How to Create a Container for Your Personal Growth

Personal growth thrives best when we live in containers that encourage it.

We have containers of time, of geography, of relationship, and of social norms. Everywhere we look we find a container of some sort.

Not only is a cooking pot a container for our dinner, our body is a container for well-being, our mind is a container for belief systems and our lifespan is a container for learning experiences and relationships.

I see my hiking boots by the door. They remind me of camping in my tent by the river and the many hikes I’ve taken over the years. Hiking boots, for me, are a container for outdoor experiences, my time of renewing in nature.  They limit injury on tricky trails and open me to new vistas of awe.

Most of all, that container brings joy to my heart. Containers protect and shield while inviting us to focus on what’s important.

Boundaries

Containers are defined by their boundaries, and by their nature, boundaries place limits.  They also invite potential by creating a protected space surrounded by those edges. 

We get tied up in knots when we focus on the boundaries instead of the space inside, especially when the edges are too loose or too tight. Boundaries hurt when you must conform to a container that doesn’t fit. 

Those boots are great for hiking trails, not so great for swimming.  Hiking and swimming are both pleasurable outdoor activities, but one is within the container of hiking boots, the other is not. 

Misused boundaries are painful. Boundaries that are too tight choke us.  Boundaries that are too loose can create anxiety. 

For a container to be effective, it needs boundaries that serve us.

Growth needs a container

One of my favorite writing tools is a timer.  I choose a prompt, set the timer for 10 minutes, then free write till the timer dings. (Full confession, I use my phone and it actually chimes.)  

This boundary around my creativity allows me to unleash thoughts as quickly as possible. The chaos of capturing those wild flights is bound by a container of time. Freewheeling thoughts plop through my keyboard into the document like a lump of clay onto the potter’s wheel, ready to be shaped into a final form.

All art, and that includes our career and personal life, is created within containers.  Those containers are bound by many things: a place (like a studio or office), the form, the materials used, the tools, and, yes, time.

Knowing the edges of the boundaries defines the potential and provides something to push against.

Choose a new container

Good boundaries gift us with room to grow and expand; harsh ones can grip like a noose. Understanding at a deeper level how boundaries impacted us, and continue to impact us, allows us to make different choices.

To choose differently, I invite you to think of the containers in your life. Like my hiking boots and timer, containers provide a place to experience life more deeply.  

  • Pick one area where you want to grow and find a representative symbol. 
  • Find a way to create that symbol in a tangible form. 
  • Place that symbol where it will remind you of what’s important to you now. 
  • Use your symbol as a touchstone to your newfound container. 

Perhaps your budding dream is like a flower opening and the wafting fragrance reminds you to stay focused.  You place a single rose in your creative space to effloresce and scent the air. Just the smell is enough to put you in a creative state.  

Perhaps your dedication to exercise will turn your muscles to rock, so you find a piece of marble and put it near your yoga mat. Before you begin, you hold the stone next to your heart and imagine strength and wellness. You now exercise from a centered mindset.

Our chosen containers allow us to grow; and the edges, like a whetstone to a knife, sharpen our focus. We are better when our containers work for us.

I invite you to share in the comments below what container you need right now. How will you create it?


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