What do waffles, spaghetti, and traffic lights have in common? The answer is boundaries, but you may have to dig a little deeper with me today to find out how they all fit together.
Have you ever heard the old adage that men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti? Imagine with me that we are staring at two plates, sitting side by side. One holds a waffle, and the other plate is full of spaghetti noodles. If you look at the waffle, it looks like a grid. It’s been said that men approach life like a waffle…everything is neatly categorized into different sections of the grid. When we compare men to women, I definitely have to hand it to the guys in this department. They are a very simple creature. Now, stick with me for a second, because in no way do I mean that as an insult. In fact, I mean it as a huge compliment. Simple doesn’t mean ‘not intelligent’; it means ‘not complex’. Their brains are actually wired to see life this way. Mentally, they have a work box, a wife box, a kids box, a buddies box, hobbies box, and so on. Everything fits neatly into its box, which allows men to mentally process information in a very straightforward, and guilt-free manner.
Women on the other hand, are not so simple. We are a complex beast. I often wonder how different life would be if only we could be so simple, and I have a strong feeling our male counterparts must sometimes think the same thing! Thinking back to our food analogy, we approach life just like that plate of spaghetti. Nothing stands alone…all the different areas of our life overlap and are intertwined with one another. Our lives are messy, and it can be impossible for us to separate our families from our careers and our personal goals. Just like the big pile of intertwined pasta on your plate, if you try to pull just one noodle onto your fork, you’ll likely end up with the entire pile of spaghetti wrapped around your utensil. It seems almost impossible to separate just one noodle from the pack, and so it goes for women. Our lives seem like one big plate of interlocked pasta, swimming in a delicious sauce of emotions…no wonder we’re always such a mess!
What does this have to do with boundaries? Of course I’m speaking in generalities here, and there are exceptions to every rule, but research shows that men on the whole have an innate ability to compartmentalize, which helps them to draw boundaries between their personal and professional lives. And girls…I’ve gotta tell ya…this is one lesson we could really look to learn from our guys. Ever wonder why we never feel completely present to the moment? It’s called a lack of boundaries. When we’re at work, we’re constantly feeling guilty about our families, and when we’re with our families, we’re thinking about all the things we need to be doing at work. It’s a very vicious and defeating pattern, so how do we break the cycle? Boundaries. Boundaries can become like an on/off switch for the different areas of your life. When it’s time for work mode, you can develop the skill to simply ‘turn on’ that mental switch. Then, when it’s family time, you can own the ability to ‘turn off’ the work switch, completely guilt-free, knowing you’ve given your best all day. Here’s the catch: in order to earn the freedom and peace of mind to ‘turn it off’ when we want to turn it off, we must first develop the discipline to ‘turn it on’ when it’s time to turn it on.
You may have heard me mention before that boundaries are an important component of work ethic. You should never, ever, ever have to apologize for your work ethic. In today’s society, we are often times made to feel guilty for working hard, because we see so many people who neglect their families as they hide behind the label of “workaholic”. Remember, there is a major difference between work ethic and workaholic. Work ethic is a noble trait to be honored. Workaholic is simply the absence of this life-skill called boundaries. Have you ever struggled with the issue of “balance” in your life? You feel like you have to keep the weight evenly distributed between both areas. You want to give 100% to both your family and your career, but you’re just not sure how to balance it. And if we ever feel that we’ve been neglecting one for the other, we often try to fix the problem by over-compensating in the opposite direction, only to create even more problems in the long run. How do we stop the madness? We’re not going to solve the problem by giving up on our professional goals or by sending our family down the river. It is possible to have impeccable work ethic and still create an amazing family life. How? You guessed it: boundaries.
You can also think of boundaries as traffic lights on the path of your daily life. When a city is deciding where traffic lights are needed, they look from an aerial view to see the big picture. From this aerial view, the design team can see where one road will intersect another, when one path has total right of way, and when another lane will need to yield. When a lane has a green light, all travelers are free to move forward at full speed. As you are driving through this lane, when your light turns to yellow, it will be time to slow down and prepare to stop, so it’s time to switch gears. As we design our own month, week, and day, we can see how to manage the traffic of our life and merge them all together from an aerial view. We can choose where to erect the traffic lights in our day to force us to stop one lane and give another the green light. One word of caution: it is a victim’s mentality that says, “I can’t control my time…my _____ (insert “boss,” “kids,” or anyone else for that matter) controls it for me”. As the saying goes, “Authority is 20% given and 80% taken…so take it!” If I know that I only have eight hours of work time to get everything done, and there is no option of taking the work home, you’d better believe I’m going to work with a greater sense of urgency than if I’m in a pattern of always taking my work home.
If I want to have amazing work ethic and an amazing family life, what do I do? I set the boundaries for work time and family time—ahead of time. Then I give 100% to my career during career time, and I purposefully switch gears and give 100% to my family during family time. It really is just that simple. Not necessarily easy, but simple. Just like we’ve all been trained to follow traffic rules, we can train ourselves to live by our own boundary rules as well. I’ve heard many men say that they are naturally stronger in focus and performance in certain compartments of their life than others. But with some intentional application of this principle to the other areas of their life, they can definitely strengthen the whole waffle to look they way they want it to! And how about our spaghetti plates, girls? We don’t have to become waffles to make our dreams come true, but if we can learn to slow down and savor each noodle individually, we can actually enjoy the entire meal. If life is a highway and traffic laws are for our safety, let’s use them to our advantage and meet up for the feast of life…waffles and spaghetti…the perfect combination of sweet and salty…exactly the way life should be!
This entry was posted in Digging Deeper.