Limits are important because they are the barometer by which we enact change. There are two phrases that I came across many times throughout my life, and there is a different phrase that was taught to me by my father as a child. Each of these phrases have some value, and can teach us something about making choices.

The two phrases that were circling through society and made its way to me, are “know your limits” and “pushed to your limit.” The latter having two means regarding learning our limitations. The first meaning regards being pushed too far, and having to stop a behavior, or activity because it was not in your best interest. The second meaning is in regards to being pushed beyond the limits you thought you were bound by, and reaching a greater height. Both of these are productive. 

We must know when something is not good for us mentally, physically, emotionally, etc. When we reach that limit of tolerance we must make a change for our betterment. While, our limits of ability or capability can be challenged. More importantly, we must recognize that many of our ideas about where our limit are, in terms of what can be accomplished and what can be done, is often defined by what we have already accomplished. Therefore, what we understand our limits to be is likely less than they really are.  There is most always more to learn, a way to improve, an opportunity for growth. 

The former phrase being an understanding versus a learning. So, once we have learned what our limitations are, we should then understand when we have had enough, and when we can do more. While I appreciate these sentiments, I feel that my dad’s phrase about limits is most empowering as it puts the person in control, instead of feeling more at the whim of some predetermined set of limitations. 

My dad always told me to never say I can’t. And for a very long time I would respond to my dad that that there were things I just couldn't do. He asserted that any and all limitations I had were limitations that I put on myself. That they were not truths, unless I made them so. In other words, you set your limitations or lack there of. This reminder of our control over situations, actions, responses and choices is critical in our curation of our lives.

My understanding of limits now is two-fold. The most important one, also helps to decide the second, and that is that I set limits or boundaries for my treatment. I teach people how to treat me by tolerating or not tolerating various behaviors toward me. When I accept a behavior, I am teaching that person that that is an acceptable way to act toward me. When I don’t tolerate a behavior, I am asserting that that is an unacceptable way to treat me. With any good teaching, there are rewards for the good behaviors and consequences for poor behaviors. 

The rewards are my showing the person kindness, respect, aid, providing encouragement, and, if you're special enough, love. The consequences are a lack or respect, distance, interaction only if and when needed, and limited or no privileges in my life and heart. 

My second understanding of limits is on my time. I must decide what to spend my time on and how much. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and we all get to decide how we want to spend that time. In particular, in the past, I found myself spending a lot of time on others needs and wants and not enough on myself. This has led me to become more protective of my time and how it is used. 

I do not set limits on my abilities or capabilities. This means that I believe I can do anything I choose to do. Yes, anything. However, my time has limits, and that means that I pick and choose what I do, and choose to focus on certain actives and master those. This is the art of creating and mastering your life. It is an ongoing effort, and is not often easy, but when done to your best interest it is full of validation, fulfillment and happiness.

--Nina E.

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