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Writing Principles for Life #3 – Boundaries

January 23, 2014

In the previous post, we talked about the importance of a thesis statement in writing an essay. One of the important elements of a thesis is that it gives the parameters of the essay. In other words, the thesis indicates what will be discussed in the essay as well as articulating the limits of the essay (admittedly this may not be in one sentence but in the opening paragraph). Positively, a thesis keeps an essay focused on its purpose. Negatively, a thesis keeps an essay from wandering off on all sorts of particular tangents that may be somewhat related to the topic but don’t actually contribute to the main thesis of the essay.

Just as in writing an essay, if we do not put parameters on our life activities, we can go off in many directions, doing many things – even kind and good things – and yet not really contribute to our personal life purpose. Perhaps most “scary,” many activities could be justified or explained as reasonable since each is semi-related to a major life goal.

For example, consider the person who believes his/her purpose in life is to provide excellent medical care to their community. This could be a medical doctor or a nurse, working in your local hospital. The need arises for an ad-hoc committee to meet for a health-related purpose in the community (ie. purchasing new equipment, recruiting a new doctor, etc). Because they have years of medical experience and know your community, they are a natural choice for the committee. It could even be rationalized that this will provide their community with excellent medical care continuing into the future. However, while they are free to say “yes” to serving with this temporary project, they should also feel free to say “no” as this may not fit their other life goals and responsibilities.

Just as in an essay, a person can feel or be pushed to feel they are responsible to cover all areas of the topic/need. However, a clear thesis statement not only gives direction to the individual, but gives them permission to set boundaries on what will and will not be undertaken. Although in can be difficult – and some people may even be offended when you decline an invitation – boundaries are important if you are going to have success, in writing and in life.

For an excellent book on this topic, consider Dr. Henry Cloud’s Boundaries for Leaders (HarperCollins, 2013).

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