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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Boundaries: Places to avoid, but also goals to shoot for.


One day as I watched my stepson being trained in Taekwondo and got a chance to listen to and converse with his instructor, a blog idea came to mind.  I don't fully remember what his instructor said, but I think it was the following: In order to reach your goals you have to picture them first.  It got me to thinking about boundaries. 

I think we are so used to the idea of boundaries being a negative: 
  • Things we can't do
  • Places we can't go
  • Stopping points
that when we hear the term "boundaries" thrown around it can feel like a lecture, scolding reminder. In other words, a downer.  I will call that an "inward boundary" or protection.  But, if you think about it, a boundary doesn't have a stopping point, but instead it can be a jump off point or a place to push pass.  I will call that an "outward boundary" or goal.

--

Now a little comparison.

Inward boundary (protection)
  • Usually in place for our own safety or that of those around us. For example, they can 
    • Keep us from intentionally or unintentionally hurting ourselves or others-physically, emotionally, mentally and/or spiritually.
      • They can limit our actions.
      • They can limit our behavior.
    • Inform us where to stop. Al Some examples:
      • A sign or barrier can tell us it is unsafe to drive past this point.
      • A fence can direct keep us from entering an unsafe area.
      • Sexual harassment rules designed inform us at what point conversation/interaction goes from being acceptable to being inappropriate or questionable.
  • It is dangerous to keep letting them slide.
    • Sends the wrong message. Namely, if you don't like the rules or laws, you can just ignore them and face no recrimination.
    • Brings us one step closer to disaster. It is best to stay away from the edges.

Outward boundary (goals)
  • Usually in place as a starting point--I want to do better than this--or a destination--I want to reach this point.
  • Inform us exactly where to go.  That is what to shoot for or exceed. Some examples:
    • A student needs to get a minimum score on a college entrance exam to get a particular scholarship. The student may do practice tests until he or she is confident that they can get at least that score.
    • An athlete is shooting for a world record time, if he has a goal aka an outward boundary, he/she will have something tangible to reach for and pass.
  • It is actually preferable to slide or move the boundary.  
    • It means we are achieving our goals (outward boundary). 
    • It means we are pushing for a greater achievement (that is a new goal or boundary).
    • It is best to approach and exceed or surpass the 'edges'.

I guess the takeaways from this post are to (1) be aware of when boundaries are there to protect you, (2) be aware of when boundaries are meant to be broken (goals).  I think this goes hand in hand with the "Serenity Prayer".  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

  - Reinhold Neibuhr

Accept the things I cannot change (or should not change) - protect.  Courage to change the things I can - goals.  Wisdom to know the difference - between what is in place to protect and what is in place to achieve.