14 September 2015

Learning Limits

Somehow, the word "limit" has become almost a dirty word in our society.  Over the years, we've decided somehow that we shouldn't focus on limits, but on possibilities and potential.  We should focus on what we can do, not what we can't do.  In this way, we've helped a lot of people who previously thought only of limits.  They've been able to learn that they shouldn't be focusing just on what we can't do, for if we adopt that focus, then guess what?  We're going to severely limit ourselves and our lives, and we're probably never going to reach our potentials.  In this way, we've done some very positive things.

But has our shift been balanced?  I often think that in making the shift, we've caused a lot of damage because we haven't kept in mind that there are still some very real and very important limits in our lives--limits on what we can and can't do, and limits on what we should and shouldn't do.

I see this a lot in students and other young people.  Somehow, many of them seem to be learning that anything goes, that they can do or say whatever they want because they want to, or because they see something as "true."  They haven't learned anything at all about tact or diplomacy--they're completely self-centered, and they're unable to recognize the feelings and needs of others.

I also see a high level of frustration in young people who have been taught that they can do whatever they want, only to choose a venture in which they're not very good.  A person who isn't an innately skilled thrower, for example, shouldn't choose to be a pitcher in baseball or softball--it almost never works out.  But because they've been told they can be "anything they want to be," they go out for the team and they think that with enough work and effort, they'll be great pitchers.  The truth ends up being, though, that they get cut from the team.

As a teacher, I see one of my most important tasks as trying to help students to recognize their strengths and to work on developing them.  I try to help them to see the limits that exist for them and to work at overcoming them--if necessary--but to focus more strongly on getting really good in their areas of strength.

A happy life is not one that is built on frustration.  I think it's wonderful to try to overcome limits, but I also know that limits are real.  I'll never be a four-minute miler, no matter how much I work at it, and that's okay.  I can get to be as fast as I can.

And in social situations, I'll be much wiser--and kinder--if I recognize that there are limits to what I should say and do.  I need to understand the messages that others are giving, and be sensitive to those messages.  If a particular item of clothing seems very unattractive to me, then I have to decide if the best thing is to say something or to let it slide.  Usually, the latter is the best course of action because other people dress to please themselves, not to please me, and my opinion is completely irrelevant, and it could be extremely insensitive of me to say exactly what I feel.

On the other hand, if my wife has a job interview and she asks me if a certain shirt looks appropriate, it's important that I tell her if I think it doesn't.  Then it's up to her to decide what to do about it.

We have limits, and that's okay.  Once we recognize them and accept them, we'll be fine.  And more importantly, we'll be more able to help others through their lives, and we can help them to be fine, too.

The main thing is to be honest with yourself, know and
recognize your limits and attain maximum achievement
within them.  I would for example get more satisfaction
from climbing Snowdon, which I know I could, than
from attempting Everest, which I couldn't.
-Stirling Moss

No comments:

Post a Comment