How often do we create unnatural boundaries i.e. boundaries for ourselves, our children, our colleagues, our circle of friends?
Boundaries provide comfort and the sense of control. They make the rules clear and ensure that we talk about the same stuff. They keep unwanted people and things we don’t like out. You must have noted your children logging on to networks and ‘tuning’ you out. The reduction in human interaction is real. So who is in control of their educational and other development in this networked society?
Inherently, deciding on boundaries will lock out opportunity, as they reduce the variety of people you observe, engage and connect with and through those experiences.
It is one thing to claim an open mind that, logically, would consider everything equally and objectively. On the other end of the spectrum is an open heart, influenced by empathy (Daniel Goleman calls this ‘tuning into others’) and emotion. These latter two can’t be said to function at will not are they predictable to the degree a logical mind probably desires. What we may aspire to is a balance of mind and heart that provides the comfort the soul seeks.
This sounds quite esoteric, yet each one of us, consciously or unconsciously, strives to such balance. You must have heard about multi-millionaires donating fortunes (relative to the others not theirs) as a way to support balance in the world. And importantly, it is normal that we strive to give, and if we do so each ‘relative to our own means’ in money, skill and time, then it is not an issue of comparison/competing with others. When we seem to have little time, even a positive predisposition is not good enough as we can’t focus on what is required to help.
How can one find a way to harness the good intent in order to make the life of others more liveable? The latter concept differentiates individual and family unit survival from progress (however defined) that can continue beyond the support received from others.
I have observed that giving can become all-consuming taking away from your own family. It is difficult to let go of any passion as it provides sustenance to the balance we seek. You may feel that you absolutely need to get on a plane and support a conflict that you feel very strongly about. One can’t get on many planes and they usually leave other things behind that are also important to us. Most of us lack the mechanisms to make others sustainable. We rely on others and public and private led organisation’s to take on that role in a qualified and professional manner. If the public domain fails, the private sector is expected to fill the void and also assist the public sector to become effective. The latter you can start doing by giving feedback on http://gov.yowzit.com/za/
It is not a surprise that we feel constrained by our ability to help and also frustrated by the lack of delivery of the public sector and in certain instances the overarching governance we seek from the national and international community. In our passion, we sometimes fail to see that we can’t help everyone although that is quite logical. Following the ‘starfish’ example (http://www.hopefulhealing.com/Starfish_Poem.html) selecting a few organisations, preferably just one cause and one organisation (focus, focus,focus and make your time work for you), that you see working well within the domain you seek to make a difference. This is probably better than spreading your resources and not knowing whether you have made an impact. Seeking organisations that experiment and reinforce learnings of others are ideal. Asking them how they approach testing and system life cycles can be illuminating (the same principles as you would apply in your business and at home).
At the same time you may be that starfish seeking help, reaching out to others that can make a difference to you. Trusting yourself will provide that balance you seek although you still need others to complement what you are. Creating boundaries does not allow others in. How would they know that you need help or can provide help unless you tell them? Don’t be shy to ask, we are all human.
So what would I suggest:
i) Being selective doesn’t mean that you don’t have empathy, it creates focus and impact. You can’t get on more than one plane;
ii) Being open (in mind and heart) to new things and letting people in provides for a rich experience and help that you may require;
iii) Applying sound family and business principles to good causes ensures they are more likely to be sustainable. Donating food is good, finding a way to teach skills that enable a job is probably more sustainable although we can’t all do that.
Who in your life is a starfish that you have made a difference to this last week or month? Please share your cause and the organisation that helps you deliver it so that others can learn from them and support you in making a difference.