What are boundaries, why are they important? How do we establish them, and what do we do when our boundaries are pushed?
You can listen to the full podcast episode here, or continue reading below.
Boundaries shape our destiny. They determine what we accept into our lives and what we don’t. They are our yes’s and no’s. Whether that’s in our families, in our homes, in our relationships, or in the organizations we lead. Whether we have weak or strong boundaries it can determine the trajectory of our life.
What I’ve noticed is that despite their significance, our society is not good at establishing nor holding onto their boundaries when someone comes up to the line and attempts or does cross them. Most recently I’ve seen this most demonstrated in our workplaces.
Last week I worked with three senior executives from three different organizations who asked me a very similar question. The gist of each question was that a colleague or colleagues had asked each executive to take on something that each disagreed with.
- One leader disagreed because the team had addressed the same problem with the same solution to no avail before. He saw it as an exercise in futility and lack of imagination.
- Another felt that the direction ran against what the team had previously decided were their key initiatives in the next 3-6 months.
- The third had been asked to follow a party line he didn’t feel comfortable touting.
All items crossed what these individuals valued, believed or thought correct. All disagreed with the requests internally. But here’s the thing. They all said “yes” anyway.
The question is why do we say “yes” when we mean “no?”
Why we allow others desires or values dominate our own? The obvious reasons are we want people to like us. We don’t want to disappoint, make people angry, or enter or further a conflict that already exists.
So, what do we do? We abdicate. We abort. We let people step over our boundaries. This cost is great. I watch intelligent and talented leaders become bitter, resentful, drained and frustrated because they are out of self integrity. Self integrity is when what we say, feel, think and do don’t aren’t congruent. Then we get irritated and blame others.
Too many smart individuals are letting others make choices regarding their life due to their willingness and ability to say “no.” In short, they give their power away. Often it is because we don’t have the courage or know how to say “no” with grace in a conversation.
Identifying your “Hell Yes” and your “Hell no.”
The key to holding boundaries is to know what it is you stand for. Not just knowing what you are against, but what you are for as well.
I hear people say all the time, I’m against adding more to my client load, I am against doing the redundant, I’m against non-productive meetings. But what I hear missing is what am I for. You can’t hit a target you can’t see.
Think of this: if you could truly be excellent at only one thing, what would that be? By knowing this, your future decisions are easier. Know what’s most important right now.
Greg McKeown in his book Essentialism asks you to ask yourself, “Is this a hell yes or hell no?”
If we don’t know what we are for or what we want, it’s easy to say yes when we mean no. If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else is going to do it for you, and you might not like the way they do it.
So how do you move from being stressed out and struggling as a result of weak boundaries, to moving confidently and with ease by creating healthy ones?
First step, slow down. I recall Oprah Winfrey saying long ago, doubt means don’t. If you feel doubt, then don’t say yes. Instead, request more time to reflect and get clear. One of my favorite Chinese proverbs is “Muddy water, let stand, gets clear.”
One practical way to slow down is to ask for more time on the decision. You can say, “I want to make sure if I commit that I can do it. I need to get back to you before I can commit.” Then ask this series of questions.
Second step, “Is this a true choice for me?” Meaning, am I making this decision because I think I should, or because I’m afraid someone won’t agree or like me? If it’s the latter, then ask yourself what is a truer choice? In other words, what’s the most honest and authentic choice – for me? Consider what brings you joy, what energizes you and fills your tank.
Step three, change your mindset. Most of think of boundaries equating with elimination or loss. Instead think boundaries equal freedom…the freedom to do what is important to us, the freedom to be who we are, the freedom to be committed to a higher level of relationship.
Research shows those who have strong boundaries are more loving than those who do not. They have more space in their life to show up and help others.
Take back your power. Detaching from what others think about us is not always easy, but indeed the reward is priceless.
Challenge yourself to define what you stand for and what you can say “no” to this week. Enjoy the freedom at work and home that your “no” creates.
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About Rita Hyland
As a Business and Life Coach, Rita works with highly motivated professionals who, despite their level of success and achievements, are not happy or satisfied. Often, they’re “successful” by traditional standards, yet unfulfilled based on their own. They know they want more and are ready to have it.
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Rita Hyland is host of the “Playing Full Out” podcast, where you’ll discover tips to break through the personal and professional barriers in a hectic world that are preventing you from leading your optimal vision of life at work and home. This is the podcast for passionate life travelers and leaders who want to live a deliberate, confident and fulfilling life, and change the world while they do.