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Have you ever noticed that when everything in your life is going well, something always happens to bring you back down? It could be a conflict, an illness or some other setback. According to Gay Hendricks, this is because all of us have an internal thermostat that limits the levels of success, love, creativity, happiness, and well-being that we allow ourselves to enjoy. He calls this the Upper Limit Problem. In this free summary of The Big Leap, you’ll learn how to overcome such self-imposed limitations to achieve greater personal and professional success. The ideas are useful for anyone who wants to overcome their fears and self-doubts to reach their full potential.

What’s the Upper Limit Problem?

According to Hendricks, there’s 1 major obstacle to success that affects everyone. That’s the Upper Limit Problem: our tendency to sabotage ourselves once we exceed the artificial limit that we place on ourselves.

All of us have an internal thermostat that sets an upper limit for the levels of success, love, creativity, happiness, and well-being that we allow ourselves to enjoy. Once we exceed this limit, we tell ourselves “This is too good to be true” or “I can’t possibly have it all”. We unconsciously sabotage ourselves and fall back within our self-imposed limits.

The Big Leap summary - What's the Upper Limit?

A major success in 1 area of your life (e.g. a big promotion) is usually followed by unhappiness in some other areas (e.g. health issues or relationship conflicts). This prevents you from enjoying your success fully and limits your overall sense of well-being.

Making the Big Leap to Ultimate Success

Understanding the 4 Zones

Everything we do falls into one of these 4 zones:

The Zone of Incompetence involves things that you’re bad at, or things that other people do better than you. Minimize the time you spend in this zone: delegate these activities or find creative ways to eliminate them altogether.

The Zone of Competence involves things that you’re proficient at, or things that other people do as well as you. You can get by in this zone, but you’ll be mediocre at best. In the long run, you’re likely to suffer from fatigue or burnout since the activities don’t energize or satisfy you.

The Zone of Excellence involves things that you excel in. You’re highly skilled in these areas, deliver superior results, and are likely to achieve great success and recognition in this zone. Yet, deep inside you don’t feel satisfied or fulfilled. Many successful people operate in this zone, creating value for other people without feeding their inner selves. They get stuck in this comfort zone without discovering and unleashing their inner genius.

• You’ll enjoy the ultimate levels of success in love, wealth, and creative contribution when you make the Big Leap into your Zone of Genius. This zone involves the things you’re uniquely suited to do—things that fit your talents, strengths, and passions. When you operate in this zone, you don’t just perform well; you also enjoy a sense of inner well-being, and can achieve the utmost levels of joy, success, and fulfillment.

The Big Leap summary - The 4 Zones

To transcend your Upper Limits and live in your Zone of Genius, you must first accept the possibility that you can feel good all the time and have everything going well in your life—from money to relationships, creativity, and health.

Ask yourself:
• Am I willing to have more time feeling good each day?
• Am I willing to have more time when everything goes well my in life?
• Am I willing to feel good and have my life run smoothly all the time?
• Am I willing to take the Big Leap to the ultimate level of success?

If your answer is “no” or “maybe” to any of these questions, pause and consider where the resistance is coming from. What limits are you setting on yourself? How are you getting in your own way?

Transcending Your Upper Limit

The good news is, you can learn to identify and surpass your Upper Limits, to move to ever-higher levels and fulfil your true potential. We’ll now outline the strategies and insights in the book, which were developed by Gay Hendricks after years of helping his clients to transcend such limits. You can get more details and examples in our full, 12-page version of The Big Leap summary.

The Big Leap Summary - Solution to the Upper Limit Problem

Understanding the 4 Underlying Fears/Beliefs

You can’t directly solve the Upper Limit Problem. You can only dissolve the problem by addressing 4 underlying fears or beliefs behind it: Feeling flawed and unworthy of success, Fear of disloyalty and abandonment, Fear of the burdens from success, and Fear of surpassing others.

Such fears are so damaging because we believe them to be true. Once you’re aware of where they come from and how they affect you, it reduces their power over you. It’s like shining a light to dispel the darkness.

Spotting the Upper Limit Problem in Your Daily Life

Once you recognize your inner fears and self-imposed limitations, you can learn to spot when you’re “upper-limiting” yourself. Pay attention to the following ways that you might be choking off your flow of positive energy.  In our complete version of The Big Leap summary, we elaborate on the behaviors to watch out for (e.g. worrying unnecessarily about things beyond your control, blaming and criticizing, deflecting praises/compliments, squabbling, falling sick or getting hurt).

When you notice such behaviors, don’t criticize yourself. Adopt a curious, playful attitude, identify the underlying issue, then shift your focus to positive sensations and new stories that describe how you’re enjoying the abundance and self-expression in your Zone of Genius.

Making the Big Leap: Discover your Zone of Genius

The insights above help you to dissolve existing limits and take baby steps forward. You only unlock your full potential and experience true satisfaction in life when you make the Big Leap to discover your Zone of Genius.

Check out our full 12-page summary for steps/exercises to start making a real commitment to live in your Zone of Genius, and to ponder the 4 “Genius Questions” below:
• “What do I most love to do?”
• “What work doesn’t seem like work to me?”
• “In my work, what brings the most abundance and satisfaction for the least amount of time spent?”
• “What’s my unique ability?”

Living in Your Zone of Genius

It’s not enough to make the big leap to your Zone of Genius, because it’s extremely easy to slide back into the other zones. Hendricks shares several strategies or shortcuts to help you stay in the Zone of Genius. These include:

• Using the Ultimate Success Mantra (USM): a set of instructions that tell your conscious and unconscious mind to stay centered in the Zone of Genius.

• Practicing the “Enlightened No”: to decline anything that doesn’t fit into your Zone of Genius,

• Renewing your commitment regularly.

• Switching from Newtonian time to Einstein time: to transform your relationship with time by realizing that you can create time by changing your choice of activities and how you see them.

• Applying various tips to transcend upper limits of love and appreciation: this is especially important for successful people who may otherwise self-sabotage their relationships with each breakthrough.

Getting More from “The Big Leap”

It’s normal to encounter the Upper Limit Problem as you experience new levels of success, love and creativity. The key is to keep transcending your limits and increasing your capacity for positive energy, so you can make the Big Leap to express your inner Genius. This is achieved one moment at a time: each time you realize you’re upper-limiting yourself, consciously release those thoughts, refocus your attention, and embrace the flow of positive energy to break free of the Upper Limit.

If you’re ready to make your Big Leap, do check out our full book summary bundle that includes an infographic, 12-page text summary, and a 29-minute audio summary.
The Big Leap summary - book summary bundle

The book is full of examples, personal anecdotes, and Hendricks’ interpretation of how the Upper Limit has shown up in the lives of famous people like Bill Clinton, Bonnie Raitt, and Boris Becker. You can purchase the book here or visit for more details and resources.

You may also enjoy these summaries to help you overcome limiting beliefs and unlock your full potential: Awaken the Giant Within, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, and What to Say When You  Talk to Yourself.

About the Author of The Big Leap

The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level was written by Dr. Gay Hendricks–a psychologist, writer, and teacher in the field of personal growth, relationships, and body intelligence. Hendricks received his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University, and taught for 21 years at the University of Colorado to become a full professor in the Counseling Psychology Department. He also founded The Hendricks Institute, where he conducts workshops with his wife Dr. Kathlyn Hendricks. Together they have authored over 35 books, and appeared on numerous radio and television shows.

The Big Leap Quotes

“Your Zone of Genius is the set of activities you are uniquely suited to do. They draw upon your special gifts and strengths”

“Life is at its best when love, money, and creativity are growing in harmony.”

“Behind every communication problem is a sweaty ten-minute conversation you don’t want to have.”

“Criticism and blame…are costly addictions, because they are the number-one destroyer of intimacy in close relationships.”

“Arguments are caused by two people (or two countries) racing to occupy the victim position in the relationship.”

“When both people are not taking 100 percent responsibility, it is an entanglement, not a relationship.”

“You need to get out of any boxes you’re in so you can taste the sweet freedom of living on a continuous upward spiral.”

“Commitment gets you started and propels you through the early stages of any game, but it’s recommitment that ignites your reserves when you feel like you’re going to give up.”

“It’s the act of stifling and concealing feelings that causes problems in relationships.”

Click here to download The Big Leap summary & infographic

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