June 13

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The Boundaries Paradox

This article explains the Boundaries Paradox; on one hand, people say boundaries are there to be pushed, and on the other, they are there to create a place of safety this article from our self-help series discusses the importance of understanding the concept of the boundaries (either real, untagiable, imposed, or self-imposed) in your life.

I see a lot of self-help literature that tells you in no uncertain terms to live a live without limits, to tread the path that other’s don’t follow, and to strive for the impossible and make it possible. Paradoxically I believe that you can’t live all of your life in this way and there needs to be a balance, a time where you go back within a safe place, a place of protection and a place where you can recharge.

I put up boundaries in my life to protect myself, I don’t take work home, I set aside time for family, for vacation and I take care to eat, to hydrate and to switch off, to relax and to sleep. Without time to recharge and rejuvenate we burn out, we don’t switch off, we drive ourselves into the ground. The Japanese call it Karōshi which is roughly translated as death by occupation, I think however that this concept doesn’t just apply to work it also applies to how you live your life too and this is why we need the correct boundaries in our lives.

Without walls your roof might fall in, you lock your door at night, you turn off your phone, you put a fence around your garden, and the reason you do this is that without these clear boundaries you don’t feel safe, you don’t relax and you don’t switch off.

I see too many people who are the victims of their own Karōshi, the nervous tension that the stress they put themselves under is unrelenting, they live their uptight lives, never saying No, never protecting themselves, never creating boundaries until something inevitably breaks.

The trick is to live our lives within boundaries until the time comes when we feel safe to venture out, then as we do so we grow and our boundaries move outwards with us, this is when the scary and the unknown becomes the known, we get used to a little more uncertainty, we leave our previous limitations behind because when we do this our lives and the boundaries we had previously imposed on ourselves then fall back within our comfort zone.

Yet we should never forget that pushing and growing takes it’s toll and there are times when we need to retreat, to recharge, or even just to prepare, practice and to taper our efforts before another big push into the world beyond.

As Parents we give our kids boundaries to protect them until they are mature enough to venture out further and leave the nest. Sometimes we get it wrong and if we remove their boundaries too soon they can get lost, feel insecure and become anxious. Yet remove these boundaries too late, we are tying those kids to the apron strings, wrapping them in cotton wool and they are unprepared for the world, whislt they also have failed to grow, mature and learn what they need to know to have their own independence.

Living a life without limits and boundaries can mean that despite the exhilaration and the excitement, there’s no feeling of protection or control. There needs to be a balance, you need to set boundaries to protect yourself, to pace yourself, to ready yourself for when you next need to fly high.

Yet what you can’t do is live a life too long fixed within your own limits, you’ll never reach your potential, you won’t grow, you will never strive as far as you could. Even worse sometimes your self imposed boundaries can start to suffocate you and it won’t be long before the walls start to close in on you too.

The issue is not which side of the fence you want to be, the issue is to have a fence, to know where it is, and to have boundaries that are movable, not historical, and that grow with you.

There may be no limit to your potential but even the highest flyer also needs to a safe place to land.


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