Putting Boundaries Around Our Steps...Forward Focused Steps!

We've been discussing the warning signs that might indicate a need for boundaries....

The first post in this series addressed the need to know when our yes to one good thing is really a no to the better thing.  Proper boundaries give us the direction we need to say yes to what God has planned for us instead of being distracted by the shiny objects that can distract us from that plan.

The second in our series discussed the need to use expectations to form boundaries that keep us from jumping onto the paths of others, helping them achieve success but abandoning our personal path to success.  

The third boundary discussed was how to ask questions and guide those in our lives towards ownership of their problems and away from dependency on us to 'fix' the problems for them.  

Let's wrap up this series with a deeper understanding of why boundaries are a good thing!  

An initial response to the idea of putting boundaries in place is typically 'limitation'!
'Boundaries limit what I can do or where I can go. 
And anyone with goals and dreams will naturally have a negative reaction to 'limitations'!

Alright then, lets explore that thought.  By definition, limitation means a restriction of range or scope, and one could easily argue that this is exactly what a boundary does, restricts me; and success is all about dreaming  without limitations.  Fair enough.  It's the image of running free in a field, blue skies, green grass and a horizon that goes on forever.  It's my life and the sky is the limit!

I can see myself there now, running with the wind in my hair, arms unbound and raised with excitement.  I run toward all of the flowers growing wild in the field, finding joy in each one I stop to smell.  Day after day, running free, enjoying all that this life has to offer.  Year after year, running towards whatever attracts my attention without restrictions.  Ultimately, running and jumping myself into....exhaustion.

On the other hand...what if I approached this 'skies the limit' perspective with a few boundaries.  Instead of running free to this side of the field and the next, running to smell every flower, following every butterfly that catches my eye, what if I identify the side of the field I desire to see the most and focus on only the flowers and butterflies that lead me in that direction.  I may change the side of the field I want to reach at any point, or reach my original destination and set course for a new one, but I keep focused on the one direction until I am ready to make that change.

If that image doesn't work for you, how about this visual of why boundaries are good.  

I've only bowled a few times in my life, but even so I know that the goal is to get the highest score possible by rolling a ball in one direction and knocking down as many pins in that one roll as possible.  I do NOT get points if my ball goes into another lane and knocks down one or all of the pins.  If I roll a strike in another person's lane, that person gets the points...not me!

Thank goodness for the gutters!   YES....I said thank goodness for the gutters.  They clearly define what lane I'm supposed to be playing in and they keep my ball going forward in my lane and out of everyone else's lanes!  If I roll a gutter ball, I get another chance to try again.

That said, if I want to help someone else get a strike, it's my choice.  When my children were younger we would sometimes play in adjoining lanes...kids playing with kids and us adults playing with adults.  Occasionally one of my youngest children would ask me to help them get a strike, usually when they were being slaughtered by the older children on the score board.  It was fine for me to hop over to their lane to help them, teaching them some technique at the same time, but eventually I needed to give them back the ball so they could enjoy the thrill of success on their own.

And how about bumper bowling!  Oh Ya...that was always my favorite. Not being very good at bowling, I found great joy in having those bumpers in place to keep my ball in my lane so I was sure to knock down a pin or two with every toss.  Those bumpers (boundaries!) were there for a reason, encouraging success and a desire to keep playing the game when I might otherwise be inclined to give up.

Just in case my metaphor isn't 'striking' a chord, let me try it this way:


  • Like gutters, they keep our efforts in our lane of business and out of the lanes of other people's business. 
  • Like gutters, they define the lanes clearly and we can choose to change lanes for a moment to help others get better at the game, but not lose sight of our own lane in the meantime. It's o.k. to help and encourage and teach, but eventually (sooner rather than later) we need to quickly give the ball back so others can roll their own balls with success in their own lane.  
  • Like bumper pads, they protect us from wasted efforts.  All work and action has a result that increases success.  Sometimes the result is learning what does not work, sometimes the result is identifying what we need to learn to do better and sometimes the result is a strike!
So is a boundary a limiting factor?  
You know what...I think it might be.  
Boundaries limit the chaotic activity in my life 
that will result in exhaustion and unmet goals or expectations.  

Sometimes limitation is a good thing.  

Let's Get There One Step at a Time
Copyright© 2012 Just One Step at a Time

What do you think about boundaries?  Do you have some firmly established or are you more inclined to fun free? 

 We'd love to be encouraged, so leave a comment, with or without your name!  

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