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Limit-situations and limit-acts: a free guide for turning obstacles into motivation


This post is a collage of two inspiring ideas from two smart people. At the bottom of the page, you will find a link to a free guide I created to help you make the most of these guys’ ideas for inspired work and productive handling of life’s obstacles. Just spread the news about this post and download. Hope you enjoy it!

Idea One: Paulo Freire’s “Limit-situations” and “limit-acts”

Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a book I’d recommend to anyone who thinks about teaching, learning and knowledge. It was written some time ago, and parts of Freire’s work show signs of age. Nevertheless, it’s still a powerful introduction to what learning and teaching can really mean, and it tells a story of how everyone can take part in a conversation about the reality around them, learning and teaching at the same time.
The book made me think hard about what it means to really learn something – and what schools, books, and teachers are really for. I enjoy being challenged by new material, and I like reading books which show me how (and why) current ways of learning (in the workplace and individually, just as much as in schools) don’t serve people too well.
The most important part of the book for me, so far, was Freire’s discussion of “limit-situations” and “limit-acts.” A limit-situation is, quite simply, any situation which limits you and is an obstacle to your development. They can range from trivial (no coffee in the office!) to quite serious (spending years in an insecure job on a zero-hour contract). In response to a limit-situation, according to Freire, people can either accept the limiting nature of it (the equivalent of shrugging and telling ourselves “that’s just the way things are”) – or they can plan and carry out an action to counter the situation. This, for Freire, is the limit-act – doing something to see what is beyond the obstacle.
Freire considers the sequence of limit-situations and limit-acts as the most important part of what it means to be human. Quoting professor Alvaro Vieira Pinto, Pedagogy of the Oppressed states that limit situations are not “the impassable boundaries where possibilities end, but the real boundaries where possibilities begin.” I liked the idea of defining humanity as this constant pushing against situations that limit us. Freire’s book isn’t easy to read, but this was one big idea I was grateful for!

Idea Two: The obstacle is the way, by Ryan Holiday

I managed to forget about Freire for a few moments (it was a busy week) until I saw this video. It’s a neat illustrated synopsis of Ryan’s book, and it brought the idea of Freire’s limit cycle back home again:

[trx_video url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rQfr7XAQi0″ ratio=”16:9″ autoplay=”off”]

This, I thought, could be something I could use more often. And if it helped me, it could also help others – to work some self-coaching into their lives, and to think about their limits and actions so they can organize their work or learning or life a bit differently.

Free download: limit-situations and limit-acts template

This is what my thinking finally turned into 🙂 It’s a very simple template which you can print, scribble on, fill in on your laptop, or just gaze at as you think. It helps you understand and summarize your limit situations, but it also serves as a starting point for your limit-acts. The ZIP contains a PDF and an open source office file, so you can work on this as you please.
To download this template, you just need to follow the link below and spread the word about this blog post. Then it’s all yours, all free, no strings attached. I hope it leads you to some brave living and learning!

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