We talk a lot about discovering, developing and using your unique strengths to have the life you want. It’s so ingrained in the way we coach that it’s written right into our title! And by making the effort to know yourself – your strengths and liabilities – you also create awareness of your limits, something we refer to as your guardrails. Your guardrails help you identify the edges of what you consider acceptable.
For example, if you value authenticity, you encourage yourself and others to be who they really are. So, when you see others being manipulated to be or act against their own values or beliefs, it challenges or triggers you.
Notice the word trigger. Though it typically has a negative connotation, when you have great self-awareness, it becomes an opportunity. You may be triggered to move toward action. Your opportunity exists in the action you choose: do you respond or do you react?
Responding is an intentional action. You’ve thought about the situation and your possible responses and picked the one that you think makes the most sense for the situation.
Reacting is immediate with little or no thought to how to make the situation better or any unintended consequences that may result.
I think your guardrails fall into three buckets:
- Physical – you are aware of your health and physical condition and identify what is acceptable and not acceptable for you. You may want to run a marathon but until you are fully aware of your physical abilities, you won’t know how to wisely train or to recognize (read: admit) there may be another more appropriate activity.
- Mental – you are aware of what you will put up with and not put up with in the way friends, family, colleagues and strangers treat you. Being aware of this helps you manage your response(s) so you can intentionally choose how to respond in any situation.
- Personal – you are aware of who you are, and what you want and don’t want to have a happy, successful and responsible life. Being aware of this helps you to choose your response to any situation more intentionally and wisely.
Understanding your guardrails gives you clarity in a world that challenges you to make yourself fit, a world that sometimes pushes things on you that are different than what you want for yourself. But to successfully leverage the clarity your guardrails provide, to understand how to recognize your physical, mental and personal limits, you need to properly define your guardrails. Consider your values and beliefs as a starting point; they are there to help you maneuver through life.
Make a list of your guardrails. Start by considering your values and beliefs – what you consider acceptable behavior for yourself and for others. Now make a list of your triggers. Ask yourself what’s happening in your world – whether on a large scale (national or global) or local scale (family, friends or work) – that makes you feel angry, frustrated or sad. Notice where those lists overlap. Where do you find your values and beliefs are challenged and how can you make a greater effort to intentionally choose your response to generate a more productive outcome?
Consider reading Learning How to Be Self-Managed