage our own efforts because we believe that we don’t deserve it or can’t handle it. 

Anytime that you're pushing yourself into new experiences, there’s a good chance you’ll hit an ULP.  It’s a natural part of being human but if you want to live an amazing, exhilarating life of adventure and exploration, you’ll need to know how to deal it.  

How do we clear these subconscious fears so that we actually take action towards our dreams? 

Try all the practical stuff. 

I woke up earlier.  I started to drive more carefully.  I stopped going to yoga 5 times a week and only went once or twice.  All the practical stuff does help, but if you feel like it’s not enough, then there are some subconscious fears that need to be addressed.  

Accept and forgive yourself. 

You’re always doing the best you can.  Repeat after me, “I’m always doing the best I can.”  When my back was out and I couldn’t go to yoga, at first I reprimanded myself. “You should have been more careful! Your back is messed up forever!  You’ll need to go to physiotheraphy for the rest of your life!” 


I knew this thinking was counterproductive because the body reacts physiologically to your feelings and thoughts.  Instead, I started practicing being grateful for my body.

Every time I could feel my back pinch when I tried to touch my toes, I used it as a reminder to feel appreciation and gratitude for my health. Overall, I have excellent health and that’s something to celebrate! 

Talk to your crazy self.   

Ask your inner critic, “what is it you have to tell me?” and write out the answer.  I did this myself and can give you a word of warning - it might feel crappy.  For now, just write and get it out of your system.  My inner critic told me, “You should just give this up and get a normal job. You’re wasting your time.  You can’t do it.  You don’t know how.  All your friends will leave you.  You’re not cut out for this.”

Then say this out loud.  “I see you. I hear you.  I acknowledge you. Thank you for trying to protect me.  Let’s talk about this.”

Now call on Wisest Self - the dreamer, believer part of you - and have a conversation with your inner critic. My Highest Self says things like, “You can do it.  You’re already doing it.  There are thousands of people out there who are also doing it.  All friendships evolve and that’s okay. Just take it one baby step at a time.” 

I practice this conversation every time my inner critic tries to take over my thoughts.  At first exercise might make you feel crazy, but over time, it wears down you inner critic so that you can make solid progress.  It’s like your rewiring your brain to replace the old “I can’t do it” thoughts with new, “it’s possible” thoughts. 


Remember, your inner critic is not you.  You can (and will) expand, grow and do big things with your life. 

Has my story made you think of ways you’ve sabotaged your own efforts recently? 

What does the dreamer inside you really want?

Go ahead, and stay in the comments below. Taking the time to write it down is a major step in rewiring your brain. I know it will help you get clarity. 

Thank you so much for reading and sharing The Passion Playbook with your friends and loved ones. I am incredibly grateful for your support and encouragement. Now that you know what to expect on the journey, I hope that you’ll join me and turn your passion into your dream career.  

All my love,