Zen & Now #12- Boundaries

When one thinks ‘boundaries’ probably the first thing that comes to mind is our country’s borders. Or probably even the boundary of the site on which your house is. As I thought about it, the first reference to a boundary that I can recall comes from our childhood memories of our mother or grandmother telling us about that instance from the Ramayana when Lakshmana draws a line around the house where Sita was residing and asked her not to cross it for her own safety. This came to be known as the Lakshman Rekha. So, does a concept that is so culturally ingrained into our psyche get manifested in our behavior later in our lives?

No. I see the observation of boundaries more as an exception than the norm. The number of examples when we violate this principle are more. Don’t we indulge in eating more rich food than we should be to the detriment of our health?  Don’t we watch more television than we should, at the cost of good sleep? What about our spending habits – many of us have no control on our spending. There is no attempt at personal expense budgeting, which is in essence setting boundaries on our spending. Even in investing, there are many who overdo it. What is ‘overdoing it’ in investing? Buying heavily into small cap in a small cap rally, for example. Or PSU stocks. Or anything that is exhibiting momentum.

Suffering from the excesses that we indulge in later is a given. Education has given us enough knowledge that we can figure out when we are overdoing something. But we still indulge, over and over again. Why do we do this? Humans do not like to be bounded. Given a choice we rather break out than constrain ourselves. There is anti-thesis to this – we like to bound ourselves when we want to feel secure. That means we choose boundaries when we want security and disregard boundaries when we feel adventurous! Also, humans are the only species with the ability to discriminate. We have the intellect to figure out what is good for us and what is not. But then what is it that switches off this ability to discriminate?

I think it is Greed.

It makes us throw caution to the wind, and cross the boundaries we may have set for ourselves. Oops, I am running too far ahead, for I have not asked the question, have we even set boundaries for ourselves? Apply this concept to the most powerful human motivator – money. Whether it is Income or Expense or Investment, it is applicable. Pray, how are boundaries applicable to income? You see, it matters how you earn the income. The way it is earned, the ethics that must be observed while earning it are your boundaries. It is not the Quantity that is the boundary here, but the Quality. When it comes to Expense, your boundaries are how much you can spend without your savings for goals being impacted. So here it is the Quantity and Quality that matter. Quality matters because your spending should not be affecting your health and well-being. Being mindful of the fact that wealth is not an infinite resource will help you moderate your expenses. And if you have much more than what your goals require, then you should think of giving and helping those who are in need. This is quality spending!

Investing needs boundaries too! The asset allocation you choose becomes a boundary that will impose the required discipline, so that you do not get carried away with a rising market. How much in debt and equity is a boundary; how much in large cap, mid cap and small cap is a boundary setting; how much in exotic instruments is a useful boundary. These along with your advisor will keep you from giving in to greed.

Setting boundaries is most essential to protecting your wealth.

Now think …. Sita, who was born of the Earth, represents wealth. Lakshmana drawing boundaries for her was an important message to all of us, across the yugas (ages)!

    T. Srikanth Bhagavat

    Managing Director & Principal Advisor

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