to be happy, we need boundaries

Recently, I saw a couple making out in a bus stop as I drove by. I mean, really making out.

Later, I read a news article about a movement in Vancouver to provide homeless couples freedom to have sexual interactions in parks. The theory being, they have no where else, why not in a park?

Which got me thinking about freedom.

Freedom doesn’t mean living a life free of moral responsibility, lawful living and justice. It means, the freedom to own my own destiny — within moral reason and lawfulness. To act in accordance with my values, beliefs, principles — within the context of the society in which I live, its laws and social mores guided by my moral compass which hopefully, always points me towards doing the right thing.

On the surface, I might think that’s not freedom. It’s got too many constraints and boundaries limiting what I can do. With all those limitations how will I be happy?

Happiness guru Dr. Dan Gilbert proved in an experiment on synthetic happiness that putting boundaries on choices makes people happier. He says, we should have preferences, we all need boundaries. When our ambition is bounded, we work joyfully. When it is unbounded, we lie and cheat and manipulate to get what we want. When our fear is bounded, we are prudent, cautious, thoughtful. When fear is unbounded, we are reckless and cowardly.

In freedom, I know contentment when I know that what I am doing fits within the moral construct of my world, and does not leave me exposed to risk of arrest, condemnation, and the fear of self-loathing.

Just because I want to do something in the name of freedom doesn’t mean it will make me happy. If it pulls me away from the True North of my moral compass, I risk being unhappy with my choice and the consequences as well as myself.

Thoughts to ponder.


To learn more about Dan Gilbert and his research on choice and happiness, watch the video below. I found it fascinating!

7 thoughts on “to be happy, we need boundaries

  1. LG,

    Methinks this begins in childhood. Kids who have clear boundaries on right/wrong, fair/unfair, responsibilities/freedom, choice/rules (consistency too – mom and dad and teachers and grandparents need to be on the same page about what is OK/not OK) thrive within those boundaries. Kids without clear lines wander/experiment in ways that can lead to confusion and unhealthy behaviour.

    Freedom in empowerment which can be limitless, which is not the same a limitless power …

    We all want to do good but don’t always do good – so it is important we have a deep early grounding in what is OK vs. what we should have twinges of discomfort about. These things, clear or fuzzy, stay with us all our lives …

    My two cents.


    Liked by 2 people

    • What a wonderfully thoughtful response Mark. And so true — clear or fuzzy, they stay with us all our lives. The challenge is to recognize when they’re not working for us anymore and to create the necessary changes when we do. 🙂

      Thanks so much my friend.


  2. Pingback: When children are stressed, the world is not a happy place. | Dare boldly

Leave a Reply to Louise Gallagher Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.