One of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves is set our own boundaries.
So, why are boundaries so powerful?
- Boundaries can be high or low (“Never call before 7:00 AM” or “Try not to call too early or too late.”)
- We can set, break, or remove our own boundaries depending on the circumstance.
- Boundaries can be based on many factors: laws, ethical codes, personal morals, ethical beliefs, advice from others, our own personal needs, etc.
- Boundaries, once established, can guide us to comfortable personal behavior.
As an example, a few of my boundaries are:
Personal safety: I do not knowingly or willingly put myself or anyone close to me in danger. What might that mean?
- Unless I know someone well, I don’t allow them in my home or car.
- I generally don’t go out at night by myself in unfamiliar areas.
- I keep doors locked.
Working hours and conditions: I make every effort not to work nights and weekends because I don’t want to take time away from family and friends. I also won’t take clients that are outside of a comfortable commuting distance.
Organizing Clients: Several of my clients struggle with ADHD, OCD, bi-polar, etc. If they are not committed to understanding their challenges and working with medical and mental health professionals, they will not be committed to the organizing process, so I won’t work with them.
Coaching Clients: I take coaching very seriously. If a client does not commit to the personal effort involved with coaching (engage in self-work and reflection between sessions, they agree not to play the blame game, they come to coaching sessions prepared and on time, etc.) they will not be successful with the coaching process, so I won’t work with them.
Communicating boundaries: One of the keys to successful boundaries is clearly communicating what those boundaries are. Whether it’s verbal or written, clearly expressing your boundary will help people manage themselves to your expectations. If clearly communicated, it is much easier to address issues when boundary violations occur.
Renegotiating your own boundaries: One of the beautiful thing about boundaries is that we can renegotiate, or ignore them entirely, based on any particular circumstance. For example:
- I coached a client late in the evening before a difficult family discussion. She was nervous and wanted the family meeting to go well and it was important to me that I gave her the support she needed (working hours boundary broken). She’d never asked for this special accommodation before, so I didn’t feel taken advantage of.
- On my way home the other night, I spotted a woman walking alongside a major thoroughfare holding what looked like a little dog (I’m a dog person, so that caught my eye). It was dark, rainy, and I’d been away from the house for nearly 12 hours. I just wanted to get home. But I couldn’t let it go, so I turned around. She’d run out of gas and was walking (with her little dog) the 2 miles to the gas station. So, by myself at night (first broken boundary) I stopped and invited this woman and her dog into my car (second broken boundary). All ended well, but major boundary infractions happened that night!
What boundaries do you have? What boundaries need to be set or communicated? How could you benefit from clearly defining your boundaries?