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Principle Nine: Limits

The principle of limits cannot be overemphasized as an essential guide for successful living, both personally and socially. Limits protect us from destructive thoughts and actions. Properly applied, they spur us on to new levels of maturation and the excitement of challenge and change. The concept of limits is extraordinary because it carries opposite meanings depending on its usage.

Most obviously, limits speak to the reality that a concept or action can and should be applied only so far, then halted. Awareness of limits is knowing that to take certain thoughts or actions beyond a specific stopping point may risk danger, damage, or even death. Everything has limits, and to exceed them carries with it foolishness, folly, and even finality. When determining the limits of specific thoughts and actions, knowledge and wisdom must be our guides to success, growth, and safety.

The other common usage of “limits” relates to the breakthrough of human limitations that opens new possibilities beyond what we have previously known or experienced. When past limits are exceeded by new knowledge, application, or resources, new horizons and possibilities become available to us. For example, in the fields of science or technology, such breakthroughs can and have changed lives and society in dramatic ways. These types of limits are made to be broken, and they create the motivation which drives change and new levels of success.

How strange it is that this one word contains such opposite concepts, both of which are essential when properly applied to mankind’s safety and growth in various ways.

Both usages of the word carry enormous implications for global society at this moment. For example, what are the economic limits of creating new currencies and debt levels relative to monetary and fiscal policy? How many people should be allowed into specific nations relative to immigration policy? How do we recover our marketplace environment while limiting the spread of COVID-19? What are the limits of trade embargoes or taxation levels? How far can we degrade human moral standards before destroying nuclear family models or cohesive standards of relational expectations? What medical limits must we exceed to defeat all forms of cancer? What is the tipping point for us to declare monopolies upon the growth and reach of modern tech companies? Examples of the necessity and wisdom of limits are endless, as are the potential breakthroughs for human advancements, developments, and achievements.

Only fools ignore limits, yet pioneers demand they be broken. Wisdom is to know the difference and the appropriate way to apply them. I fear that fewer and fewer people understand the differences between the correct application of limits and why this concept deserves its place on the list of Twelve Master Principles. And that is…


Questions for Reflection & Discussion:

  1. What are some of the everyday situations in which the essential concepts of limits need to be applied?
  2. Can you think of a situation in which you discussed the value or concept of limits with someone and saw the “lights go on?”
  3. Will you plan to discuss with someone the two very different but essential meanings of “limits?”

This article is part of a broader series on the TWELVE MASTER PRINCIPLES. View previous issues at: THE BOTTOM LINE ARCHIVES

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