When you consider the word ’boundaries’ where does your mind go? For decades mine went to a place of constraint and limitation, with just the idea of imposing boundaries feeling unwelcome in ways I wouldn’t have been able to articulate. Instinctively they felt like something life-denying. Typical child of the 1960’s…!
I’m starting to see how the opposite might be true. To ask how much can we liberate ourselves by maintaining crisp, deliberate boundaries between all the different areas and demands of our lives? By making and then maintaining good decisions about (for example) nutrition, exercise, shopping, social life, hours of work and rest, time online, we can develop a rhythm that promotes both well being and well doing…
Getting Boundaries in Place
This has been inspired by (among others) the writing of James Clear, Gretchen Rubin and Cal Newport, and by further consideration of the component of Place. My recent ‘doomscrolling’ piece forced me to acknowledge that like millions of others I’ve been seduced by my phone (the ‘angel and devil’ in our pockets) into a mindless kind of check-in throughout the day, forming a distraction habit and breaking a boundary I didn’t know how much I needed. Putting the phone away for hours each day makes me proactive, wins time, creates headspace and ease.
Taking my work email off the phone has been a gamechanger too, one I can’t recommend highly enough. We are not designed to be constantly available in this way, and having it there encourages looking at work emails ‘after hours’; I love my work, so this doesn’t feel like an imposition, yet it is, because it dissolves the crisp boundary between ‘home’ and everything else.
Creating limits based on proactive decisions saves time and gives new energy. It means we don’t have to think about what’s next because the priorities have been established and (with practice) we are creating an environment that supports our best habits and our creativity.
Boundaries can be a useful kind of friction that prevent the easy slide into what feels briefly attractive and rewarding, but actually makes us reactive and static. This is such a great idea – creating ‘friction’ makes it harder to drift without noticing, and can be as simple as putting the phone away in a drawer, or the chocolate away on a high shelf!
And when we factor in the rock-solid logic of acknowledging that the body is exclusively the Place for our thinking, and that everything we can do to promote our wellbeing, calm and ease is going to improve our capacity to think well, then being precise about boundaries seems full of potential in the best possible ways.
If you knew there was one boundary you might change that would have impact on your sense of ease as a Thinker, what would that be?
You don’t have to tell me but please do tell yourself!