Know Your Limits (Guardrails)

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.

Take Action
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?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Learning How to Be Self-Managed

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But I’m Just Not Good At It!

By Kristin Allaben

Think about your day yesterday. Were you asked to do something you just don’t like to do or didn’t feel like you are good at? More than likely, yes, and it probably happened at least once.

Now, how did you respond? Be honest… because your response actually reveals a lot about you.

Each of us have natural strengths and inherent liabilities. Strengths are generally easier to identify. They often show up as our natural abilities, the things we seem to know how to do or how to handle without much thought. Your strengths could show up as your ability to be direct in your communication, to connect easily with others, to be detail-oriented or even to be competitive.

Liabilities, however, tend to be attributes we shy away from because we’re not intrinsically good at them, frequently because they are the opposite of our strengths. This makes sense. If you’re naturally strong at something, then you can’t be strong at its opposite. If you are determined and direct, you are probably not easy-going and a good listener.

And this is ok.

Learning about your liabilities is not a judging moment. They aren’t weaknesses to fix. Liabilities can never be fixed; they are the result of you being stronger on the other side. Liabilities, however, can – and should – be managed.

Easier said than done, I know. I personally struggled with this as I started my coaching career. To acknowledge my liabilities was one thing, but to take the time to understand them and ensure I’m checking in on them was hard because, quite frankly, those liabilities are things I’m just not good at. And, if we’re being honest, there’s a bit of an ego play there, too. To pay attention, on purpose, to the things you’re just not good at is hard.

But having the information about both your strengths and liabilities enables you to more effectively use and manage them. For example, as a competitive person with a direct communication style, you thrive in situations where you can win. But, one day, you may find yourself in a team setting. Being self-aware lets you recognize that working with a team is a liability and you therefore need to manage it. Perhaps you find a way to take lead of the team. Perhaps you encourage a friendly competition within the team to challenge everyone to think more creatively. A number of options exist! But you can’t do this without understanding the role both your strengths and liabilities play in every situation.

At The Forte Factor, we developed our own performance assessment tool that provides our coaching clients with insights into their strengths and liabilities, giving them greater self-awareness to know how to lead with their strengths, manage their liabilities and use them intentionally in both work and life.

So, the next time you’re asked to do something you don’t love to do or know you’re just not good at, how can you use the knowledge of your strengths and liabilities to show up as your best self?

Important Questions from a Coach:

1. How aware are you of your own strengths and liabilities?
2. Think of one of your liabilities. What is something you can do today to manage (not fix) that liability?
3. How will you stop yourself from passing judgement as you gain awareness of your liabilities?


Consider reading Acknowledging Emotions

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