I was careful this year to bypass the temptation to make New Year’s resolutions. They haven’t worked for me in the past, and I saw no indication that this year would be any different. Before you get sucked into joining me on a “victim” path, I do have my reasons.
A visit with a colleague yesterday helped me justify “no big goals” for 2014. A practicing psychologist, he has come to count on his patients showing him that a significant percentage of their “story” is the result of their heritage. His 35+ years experience demonstrates to him and convinces him that our DNA defines our boundaries, unbeknownst to most of us, and we live within those boundaries until we make conscious choices otherwise, which is very hard.
He gave me a tangible example. He’s not tall, never has been, but growing up, he always wanted to be a successful basketball player—a center. His DNA simply did not support that—he’s too short. He worked hard and became a very good guard, but it didn’t win him any college scholarships or NBA invitations. This is an example of acknowledging hereditary boundaries and exploiting them as much as possible.
The remaining portion of our stories comes from what we do within the inherited boundaries. Or in other words, what we do with the environmental factors at our disposal. Interesting theory. I think it means that I’ve been stumbling through the years having a great time with some of my choices and a not-so-good time with others, but that I function within my inherited boundaries no matter the environmental influences. Want a really personal example? I hate, absolutely hate, confrontation. I don’t like to have to confront others, I don’t like to be in the presence of others being confronted, and I won’t watch television shows or movies that are based on ineffective confrontations. (Secret: I will confront bad customer service situations—no hesitation. Be prepared if you tell me you can’t do something that’s outlined on your website.)
When I ask myself about the boundaries on this one, there’s no surprise about this either. I didn’t see confrontation as I grew up. I was nonverbally silenced when I showed signs of disagreeing, and I wasn’t encouraged to express myself much. Bingo: confrontation allergy.
The basketball example is concrete, easily understood. The confrontation example communicates, too, but there are additional boundaries we carry that have to do with career success, choice of significant others, or intellectual limits and development. We bump up against boundaries all day, every day. Most important is becoming aware of the boundaries idea, naming the boundaries which control us, and deciding whether they help or hinder. This might be Step #1. I know you can figure out steps #2 and so forth.
While I’ve cogitated on this idea for a day now, I’ve decided, that for me, writing is a primary way to address and identify my own boundaries and knock them around a bit. I tell the students with whom I work that reading and writing can take them anywhere they want to go, allow them to be anybody they want to be, and do whatever they want to do. I’ll take my own advice and see how writing encourages me to push on my boundaries, redefine some, and formulate more updated ones. Sounds a whole lot better than listing New Year’s resolutions, putting them in a drawer, and losing them by February 1.