I don’t want to come into contact with them, but I sure am glad they are there. Guardrails are needed to keep safe.
As I drive to various places, I see them. Not really designed for attractiveness, they are made from concrete, steel, wood and the worst are those are made of wire. Motorcyclists call them cheese cutters.
Guardrails are very important for the safety of traffic. They are designed to protect you and others from dangers just on the other side.
Guardrails are “a system designed to keep something from straying into dangerous or off-limit areas.” Andy Stanley
Not just limited to the road, we find them in other places too. On hospital beds, they prevent the patient from falling out of bed. On decks and patios. All sorts of places have guardrails.
We also need to have guardrails in our lives. Limits and boundaries. God has set us out many guardrails. The Ten Commandments could be seen as a set of guardrails. God lays out some principles, some laws, that will essentially keep us on the straight and narrow. Cross over them, and you’re in the danger zone.
Guardrails come in two forms
1. Externalised Guardrails – those placed on you by others
Today as I drive I am going to come across hundreds of guardrails, all made by others.
It might be the physical wooden/ concrete structure, or it might be a speed limit.
Others have placed a guardrail there for safety reasons. They care about my life. They know things about the road that I may not, so they, for very good reasons, put a guardrail up. I am not all wise and all knowing.
Others know dangers that I am naive and oblivious too. So thank you!
2. Internalized Guardrails – those you place on yourself
The other guardrails are those I place on myself. Through life experience, I have learned that I need to take responsibility for myself.
I need to develop my own set of guardrails. So taking the driving analogy again I realize that in certain driving conditions I need to modify my driving.
Today it is rainy and windy, so I will be slowing down and being more cautious. I own this decision; I take responsibility because if I don’t, it could be fatal for myself and others.
When my kids were little, I told them not to touch the hot elements on the stove. It was an externalized guardrail.
I cared for them, so I protected them. They are now much older and have adopted this guardrail for themselves.
They have internalized it. They may well have had some brushes with heat and pain to reinforce the importance of the guardrail, and that is ok. This internalized guardrail is now part of their normal thinking.
Its a habit of behavior.
How do we build our internalized set of guardrails?
I am going to use the example of gambling addiction, but this could be used for any area where you want to develop guardrails.
- Realize this is your choice. Others may tell you what to do, but you are the one that at the crunch time has to make the decision. Take personal ownership. ‘
I have a problem with gambling; it’s my problem, I take ownership of it.’
- Come to understand that the guardrail is going to be good for you.
You’re not just doing it for other’s sake; you’re doing it for you. You have worth that is worthy of protecting. This is so important.
‘Having a guardrail around my gambling will be good for me. Yes, it will please others, but ultimately I am doing this for myself as I am worth it.’
- Write down what the guardrail is.
Be as specific as you can. Hone it down to exactly what the guardrail is.
‘I will not walk down Sullivan St. as there is a casino there.’
- Write down what you are protecting yourself from.
What are the dangers on the other side of the guardrail?
‘The danger is that I will easily be drawn into going into the casino. I will spend all my money, I will lose my wife and family.’
- Write down the positive benefits of having this guardrail, both in the short term and the long term.
Where will I be, what will I achieve if I this guardrail becomes a habit?
‘If I stay away from Sullivan st and the Casino I will be able to use my money for good things that I like to do. I will be able to take my wife and kids to the movies. It feels good when I can do things for them.’
- Use images with your writing to reinforce the mental construct of the guardrail.
In our example, it might be adding pictures of the movies, etc.
- Read the guardrails regularly.
Go over them time and time again. Rehearse in your mind the benefits of staying within the guardrails. Remember, even if it hurts, the dangers of what is on the other side of the guardrail.
In our example, the person would read the guardrails every day. They may well carry them with them wherever they go.
Get some guardrails; they may just save your life.
Image by Mike Poresky Creative Commons Flickr