Limits are necessary to channel energy, guide purpose, and lend direction to life. Constantly swimming in a sea of boundless opportunity leads to exhaustion. Winging it alone, wild and free in a sky of unlimited directions and opportunities, only leads to becoming lost. In human affairs, the making of decisions and alliances necessarily implies limitation, for in choosing one path, another must be left behind.
A key to a successful life is to select your limits consciously and carefully—to be discriminating in the setting of personal boundaries but also knowing when to fly in formation. Just as thrift often precedes prosperity, letting go of selfish interests leads to greater personal reward. Only by consciously accepting useful limits can your energy be channeled to good purpose and lead to lasting accomplishment.
Aim for a middle way between discipline and freedom of spirit. Limits will come of their own accord; but to consciously make good decisions and select compatible affiliations? Now that’s knowing how to fly! On the other hand, do not go overboard on discipline. Even limitation must be limited in the effort to bring order and direction into your life—to avoid choking off vital sources of enthusiasm and spontaneity.
In groups and organizations, rules and regulations should strike a balance between being too strict and too lenient. If these guidelines are too difficult to live with, frustration will build and ultimately become destructive. If the rules are too soft, sloppiness will become acceptable and energy will dissipate. The best path is one that allows for the unfolding of individual potential while encouraging self-discipline and focus along the way.
Changing Line Interpretations
Line 1 (bottom line)
Before initiating any significant action, a wise person first evaluates their ability to successfully carry out the task. If the limitations are overwhelming, no action will be taken. But inaction is a decision and an action of sorts, because the passage of time itself can bring strength to what has been weak and energy to what has been still. Maintain a steady purpose, but act only when you can feel that the time is ripe. In this way, limitations serve your best interests. With discretion and good timing, anything can be carried through to resolution.
When the waters of a lake rise above the dam, the water spills over without hesitation. When limits in a particular situation have suddenly been overcome, nervously hesitating to act is bound to be a mistake. Seize the moment!
To live a life of leisure before having contributed to society, to act willfully and selfishly in violation of reasonable rules and customs, to defy social conventions for the thrill of doing so—these are excesses that lead to seriously unfavorable consequences. Take initiative and find pleasure inside the bounds of what is fair and honorable.
The measure by which to evaluate self-imposed limitations is this: do they save and restore energy or do they dissipate it? For instance, a weight-loss diet that requires too much vigilance and self-struggle to maintain saps both physical energy and personal resolve; and it will not achieve its intended purpose of restoring energy and health. Vain struggles with artificial limitations are best redirected quickly, so that the true goal can be kept in sight. Easy does it!
Do not ask others to wear a yoke you would be unwilling to carry on your own shoulders. Impose no rules that you yourself cannot live by. This is especially true if you are in a position of leadership. If you impose limits on others that fit the circumstances and do not overly limit their freedom, great success is possible.
Line 6 (top line)
Tyranny never endures, because the source of power is undermined by the ruthless severity of its administration. Imposing strict limits on freedoms can never be a consistent strategy, for an even greater counterforce is being stimulated to react. Severity can be imposed in specific circumstances, when the situation calls for it, but it must be specific in intent and limited in duration to be successful. In the skillful exercise of leadership, strong actions are balanced by mild and compassionate actions.
Sometimes, however, a certain strictness may be called for to protect oneself from temptation, guilt, or regret—or to preserve something very valuable. Be mindful of the circumstances, and act accordingly.