The Upper Limit Problem: What It Is and How To Deal With It

My dog just choked! (No, that’s not my dog in the picture. This is my dog.)

He was eating and started having hiccups (from his acid reflux) and then he sucked a piece of his dog food into his throat. I screamed for my husband, while pressing on the dog’s stomach, trying to force the obstruction out, and then when my husband got over to us I handed Weiland off and ran to Google how to do the doggie Heimlich Maneuver (dog owners–this is something we need to know! I don’t know why I never learned it before now.) Meanwhile my husband was able to remove the obstruction and Weiland was breathing again.

I skipped the gym this morning… so Weiland got my heart rate up for me.

After it was over I felt totally relieved and also like I just ran a marathon while being chased by a serial killer. Panicked and out of breath.

And the first thought that hit me wasn’t what I expected.

I expected my first thought to be, thank you God, Weiland is OK. But instead it was a three-word phrase I’ve been uttering a lot lately.

Upper Limit Problem (aka: ULP).

What’s An Upper Limit Problem

This is a phrase coined by Gay Hendricks, author of the book, The Big Leap. In it he talks about how we all have an internal thermostat that’s programmed to tell us how much love, money, success, happiness, good experiences, positive emotions, etc. that we’re allowed to feel and experience on a day-to-day basis.

And when something happens to trigger that thermostat and send it higher than it’s set to go, chaos will break out in your life to force it to go back down to where it usually is.

That’s why you’ll see people win the lottery, but then spend all the money, or you’ll win an award or complete a major project you’ve been working on and then you get sick.

It’s an Upper Limit Problem.

Hendricks talks about how the ULP is often triggered when you’ve done something that’s in your Zone of Genius, but you’re used to living in your Zone of Excellence. The Zone of Excellence is your comfort zone. It’s that place where you can coast along, being mediocre and mildly good at what you do. 

But your Zone of Genius is that place where you shine. Where your true gifts come through and where you could work all day long and feel like you’re playing.

Well, I hit my ULP yesterday.

Because I not only published a new book (my ULP is always triggered by me publishing a book), but it became a #1 Best Seller on Amazon.

Talk about a shove out of my usual thermostat zone. That shit skyrocketed out.

And then my poor dog choked. Just to bring me back down. Still feeling good, but not as good as I was feeling the day before.

How To Bust An ULP

This is something I’ve been working on for months. Because I’ve been on a major upswing this year, and I’ve challenged myself to insane heights that I’ve never even dreamed of soaring previously.

And I’ve been making shit happen.

But yesterday when my book hit #1, all the noise (aka: negative, limiting thoughts) came in full-force, and with even more uncertainty:

Great, you’re a bestseller. Now you’ve done it. You’ve gone and put all this pressure on yourself. Telling the world you’re going to write and publish 9 books in one year. Shouting from the rooftops that your book was a bestseller. Do you know the kind of expectations you’ve now put on yourself? If your next book isn’t a bestseller, you’ve failed. All of your books have to be bestsellers now, otherwise you’re a hack. And nine books? Are you insane? I mean, really, should we take you to the mental institution and have your head examined? Most people would be happy to write and publish one book in a year. And you want to write and publish nine. Delusional. Unrealistic. Fucking stupid. Why didn’t you say five books? Why nine? Why put that much pressure on yourself?

And on and on it goes…

Until I stop it. Until I actively choose to not listen and to instead say, I know what I’m meant to do. I’m intuitively guided and no matter what happens I’ll love myself anyhow.

And then I start a chain of new thoughts, ones that support my dreams:

You did great. Really great. I’m proud of you. Good job. You did it and you can keep doing it. There’s no pressure. None whatsoever. Because what other people think doesn’t matter. You live life on your terms. You’re defining success for yourself. And that looks however you want it to. Brilliant. Keep it coming. I love you.

And then I keep going. I keep taking action on my goals.

I could’ve totally freaked out and let what just happened with Weiland ruin my whole day. Maybe even totally derail me from all my goals for the week. I could’ve called myself names and said I’m a bad poodle-mom and how did I let this happen to him and blamed myself and worried and helicoptered over him all day.

But that’s what my ULP wants me to do. It wants me to stop doing the work. To crawl back into a safe space and protect my poodle from everything that could potentially harm him.

Which is why I can’t do it (and also why I didn’t). I made sure he was OK. I calmed myself back down. I cuddled with him ’til I knew he was over it and had moved on.

And then I sat my ass in a chair and I wrote this blog post. Because the writer and author I dream of being writes a blog post every day (or at least 5-6 days a week).

Shit’s gonna happen, doesn’t mean you have to stand in it.

The ULP is exactly what the name suggests: it’s a problem creator. When things are going well, it steps in to throw a curveball at you. To give you a problem to deal with.

What allows you to push through the ULP and not let it stop you is dealing with the problem and getting back to work.

What you don’t want to do is let the problem totally distract you, changing your focus and your thoughts to panic, scarcity, limiting thinking or anything negative. Because that’s what happens most of the time.

You’re working hard on your novel. You’ve made more progress lately on your story than you ever have before. And then you get sick. You come down with the flu and are bed-ridden for a week. Can’t lift your head off the pillow. Can’t work on your novel.

What determines the level of success you’ll get to in your life is what you do AFTER you’re not sick anymore. If you get right back to work (and maybe even work as much as you’re able while you’re still sick), success is inevitable for you. You’re not gonna let anything stop you.

But if the sickness would derail you. If it would cause you to drop your project, spending more time planted on the couch with a bag of chips and a movie on Netflix, then you’re doomed. You may as well hang up the towel now and take up a new hobby, because you don’t have what it takes.

I’ve always had what it takes, but I haven’t always been stepping up. There was a period of time in my life where my excuses and my bullshit was a lot more important than my dreams.

But that time is over now. Now there’s only the results I want to see and the taking action to get there.

That’s what I’m committed to. How about you?

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How do you deal with your ULP? 

If you’re ready to bust through your ULP and step up to the next level in your writing life, a life where you’re committed to the results you want for your writing and taking the actions to make it happen, check out my Bestselling Author Mastermind group. Doors will be opening to new members in the near future.

Featured image courtesy of Steven Carlton
6 replies
  1. Sarah Krueger
    Sarah Krueger says:

    I love this! Congrats, btw. I’m so excited for you! I am a new author. I published my first “middle grades” novel, “The Willowmist” in April and I was on a roll. I finished book two in five weeks and was getting ready to publish it, but I started hearing from well-meaning family members, that I’m moving too fast. No one will want to read a book that’s written too quickly. Talk about letting the wind out of my sails! Then, I read your blog. I LOVE that you’re doing what I want to do! You have motivated me to keep on writing. Damn the torpedoes, FULL STEAM AHEAD!!!

    Reply
  2. Zara Quentin
    Zara Quentin says:

    I have experienced this too. Threw my back out then one sickness after the other as I was getting my new author website up and zooming ahead with revisions on my novel, just when I’d announced it would be ready in October! I tried to keep going as much as I was able, but I felt rotten that I’d lost my momentum and started questioning whether Id ever get this thing done especially by October. But I got back going as soon as I was feeling better and got my momentum back. Still on track now! I definitely have a stubborn streak that doesn’t want to let ULPs get in the way!

    Reply
  3. Kym Kettler-Paddock
    Kym Kettler-Paddock says:

    Who knew this was a thing? I have suffered from this so much. Good things happen. Then terrible things happen. It feels better to stay in the safe middle where no one will suffer as a counterbalance to my success. It’s almost like an exorcism, giving this thing a name and a substance so that it can be recognized for what it is, rather than being feared for what it is not.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Jennifer Blanchard
      Jennifer Blanchard says:

      @Kym I know, right?! I learned about it in 2015, about a month before I published my debut novel. After reading it my behavior patterns made so much sense and I realized that I could bust the ULP right there if I actually finished my novel and got it out there. So I did (and then I got sick, LOL)

      Reply

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