Faith WoodIt’s January and a lot of us are talking about goal setting and getting healthy. But for many of us, stuff gets in the way of our priorities.

Some of us want to avoid alcohol for a month as we renew our commitment to overall well-being. But we can easily be tempted to skip a workout, drink just one glass of wine or sleep in when we should get moving.

Setting healthy boundaries can be pretty tough.

The same can be said when setting boundaries with our children. No matter how old they are, we want them to be happy and when they test us on our tired days, it can feel easier to give in rather than stick to our commitments.

This all came quite apparent during the holidays when we opened the gift of a tiny robotic vacuum.

With a furry golden retriever around the house, any help dealing with pet hair is welcome. When the house is free of pet hair and dust, I’m more relaxed.

So I was super excited to open Nigel for Christmas. (Yes, we gave our little vacuum a name. If he’s going to work hard for this family, a name is appropriate.)

I had heard so much about how these devices can save you time and I wanted to find out if Nigel really would be more of a hinderance than a helper.

Watching Nigel work his way around the property was quite entertaining. It’s fascinating to think how these devices are programmed – what an accomplishment. This little robot teaches itself as it maps out your property and cleans areas that you normally never get to.

I think Nigel behaves in very human ways. For example, when we first turned Nigel on, he had no idea how big a space he would be asked to care for. So he set off in a very random pattern to test the boundaries. He bumped off walls, chair legs and such things, testing the limits of his environment. When he met the area rugs, he bumbled along the edges until finally adjusting his height so he could sail across them.

So much energy was spent discovering his new environment that his 90-minute battery life was exhausted before he could complete the entire main floor. No problem: after five hours of recharging, he set off in a new direction to explore the second half of the space. Again, he located all the walls and furniture he would need to work around. It was a promising first couple days with our new little helper.

The third time he set out, he was able to adjust his journey (still random) and cover the entire floor before exhausting his battery life.

Now you would think all was glorious, but Nigel was teaching us a thing or two as well. For example, he continually likes to test his limits with stairs, so a blockade must be erected. He also can’t seem to comprehend the elevation change from floor to area rug under the couch. Again, a barrier of slippers is required to prevent his getting stuck. He tends to get confused on the shag area rugs and then can’t remember where he was. This can play havoc with his ability to return home to recharge.

So although he’s incredibly bright, he can require a bit of retraining daily and some consistent preparation before he goes to work.

Perhaps this is something all of us should keep in mind this January as we set new goals. Establishing consistent routines and boundaries on behaviour may help tremendously in reaching those lofty goals.

And randomness is not a big problem in the big scheme of things.

Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. 

robotic vacuum boundaries

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