The System and the Invisible Limitations

Invisible Limitations

When I was about 16 years old, I started to write notes to myself. It was an effective way to structure my thoughts, and avoid having the fear I would forget about my ideas.

My thoughts were often based on frustration. I felt stuck in a system of rules I never chose for. I was part of a school system I didn’t agree with, had to comply with rules I never chose for, and I saw people acting out of nothing but selfish interests.

Inspiration for my notes came at unexpected times. On the bike, during work, during classes or right in the middle of a discussion. Writing down my thoughts worked as a form of therapy and calmed down my mind.

As I grew older, I put my thoughts into perspective and my conclusions formed the foundation of my e-book ‘Invisible Limitations’.

In this blog I’d like to tell you more about ‘the system’. We will focus on what elements it consists of, and how they formed the very basis of the four ‘Invisible Limitations’.

Feeling stuck in the system

During adolescence we start to strive for autonomy, and the lack of freedom plays a dominant role in our lives.

School decides what your daily life looks like. You basically have no money to spend. In the eyes of the law you are a minor, and are therefore limited in your freedom and you don’t have your own house with your own rules. Because of these limitations, many of our goals can’t be achieved. We simply don’t have the time, money, or the authority to fulfill them.

As we reach maturity the contrast with our youth couldn’t be bigger. All of a sudden it’s there: freedom. Compulsory education stops. We start to earn money with our first jobs. We get more rights, and we move out and decide our own rules.

Up until this moment, we have spent our entire lives within strict frameworks. And thinking in limitations instead of possibilities turns out to be the legacy of our younger years.

Maslow and self-actualization

According to the American psychologist A. H. Maslow (1908-1970), self-actualization is the highest purpose of man (Maslow, 1943). It is doing that what we are born to do. Fulfilling our purpose.

In his famous model called ‘the hierarchy of needs’, he displays the stages in which man can reach self-actualization.

Invisible Limitations

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

The physiological- and safety needs have everything to do with our basic human needs. These stages include having access to water, food, shelter, sleep etcetera. They form the fundamental conditions of life.

Above these stages, we find the stage of love needs, which includes all our relationships with other human beings.

The stage of love needs is followed by esteem needs, which can be seen as the precondition for reaching the state of self-actualisation. According to Maslow, the esteem needs are: “the desire for strength, for achievement, for adequacy, for confidence in the face of the world, and for independence and freedom” (Maslow, 1943).

By testing ourselves and our abilities, we gain confidence and a feeling of independence but experimenting is not possible without autonomy. When we don’t experience enough freedom in our childhood, we lose the chance to experiment and build up self-confidence.

The conditioning of the system can be of devastating influence on our autonomy. Instead of being trained to make our own decisions, we would be trained to think in limitations. This became my main motivation to design the first sketches of an alternative educational system in my first e-book Invisible Limitations.

The four Invisible Limitations

My experiences with the system and the content of my notes showed a clear conclusion; We need to stop thinking in limitations and start thinking in possibilities. But in order to do so, it is vital to get a deeper understanding of the system.

I dedicated a lot of time to get a pretty complete overview of the frameworks of the system. The result consists of four main groups, which together form the ‘Invisible Limitations of the autonomous individual’.

Formal laws

The formal laws are the most concrete frameworks we experience. They consist of official written laws in the law book of a country. Breaking these rules results in a punishment by a judge.

Informal laws

Informal laws are behavioral rules, originating from social desirability. They differ from formal laws because no legal action will follow if you do not comply with the rules. Instead of a law book, factors like social desirability, group pressure, culture and religious guidelines are the components which maintain the informal laws.

The Economy

The obligation to pay taxes and pay bills limits our freedom. Because of these, we are obliged to work and cannot lazily stay in bed all day. Most things in life cost money, and a lack of money results automatically in a limitation of our freedom.

The Educational system

The Educational system imposes a diminishing of freedom in the form of compulsory education.

Compulsory education is linked to a fixed number of educational hours per year. If we do not comply to these, a school attendance officer may penalize us with fines or other sanctions. The educational system, therefore, has a vast influence on our freedom until we reach maturity.

Freedom within the system and Invisible Limitations

My blog so far might have a bit of a negative tone. But no worries, I didn’t write this blog to downtalk people 😉

As I mentioned before, I strongly encourage thinking in opportunities instead of limitations. This mindset will help us to see the Invisible Limitations as a challenge to overcome and to understand and accept their existence.

We all experience different limitations of our freedom and even though the Invisible Limitations apply to all of us, the scale on which they do can differ drastically between people.

What I am trying to say, is that awareness of the Invisible Limitations is the most important. Decide which limitations you can live with and which limitations need to be overcome. Come up with a plan, think in possibilities and set your first step towards a higher quality of life.

Liked this blog? Read more about the Invisible Limitations in my free e-book or sign up for my newsletter!


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