I still remember feeling frustrated for not qualifying for loans when I was in college. While my friends were studying for the next test, I was doing long drives around the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex to teach piano. Honestly, I didn’t really see it as an opportunity back then, but looking back it’s been one of the most valuable experiences of my life. Not only did I graduate debt-free and at the very top of my class, but I was forced to learn time management skills, prioritizing, finances, self-confidence, and so much more! It turns out that a perceived limitation actually freed me from debt later on, while bringing a whole set of valuable skills to my life.
We all face situations in life that we think are preventing us from getting to our goals. “If only that problem didn’t exist, my life would be better”, we might think. It turns out that there are many experts out there who believe and have shown us that
we experience the greatest freedom when we set clear boundaries for ourselves.
In the book Minimalism Greg McKeown tells the story of children playing in a playground next to a busy road: are they freer if the playground is surrounded by a fence or if it’s left completely open? Obviously, the children will be able to enjoy the entire playground more fully if it’s protected by a fence. This is true in many areas of life, I dare say. Productivity, relationships, profession, health—so many things seem to benefit from boundary-setting. Some of the most incredible stories of overcoming are from people who, rather than looking at boundaries as if it they’re obstacles, saw in them a problem-solving opportunity. If we look carefully at our own life, we’ll find a similar pattern.
I’ll give you an example from my field, music composition.
A song always starts with a blank piece of paper.
We don’t know how long it’ll be, which instruments will play it, if it’ll have words, if it’ll be suited for a particular genre, if it’ll be harmonically complex, and the list goes on. When we avoid these questions, we’re often plagued by writer’s block. It turns out that the questions help us delineate boundaries, which in turn allows our creativity to skyrocket. Creativity seems to thrive in boundaries—isn’t that amazing?
McKeown says that, “when we don’t set clear boundaries in our lives we can end up imprisoned by the limits others have set for us.”
We can choose to let others limit us, to limit ourselves by thinking we shouldn’t be having to deal with the boundary in the first place, or to carefully search for the opportunities that are intrinsically hidden in every difficulty we face.
Choose to fight. Choose to figure it out. Find freedom in the limits.