Coach's Corner

Developing Boundaries

Have you ever felt like you have a lot of things going on but need more time for them? You dive into the things you need to do, toss in the things you want to do, and sprinkle in some things others want you to do until it all builds up into telling yourself you need a day of quiet rest. That moment of realization is your brain yelling, “Stop this cycle!” It happens consistently, too. Whether it’s saying you need to binge-watch a show and “shut down” or declaring you need a vacation from your vacation, the bottom line is you’re convincing yourself there isn’t enough time each day. While it may be true that you need to work on some prioritization tactics, it’s also likely you need to work through setting more appropriate boundaries. Imagine the relief and empowerment you could feel by taking control of your time and energy through setting boundaries.

Boundaries are guidelines and regulations we do and don’t set for ourselves each day. They reflect our principles and provide a sense of security, enabling us to decline things that don’t offer significant benefit. Boundaries are applicable in all areas of life, be it personal, physical, temporal, or professional. Experts categorize boundaries into different types to help people identify their aspirations and life objectives. They enhance self-assurance and ensure that you concentrate on what truly matters to you. The catch is – that’s exactly what generally gets lost in the process: what matters.

From a personal perspective, boundaries are set a few different ways. Sometimes, society sets rules we follow, and we align our personal boundaries with those rules. Other times, we use discussed and understood social cues to determine what boundaries are acceptable or not. Think about when you might decide when it’s appropriate to follow someone on social media. Is it when you meet them in person, before any connection, or after you’ve developed a relationship with them? Do these rules change based on your perception of the person or the platform you’re using? The rules you create are examples of boundaries. We encounter and navigate them more frequently than we realize.

Workplace boundaries exist in the same light. Jobs tend to have rules and procedures that need to be followed. These policies help to set appropriate boundaries where necessary so that everyone can comfortably and positively grow. Procedures in the workplace are considered mandatory, and employees’ behaviors are addressed when they are or aren’t followed. We’re generally more cognizant of these kinds of workplace boundaries because they determine our ability to advance. Recognizing the importance of these boundaries can significantly impact your professional development, making you more aware and proactive in your career. That’s why they’re always easier to spot than personal boundaries; They’re simply more top-of-mind.

One of the most common boundary misconceptions for anyone involved in personal or workplace conversations is the ability to distinguish between compassion and direct communication. It’s a misconception that being direct sets a negative tone and lacks empathy. In reality, the two can coexist. Expressing something with directness while also understanding and acknowledging the receiver’s potential feelings, thoughts, and the cycle of acceptance they may go through is part of the boundary process. This process is enriched by empathy, which helps to bridge the gap between directness and compassion.

Boundaries, though misconstrued as rigid barriers, are actually about maintaining authenticity and alignment in your interactions. The more direct and compassionate (which means speaking with respect) you are, the more authentic you become. This authenticity is the bedrock of trust, which fosters unified goals in any relationship. The more aligned you are with the goals of anyone you associate with, the more empowered you feel to set the appropriate boundaries. That’s why it isn’t just about setting rules; it’s about authentic conversations surrounding those rules. Businesses use this concept by creating different departments and leaders, while our personal lives use this concept through what we label as close friends and loved ones.

Direct conversation and understanding are the initial stages of boundary setting. The problem is that it’s usually the most overlooked part. We focus on the rules created but ignore the process of why they were made in the first place. THIS is the game-changer. Whether it’s a direct but empathic conversation with yourself or with another person, alignment and authentic communication create the ability to develop connected boundaries that help you, your business, your friends, your family, and most of all, your life progress. This process of self-reflection is critical because it allows you to understand the needs of those involved (and your own) and align them with your goals.

So, the next time you catch yourself trying to figure out the impossible task of making more time in a day, try having a direct conversation with yourself (or a trained, experienced Coach) about this and examining what boundaries you need to set. You might realize that it was never about prioritization and saying “no,” but really just about aligning yourself and those around you with unified goals. This alignment fosters a sense of unity and collaboration, making boundary setting a shared effort.

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