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Limitations, Boundaries and PUOF

Are you overwhelmed? Are you in relationships or daily activities that you dread? Why would you do that to yourself? Are there ways to honor your priorities on both sides of the choice coin?

This week we'll explore how embracing limitations, setting clean boundaries and using PUOF can benefit you!

What the heck is PUOF?

PUOF is an abbreviation for a concept taught by my former mentor Marshall Rosenberg called, "Protective Use Of Force".

The idea is simple, you calmly-but-assertively use the most direct, minimal use of force necessary to protect yourself (or others) from events that are not life-serving.

Let's say a child is running into the road. You call the child's name, but they don't respond. It's time to stop that child. You don't need to get a tank to stop the child, just take the child in hand. Explain to them that you want to protect them from death by oncoming car. Tell them they need to look both ways before they cross the street. Then let the child show you they can do it.

This is an example of PUOF. From a place of calm (not anger), you used the minimum force needed, then explained to the recipient why you used force to stop them, gave them specific steps they can take to integrate this concern, and then you gave them a chance to show you that they will continue to take action that integrates the values at hand.

Sometimes we need to have PUOF with ourselves. Why are you letting your inner child take the abuse of overwhelm, stress, and a life full of things you dread?

When we engage PUOF, we embody the understanding that human beings have limitations (ex: kids don't always pay attention), we stand up for win-win solutions that care for all concerns on the table, and we acknowledge that we as humans are generally innocent and need solutions, not punishment, to set them us on the right track.

We all have innocent limitations, especially those of us who won't admit we do (refusing to acknowledge your limitations becomes one of your limitations). How do we live win-win solutions with compassionate regard for each of our limitations?

Let's use corporate polluters or corporate neglect of the community as another example. What if we accepted the human limitation that not all corporations operate with mindfulness toward, "care for the environment" or "care for the needs of others"? Let's take a moment to just accept the possibility that corporations are made up of human (aka with limitations), innocent human beings engaging in activities. We only resent activities when they fail to take other concerns into account. So let's address that.

What if we created a law setting a clear boundary to stop environmental harm by corporate activity. Imagine a mandate for immediate temporary closure of any business evidenced to be contributing non-biodegradable, hazardous, or otherwise human-endangering products into the environment. What if we put a stop to the "not my problem" attitude and embodied a PUOF to establish win-win solutions that care for the values and needs of all parties effected?

In addition to the protective use of force mandating a cease and desist of actions that occur at the expense of the humans or environment, imagine clear instruction being provided about what product or chemical or action needed to be mediated, what values/concerns need to be accounted for, and at least one possible method for how to address that. Imagine the company were only allowed to re-open once they demonstrated that they could care for the effected environment and population. Could this put a stop to non-biodegradable, hazardous or human-endangering product being put into the environment? Could it provide care for more disenfranchised unemployed workers? Could it reduce daily tensions for millions of people or more?

When we embrace limitations, set clear boundaries and use PUOF, we relieve much suffering. We can eliminate many lawsuits. Certain corporations that already integrate this wisdom call it "Triple Bottom Line Accounting" - or TBLA.

Embracing limitations and setting healthy boundaries improves our personal and interpersonal lives as well.

Some people have difficulty saying 'no', then find themselves sick and exhausted when they cannot set a boundary to balance their own bodies. By accepting that we are humans with limited time, limited energy, limited money or other limits, we can do a better job of caring for ourselves. "I'm sorry, I can't do that, I'm completely maxed out this week. Who else could we ask to help with this?"

Notice how this example sets the boundary in a win-win way. Saying "No" is the first step of PUOF. When we do it from equanimity, explain the values we are caring for, and invite win-win solutions instead, more of the system get care.

Don't tell me, "I can't." You can. You just haven't yet found the value and figured out how to make a request that you like, yet. ​ ​​"Can't..." is just another word for, "I haven't figured out how to make a request around this, yet."​​ That's ok. Ask others what they'd request, or hire a coach like me to help you find one :) ​​

The absence of clean boundaries even effects lovers in relationship. Imagine an example where a husband, wanting to please his wife, doesn't admit that he has a limitation at work and says he'll be home at 6, but then doesn't actually arrive until 7. He can save himself the frustration of an argument (and save his wife the frustration of a breach of agreement) by simply owning the limitation and setting a mutually-understood clear expectation. "Darling, I really want to be with you for dinner, but this week is overwhelming. Please don't count on me until after 7. Then let's do movie night together."

By owning limitations, setting clear boundaries, and using PUOF, we can resolve conflicts before they happen, and create win-win solutions to even the most life-alienating situations.

Use this questionnaire to support your life balance, community balance, or the health of you, your relationships, your family, your environment, your community or organization:

1. What conflicts do you notice?

2. Where might this conflict point to an innocent human limitation?

3. What values exist on both sides of the conflict?

4. What actions could be taken to honor both sides' values and needs?

5. What minimum force can be used to halt the not-life-serving activity if this request is not integrated?

By embracing limitations, setting healthy boundaries, and using protective use of force, we help generate win-win solutions using the minimum force necessary. We not only keep children from hurting themselves or others, or from running into the street, we also improve our own life balance, improve our relationships, and improve our world.

Here's to your joy, balance and fulfillment!

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