Set Boundaries: A Strategy That Works

20 Feb Set Boundaries: A Strategy That Works


Imagine two people set out to walk across country from coast to coast. (A long trek for sure.) One sets a limit of 20-miles a day. Whether feeling energetic or tired, it was 20 miles a day, no more and no less. The other walker started out at the same time but did not abide by the 20-mile a day consistent effort. Overdoing it on some days meant a day of rest was needed to recover from the exhaustion. No surprise who reached their goal first. (from the book ‘Great by Choice’, authors Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen)



Co-author Morten Hansen explains how he decided to apply the idea of the 20-mile march to his own fitness goal. On January 1, 2017 he had set a goal of getting shape, something he had done many years in a row. He joined a gym and signed on with a personal trainer. Like so many of us, he fell by the wayside. This year, 2018, he has been succeeding by applying an idea he took from the “20-mile march”.

He has set a periodic goal (e.g., monthly and weekly) and then an upper and a lower boundary. (Not quite the same as 20-miles a day but definitely the same principle of consistency.) If the goal is to exercise 3x a week, you would set a lower boundary of 1 and an upper boundary of 4. Stick to the bounds and you succeed even if as he says you ‘just exercise a paltry 1 time a week’. The bounds make a difference. Lower bound? Curtails thoughts of failure. Upper bound? That would be especially important for any of you who think more is better. You do too much, end up feeling sore, and then need to rest the next week. Not good. He set boundaries and it is working.

This reminds me of my thesis-writing days. At the outset of writing my rough draft I sequestered myself for a week in a lakefront cottage. The plan was to write as much as possible during that week. The first 2 days I logged long hours, productive too. Nevertheless by Wednesday I barely wrote a chapter, let alone a page or two.

Writer’s block had set in. It was a tough pill to swallow but in the process I had unearthed my personal writing limits. From that point on, I wrote from 9am to 4pm with a one-hour lunch break plus 15-minute breaks throughout the day. Amazing results. When I stuck to this plan I could write productively Monday through Friday. (Did not write on Saturdays or Sundays.)

Sound a lot like pacing oneself? Not just for running, pacing with all sorts of things. How about the tortoise and the hare? Sure and steady wins the race? Yes much the same but the one little add-on of that lower limit is powerful. It alleviates the need for our brain to even begin suggesting that we have failed. Similarly the upper limit acts like a brake, a governor.

Do you have a goal you are currently pursuing? Whether you are writing a book, working to become more fit, instilling a new habit, or cultivating a more mindful approach to your day, put this strategy to work for you.

Set Boundaries. Pace yourself. Be consistent. It works and you’ll feel good about staying on track.

Cheerios, Thanks for reading, Always enjoy your comments too…


Source: ‘Great by Choice’, authors Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen

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