Boundary Questions

Yesterday for me was a day of announcements and negotiating the beginnings of a new transition. The day therefore became yet another day in my life of thinking closely about boundaries. This post is a meditation on some useful boundary questions to consider.

As humans, we love to put lines on our world and our lives. Some of those lines have meaning shared with others. Some are just our own imaginings. We need to separate out our views and those of others. We need to separate the experiences from the imagined or merely expected.

Boundaries tick off achievements, transitions, ambitions and no-go zones. Asking ourselves hard questions about these boundaries can help us ensure they are guiding, but not ruling us. These questions can also help our continued learning and progress.

Lines on the world

For those who like the answer upfront, here are my questions and I will explore the value of each in turn:

  • What is the boundary you will never cross?
  • What is the line that you want to cross but think you will never get there?
  • What do you carry with you wherever you go?
  • What were the last and the next boundaries?
  • What do you need to prosper the other side of that next line?

The Boundary You Never Cross

We all draw lines in the sand from time to time. Some are permanent. It is important to separate the ‘mostly won’t go there’ from the ‘truly won’t go there’ and understand the difference why.

The boundaries you will never cross is not a question of ability or background. Those things can change. The boundaries you will never cross are those that breach your values. Know what is unacceptable to you and don’t go there. Ever.

Desired but Feels Unattainable

as if the edge of
continent contented us with boundary.
Draw a line from A to B. Live there

Bin Ramke, Curve of Pursuit

You need to know this boundary well. Perhaps it is entering a new job, industry or career. Perhaps it is a state of happiness or a relationship. This is one you passionately desire, but feels out of reach.

Remember that passionate intensity and desire. Forget the unattainable bit. Things change. Keep pushing. Understanding why you want this crossing will help you achieve it. There’s always another path.

Carried with You

Borders are places we lose things. We have to set some things down and pick others up. This makes it more important than ever to know what we carry across that line and won’t let go.

These gifts, tools or burdens are our uniqueness. Choose carefully what you always carry. Is it really essential to you? Is it valuable to you and others? Is it even real? Some times in a new land we discover we have been carrying things that no longer exist.

Last and Next

Secretly, and with what feels like good reason,
we’re the pain the people we love
put the people they no longer love in.

Graham Foust, Star Turn

Placing yourself helps you see the paths. At some stages of our life and career, we slip over boundaries without noticing. Knowing the last line helps us see this better.

The next boundary is the one we are preparing to cross. The next boundary is the one we need to find and conquer. We must keep it in view.

The Other Side

Marshall Goldsmith famously wrote ‘What got you here won’t get you there’ about careers and leadership development. People are surprised to discover that their one key trick to success in life and work stops working when they cross a boundary. The rules are suddenly and inexplicably different.

Preparing to cross a boundary is one thing. The next challenge is preparing for success on the other side of the line where things work differently.

I track it, the old paths of a past life.
The martin’s pad foot prints the mud,
claws curled into slivers of an unspoken language.

Heather Derr-Smith, May we meet no line a boundary

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