Do you have an upper limit problem?
In today's episode, I am going to be teaching you all about the upper limit theory. This theory explains why most of your problems are not about what you think they're about. You’ll learn what the upper limit theory is, how to detect it at play, and what to do about it.
This episode is inspired by a wonderful book called “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks. In this book, Dr. Hendricks teaches the Upper Limit Theory. Here's the basic premise of the theory: most problems that you're dealing with in your life are really not about what you think they’re about, they have a hidden agenda, that agenda is to keep you small and safe.
This is what Dr. Hendricks calls the upper limit problem.
"Each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. When we exceed our inner thermostat setting, we will often do something to sabotage ourselves, causing us to drop back into the old familiar zone where we feel." -- Gay Hendricks
How the Upper Limit Keeps us Stuck
Imagine the Upper Limit to be like a thermostat for how "good" you're able to have it in your life. Whenever you surpass that thermostat say by making more money than you used to, finding a great relationship or getting a new job, you trip your upper limit switch.
Subconsciously your mind says, “You can't possibly feel this good or you can't possibly make this much money or be this in love”. Unconsciously you then do something to bring yourself back down below your upper limit.
It might look like these two things are not related.
Let's say you get a big promotion at work but then you come home to have a huge fight with your spouse that evening. That is your limit trigger at play. Taking this kind of a perspective that looking at our problems, I find really empowering because it means some of the problems that we're dealing with they're not even problems at all.
It's just our upper limit switch trying to bring us back down to where we feel safe and comfortable.
We don't necessarily even need to solve the problem because it was unconsciously created by us as a way of just escaping the really good feelings we have. That might sound really counter-intuitive why we would want to escape good feelings, but just start to pay attention to that in your life.
Notice where you want to take yourself out of feeling good like maybe you had a fantastic day of hanging out with friends and you feel really connected and loving but you just can't wait to have a drink to bring your energy back down or you just can't wait to watch TV to come back down to that place that's comfortable and secure.
Most people are addicted to what I call Energy Neutral. We can only stay Energy Rich for so long. After a certain while we feel this desire to come back down to where it’s comfortable.
One of my favorite clients is in a new relationship after being single for a long time. And the guy she's with is just great for her! He really really fits with her and seems to really understand her. So naturally she's been very happy, but it didn't take that long for her upper limit to kick in.
In just a few weeks after they started officially dating, she started to feel like she was failing at work like she wasn't performing up to snuff in her job. In our last coaching session, she realized there wasn't really a problem at work. She was just upper limiting herself because it was new to go beyond where she was normally comfortable and actually allows herself to feel a new level of good.
Here is how to detect the upper limit at play:
1. Criticism and Blame
It's got a couple of signature moves, criticism and blame. Criticism and blame, whether it is towards yourself or towards someone else, is a highly addictive way of busting up those positive feelings.
Criticism and blame are really costly because it's the number one destroyer of intimacy in relationships.
In romantic relationships, they don't end because of the lack of love; they end because of a lack of intimacy. So, where are you using criticism and blame as a way of bringing yourself back down underneath your upper limit?
Romantic relationships don't end because of the lack of love; they end because of a lack of intimacy. #LoveSmarter
The second sign that your upper limit is in play is worrying. Worrying is usually a sign that we are upper limiting.
It’s only useful to worry if it concerns a topic that we can and will actually do something about. Otherwise worrying is just a way of decreasing the flow of positive feelings.
All other worry is just upper limit noise design to keep us in that safe, secure comfort zone. Worry is also an addiction. It makes you feel like you're doing something about the issue when really you’re just wasting mental energy and blocking the flow of positivity.
3. Getting Into Arguments
A third sign that you’re upper limiting is getting into arguments. Arguments are caused by two people racing to fill the role of victim. So if you find yourself picking fights or letting your buttons get pressed, that's a sign that you are upper limiting.
If you are dealing with this right now, then you might want to check out my post on how to end arguments quickly!
4. Getting Sick or Hurt
Our upper limit switch can be so strong that it can actually give us physical sensations. I know for me, I sometimes get headaches after something really great has happened. That's a sign that my upper limit is kicking in.
5. Our Integrity Breaches
Fifth sign, our integrity breaches. Things like lying, cheating, stealing are all evidence of the upper limit kicking in to bring you back down to seize.
6. Hiding Significant Feelings or Withholding Your Communication
Another sign is hiding significant feelings or withholding your communication. It's blocking the natural flow of things.
And a final sign you are upper limiting is deflecting. Do you brush off compliments or prevent people from contributing to you? When you notice yourself doing any of these behaviors, first thing you want to do is realize you are upper limiting. Just label it, “Oh! I'm upper limiting right now”.
Dr. Hendricks says that the upper limit problem isn't a problem to be solved but rather dissolve. It is a problem that we can dissolve through our awareness because our upper limit is not going away, but we can raise it so that we are able to increasingly experience more and more positivity before that upper limit gets triggered.
The way of getting beyond our upper limit has everything to do with allowing ourselves to feel good.
First, noticed that your upper limit is at play. Label it an upper limit problem, then allow yourself to actually feel into it. Find a place that feels good in your body right now. There’s always an area in our body that feels good. Find that area and focus on it and allow the good to expand.
When you give that positive feeling your full attention, you will find that it expands with your attention. Hold that positive feeling for as long as you can.
You can look at the problem that your upper limit has identified and see if anything actually needs to be done. It might just be best to drop it and return your focus to the flow of positivity.
So, where in your life are you upper limiting? Is that a problem you really need to deal with or are you just blocking the flow of what’s good?