A Coaching Power Tool Created by Venkatraghavan Chittambakkam
(Life Coach, INDIA)
Identity of Self in the World
- Boundaries vs. Fluidity
- Self-Sabotaging vs. Self-Nurturing
- Scarcity vs. Abundance
- I don’t know vs. Clarity
- Dispensable vs. Indispensable
- Avoidance vs. Stand up for myself
- Fearful vs. Fearless & Full Life
And thus began the journey. All of them interlinked and deeply signify my personal journey of looking for meaning, defining and upholding my identity in this world.
Boundaries vs. Fluidity
A Boundary is a line that marks the limits of an area. We all have boundaries about our world and for every circumstance we find ourselves in. One may argue like I did for several years that Boundaries are important. Sure enough I was soon to realize that my boundaries severely limited how I built relationships, my view of a situation, how I reacted or responded within that, the outcomes, most importantly my boundaries restricted the possible views I could take of a given situation. Once the metaphorical penny dropped it became clear that the more ways I created to view a situation the better I was able to holistically view a situation.
Now imagine a fence around the house that had no gates to let you out. This is your boundary. The house is me or my situation. By putting myself within this boundary I find myself with finite options to view my house. Overtime I forget I am within a boundary and start to believe these are the only possible views to my house. I have no reality on what a passerby may view this to be or to view it from a distance. As they say perception is reality and my only perception is from within the boundary. I start liking one view so much that within this boundary, day in and day out, I go to the same point to view my house.
One fine day I see an opening in the fence and until just now I assumed that there was no way to get out. In a heartbeat I step out and lo behold the number of views to my house I suddenly discover there are from just outside the fence to far-far away.
My boundaries sure did give me an understanding of my world and at some point stopped serving me. By allowing myself to explore newer boundaries, allowing myself to be fluid, I could suddenly stand at any distance or any location of my choosing to view my house (read myself). Each point generates a different view enhancing my outlook. Boundaries drive beliefs & world view therefore driving my reality. Fluidity allows me to go to new places, try new things and gain new experiences.
Let’s look at an example.
Siraj believed that it was not good manners to ask any one questions that were personal and he had to wait to be offered that information, if at all. This prevented him from being curious and build intimate relationships. Over time he realized he wanted to know people better, be vulnerable and build trusting relationships. He allowed himself to be curious and ask questions to know the other person as the opportunities presented themselves therefore going with the flow rather than when in the past he restricted himself to the boundary of what he considered as acceptable or not. He also realized those were rules he was scripted to believe.
In this example- as it happens to so many of us – taking a risk helped Siraj in moving forward. Our past events and experiences have scripted us so much that we rarely stop to think about whether it serves us today and as I write this it occurs to me to give the phrase ‘push the boundaries’ a new meaning i.e. be fluid. Very soon Siraj would learn that he could make being fluid a conscious competence.
The restriction with one’s current world view is that it is restricted by one’s experiences and therefore restricts one from viewing one’s world from points of view one is unfamiliar exist, even when they don’t serve them. Siraj could have spent all his life wondering why he couldn’t build intimate relationships with anyone when his boundary of not asking questions was holding him back from appearing interested in anyone. Another boundary he had imposed on himself was not asking for what he wanted in order to appear amiable. This cost him to feel like a push over, a door mat and being taken for granted and he resented this feeling. He realized the self-imposed boundary was to not ask for what was due to him until one fine day he saw an opening in the fence. He started sharing what he wanted and realized people responded favorably and then he did more – eventually moving to conversations that allowed him to share what he wanted, expected, how he expected to be treated. He learnt over a period of time that challenging the boundary uncovered areas for him he didn’t expect existed.
This is about creating awareness on what rules are holding one back and what new points of view will serve me better. Fluidity will require the person to understand and take new positions to view one’s identity. It is about adopting a locus that serves one fully, making conscious choices in choosing and experimenting with new loci in order to eventually find new and better serving loci.
Sure our boundaries exist for a reason.Many of our perspectives are helpful and support positive life choices. There are times these stop to serve us and don’t allow us to move forward. At times like this, a Boundary, that constrains us to see the full range of possible options or opportunities, and may be standing in our way. This is where letting go, and creating fluidity to create different views of a situation can be refreshing, allow more control and operate from a place of power.
Boundaries we impose on ourselves are all too common. So common, we don’t revisit them, we don’t remember we are within them. I personally am making an attempt to share some of the common ones I have encountered.
See if any seem familiar to you and do share with me what your boundaries are:
- Scarcity to Abundance – operating from a space of limited availability of resources to a mindset of there is enough to go around. Very often in the space of money, time, relationships, what are yours? Sure enough stay within a boundary and the resources are limited. How do you collaborate across boundaries creating fluidity?
- Dispensable to Indispensable – operating from a space of assuming the person or thing is dispensable. All this boundary ever does it to keep one artificially protected. When the going gets rough you move on, dispense and look for new. This disallows one from forming roots & long term associations and relationships. It further prevents one from living a full cycle of any possibility. Indispensability makes one make it work, learn the ropes and learn the metaphorical lessons. Think about running back to the same boundary every time a new view presented itself and insisting that the only view to your house, is your view. Now think about a worldview where you sit up and acknowledge the truth in every possible view to your house.
- Avoidance to Standing up – operating from a place of not dealing with the unpleasant to standing up for one’s self (beliefs & values) in every situation. Sure enough avoidance can be looked at as fencing oneself in, not look beyond or out, for any reason whatsoever in order to not deal with one’s situation. Standing up requires one to first stand up, walk around and even out of this fence as required to be true to oneself.
- Fearful to Fearless (Known to Unknown) – operating from a place of known & the familiar to the place of the new & unknown. Fearful enough to stay within the boundary? Adventurous enough to experiment learn, experiment and experience?
- Self-Sabotaging to Self-Nurturing – operating from a view of myself as an isolated entity to one that is a part of the ecosystem. Imagine deciding to paint the house a certain color without a view of what is held outside the fences. It may or may not work and should it not the time and effort to repaint can be enormous.
- I don’t know to Clarity – operating from saying I don’t know what my house looks like from where you stand to gaining clarity by coming to where you are.
In the words of transactional analysis, the perspective a boundary creates is one of not being OK for one or both the parties involved.
Every so often, I am suggesting, especially when one is exploring or working with their identity I am suggesting one explore the boundaries they hold so dear or are coming from. Sometimes you will benefit from a shift in space. You could share some of my boundaries or have others you have internalized from your experiences. Once you know the boundary, you can choose to create fluidity and move forward.
There are infinite views one can create to one’s house. One gain access to them by being Fluid. As one creates fluidity one will realize that some serve better than the others, some allow one to move forward and collectively they all add to a richer experience of the house.
I am sharing below some views of my house created by Fluidity.
- There are many ways I can look at myself. Each view is real. This includes acknowledging and knowing others’ view of me. There is also of view of myself from within. By being me I create experiences in and for others. The weather determines my view. Wants and needs create a view too.
- When I look from the house the eco system is a given. I can choose to keep things in the eco system or move them out or away. They certainly can return. Looking out another window doesn’t make the something go away. It’s out of view for the moment. I have a choice on how to deal with it.
- I choose to tend to my yard and every single view I create from the house. Similarly I choose to tend to how my house looks – the colors, the landscaping, and the foyer. I sure do want it to look appealing to a visitor and a passerby. The most important person I want this to appeal to is myself. I live here.
- I choose to constantly explore, revisit and look for views of my house I may or may not have had before. I keep myself open to this. It certainly does allow me to work on parts of my house I choose to.
- I choose to be conscious of how any tweak I do to my house or its ecosystem serves it or not
- I choose to simply create awareness about how my house looks.
We all have different boundaries for every context in our life. The discussion here is not whether they are right or wrong. The discussion here is to create enough Fluidity to challenge the Boundary to make it serve us. Any boundary when held with awareness, for as long as it serves us and resulting in different boundaries over time – works!
What is my Boundary? – Coaching Application
There are simple and powerful questions that can help someone become aware of their Boundaries. How can I be? Followed by how do I behave today? As we discussed earlier Boundaries are so internal to us that we rarely stop to examine them.
The various forms ‘How Can I be’ can take are:
a. How can I be self-nurturing?
b. What is the mindset I can adopt towards the person / situation that will help me take them along?
c. How would I be if everything was available to me?
d. What will be clear to me when I allow myself to feel and think?
e. What will it feel like being true to myself?
f. How will I be with courage?
g. How will I create flow?
h. How will I allow flow?
Simply follow each one of the above at an appropriate time during the dance with ‘How do I behave now’?
It is possible to understand and explore our Boundaries and create Fluidity by one’s own self, just like any power tool.
Needless to say, the role of a Coach is also to help create awareness on Boundaries and create actions towards Fluidity.
Creating Fluidity creates movement. How skilfully it is created depends on the mastery of the coach during the dance.
Here are some powerful questions you could use to help someone understand their Boundary and Move towards Fluidity:
What are the rules and beliefs you are living by in this situation?
- What are the resultant boundaries here?
- What other loci can you assume view your house?
- How does this Boundary serve you?
- What does fluidity mean to you in this situation?
- How can you create fluidity here?
- What’s missing here, that once included, will make this situation flow?
- How does that Boundary work for you?
- When have you experienced being held back by a boundary you created? What did you do to create flow?
- What would be possible if you became a master at fluidity? What do you think mastering fluidity means?
- How would you do this?
- What is the difference between Boundary and Fluidity?
- How will helping your clients change create flow make a difference in their lives?