Distinction: Boundary or Barrier?



This staircase offers a wonderful image for reflection about the distinction between a boundary and a barrier.  Give the image focus for 30 seconds; is what you see a barrier or a boundary … or a combination?

The distinction is top of mind for me since I recently attended the ICF MidWest Regional Conference; the theme was “Breaking Boundaries:  Imagine, Inspire, Impact.”  That title offered a space for reflection about the distinction between a boundary and a barrier.   My reflection led me to consider that a more appropriate title may have been “Breaking Barriers”.

Opening keynoter, Cynthia Loy Darst, invited us to consider the difference.  What emerged was a distinction that resonated with me.  A boundary is permeable … it can shift and flow as we choose, it changes as we decide it is useful or not, having a boundary allows me to take care of myself so that I can give my best to the world.  A barrier is impermeable … it is tough and stationary, it has no give, it is meant to protect or keep things out.  In my world it is likely a limiting belief and usually causes “stuckness” … gets in the way of something I want.

So do the lines in the staircase represent a barrier or a boundary?  Some may look at it and see fluidity, movement; to others there is no obvious way to go.  What are the barriers that are keeping you stuck in an unsatisfying career, an unfulfilling relationship or a less than rewarding life?  Where are there boundaries that you are ready to shift, maybe strengthen or expand so that you serve yourself?  It is only when we take care of ourselves that we can give our best to others. [To be continued]



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