Guide And Protect…
It seems that every January as I’m getting ready to kick off the new year, I’m inundated all around me with an over-emphasis on making new years resolutions and setting big insane goals. It can be inspiring to think about and I agree that it’s great for everyone to get out of their comfort zones to try new things, but I also think that there is an equally important ‘other side of the coin’ that’s usually neglected. Before taking any bold new risks and trying to ‘live dangerously’ to follow a dream, we need to first seriously consider and establish Guardrails in our lives.
‘Guardrails’ are defined as a system designed to keep vehicles from straying into danger or off-limit areas. They can be found at bridges, medians, winding roads, and many other places. We may not usually notice guardrails because they seem like the invisible part of driving, but they’re important barriers between us and certain dangers. Even though they’re significant for saving lives, it’s easy for us to think we don’t need them… until we actually do.
‘Guardrails’ are the boundaries we set to provide margin in our lives. I think they’re absolutely necessary, and even though they’re not sexy in our culture or usually a natural concept that’s embraced, we simply can’t have healthy marriages, strong friendships, controlled financial situations, or strong businesses without them. Guardrails are a key part of any decision making process and establishing them into different areas in our lives allow us to avoid detrimental mistakes that we might not be able to recover from.
The purpose of Guardrails are to protect and direct us. Even if we smash into them at full speed they cause less damage than the catastrophic danger that’s on the other side. Guardrails are intentionally set up just before the danger areas to prevent us from moving into devastating problems like fast oncoming traffic, being launched off the side of a bridge, or rolling down a mountain cliff. If you look closer, you’ll see that Guardrails aren’t actually located in the most dangerous part of a road. They’re constructed in places we could technically drive on, BUT the point just beyond them is what’s troublesome. Just like with driving, I believe in life, we also need a margin for error.
As a leader, husband, father, business owner, and in many areas of my life, I think it’s important to apply the same principles of guardrails. Some of the biggest regrets we can have financially, professionally, morally, with relationships, or in our marriages, (really in any negative situations we’ve found ourselves in), could have ALL been prevented by having proper guardrails. It’s just a simple fact that in life if we cross certain lines we end up hurting ourselves. If we compromise certain personal standards, we increase the potential of our future not being what we would want it to be. If we break specific boundaries, it’s going to make some relationships much more difficult. If we go past certain limits then our hopes and dreams will simply be less attainable.
As a realtor here in the Twin Cities, my schedule can be crazy with a constantly ringing phone and urgent problems to solve. Without proper guardrails, my job can quickly consume and overtake every area of my life. Over the years I’ve had to establish guardrails (both personally and professionally) to ensure my clients will always have a rewarding experience, AND still have balance and quality time with my family. A couple years ago, one of the guardrails I set up was to make sure I had dinner with my family at least four evenings a week with little to no interruptions. I wanted dinner with my family to be an intentional and protected time together where we could engage and be ‘fully present’ without distractions. Sometimes, I have an urgent matter that needs to be resolved, and I’m not able to be there for four days that week with my kids, but that’s ok. Crashing into my guardrail doesn’t mean I’ve made a terrible mistake, it just means if I keep breaking the healthy habits I’ve established, I could create a situation that I would really regret in the future and might even not be able to recover from.
It’s important to think through what our guardrails are so they act as a warning sign to us in order to avoid having regrets we’ll never be able to change. I’ve heard people say that instead of setting up personal boundaries, they just need to ‘learn from their experience.’ I couldn’t disagree more. I know many people that make the same horrible mistakes over and over and get stuck in the same damaging cycles.
I believe we learn from reflecting on our experiences (and the experiences of others). If we don’t take the time to evaluate what’s happened, how we ended up there, and what can be done to prevent it, we’ll just find ourselves back in the same destructive cycle over and over and over again.
I recommend setting up guardrails, they’re not about being legalistic, using them to judge others, or see how close we can come to danger. Guardrails are tools used to inform, ignite, or energize our conscience to provide warnings or red flags so we can prevent paralyzing danger. They keep us focused on what really matters and on track to prevent us from serious danger.
So take risks! Create S.M.A.R.T goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, & Timely) and don’t let fear prevent you from following your dreams or going out of your comfort zone. BUT just remember when you do, make sure to have established Guardrails that will protect and guide you in the process.
What are your Guardrails? What personal conduct with friends, finances, relationships, and your career have you’ve established so you can continue living the great life?
*If you’d like to hear a great in-depth teaching series about this topic check out https://guardrails.org. No matter what your spirituality is, the principles explained within these videos are gold.