Once I heard a speaker talk about living in the margins. He caught my interest, so I listened up.
“Take a piece of notebook paper,” he said. “Yes, they still make them. Notice the lines that run perpendicular to the horizontal lines. From that line to the edge is the margin.”
I was tracking with him. He went on to explain that too many of us live outside the main body of the page and into the margins. Subsequently, when something goes wrong, we go off the page.
Living in the margins is also known as living in the fast lane. It leads to burnout, relational problems, health problems due to stress, etc. We need to strive to live in the main body of the paper, so when things go sideways, we may wind up in the margins, but our lives don’t go off the page or out of control.
How do we stay out of the margins and stay in the main area? A friend and I were discussing this, and he pointed out that the vertical lines that denote the margins can be viewed as guardrails. Guardrails are in place along roadsides and bridges to keep us on the path, bridge, or track and out of the shoulder area and subsequently into the ditch.
My friend used his weight as an example. He has an ideal weight he strives for, but he also has a “warning weight.” When he gets too close to his warning weight, he knows that he has to make a change to remain where he wants to be. If he stays over the warning weight (the guardrail or warning grooves), then he will live in the margins or on the shoulder which can be detrimental.
Recently, I rented a car that had a “lane assist” feature that when activated, not only alerts the driver to potentially going over the road lane markings, but it will also adjust the steering for you. If you take your hands off the wheel, it will keep the vehicle within the lane markings. However, after a few seconds, it beeps and flashes a warning on the instrument panel that driver attention is needed. I am not sure how it knows the driver is not touching the steering wheel, but it knows. You too can set up parameters to make sure you are staying in the lane and not crossing guardrails or going into margins.
In review, there are four key components to consider: the lane or body area, guardrails or warning grooves, the margins or shoulders, and off the page or in the ditch. There are subcomponents to consider as well.
This is where we live, where the rubber meets the road. We don’t just sit in the lane. We are moving. You have to have a destination in mind. Where are you going? What will it take to get you there?
The guardrails or shoulder grooves
These are the warning systems we put in place to alert us to the potential that we are going off course. These, of course, slow us down, but they are not quiet about it. There are also warning and informational signs and mile markers along the wayside. Do you have a mentor or someone you can be accountable to concerning your goals? Do you regularly evaluate your goals or destination?
The margins or shoulder
Here we have lost our focus. This happens. It is not the end of the journey nor is it time to be alarmed. Sometimes we have to pull over to fix a flat, but when we are done, we don’t stay there. We don’t live there. We certainly don’t travel there. Some call this a rut. A rut, someone has said is a grave with the ends knocked out. There are other times where we have wound up on the side of the road or in the margin and didn’t realize it. This often happens before we know it and because we were distracted. It also happens because there were no guardrails or warning grooves in place. Why are you on the side of the road? Did someone or something force you to the side? Did you wind up here accidentally? How long have you been there? What will it take to get you moving again?
Off the paper or in the ditch
This is a dangerous area. Many people do not recover from this part. Often if someone is pulled or pulls themselves out of the ditch, the damage is not repairable. They have to start with a new sheet of paper or go down a different road, usually bearing the scars that come from ditch living.
You can apply this analogy of the roadway or paper to almost any area of your life. It can apply to your job, your marriage, other relationships, your finances, your health, etc. Notice I said to apply. It is a choice. It is intentional. You have to apply the strategy on purpose to stay on track, to install the guardrails, to stay off the side of the road, and to stay out of the ditch. You decide. You must take responsibility. People will run you off the road, into the margins, but you don’t have to stay there.
You may ask, “How do I get started or if I am moving how do I direct the rest of the journey?” I am glad you asked. There are good helps out there, but I will recommend several here that are generic. You can find some that are more specific to the goal or destination you are striving to obtain.
The Lane or Main Body of the Page – A Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren. Everyone needs a reason to succeed. We all need to discover our purpose. This book is a great place to start.
The Guardrails or Warning Grooves – Boundaries – Henry Cloud. This book helps you outline and live a balanced life.
The Margins or Shoulder – Get Out of That Pit – Beth Moore. As someone who has been on the shoulders of life, Beth can relate to being stuck on the side of the road. In this book, she gives practical helps to get you started again.
Off the Page or In the Ditch – How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling– Frank Bettger. Don’t let the title fool you. This book is far more reaching than just selling. Yes, this is a great book if you are in sales. However, if you are in the ditch, you have to sell yourself the idea of getting out of that ditch. This book is an excellent tool.