I had an opportunity today to spend most of it with a group of undergraduate students in a classroom panel setting. A group of professionals in my line of work, from both the public and the private sector agreed to bring some "real world" experience to the classroom. It was an amazing experience and renewed my hope that, at least in my line of work, someone will be there to carry it on with passion.
But, that isn't really what this is about. It is about how I like to set boundaries. Really strict boundaries.
I was reminded of this again today when sitting with a small group of these students. The groups had split up to talk to each of us and one of my students asked a question about what makes an employee stand out from other employees. I went into my explanation from the perspective of a supervisor - do the work, be on time, be engaged, don't make excuses, among other things - one of them being to not engage in the drama of the workplace and maintain your boundaries.
I will be the first to say that chicks aren’t good at this. I realize that is a big generalization but look around and you’ll see it is true. We, as females often feel overwhelmed, taken advantage of, under appreciated. A big part of this is our own fault because we have failed to set the appropriate boundaries.
Walk with me through something for a minute. You have a kid. The kid wants to do something you really don’t want him to do. It isn’t dangerous or anything you just for whatever reason would rather he not. But, you are tired and you don’t want to “be mean” so you let him. The next week the same thing. The next
week that thing is REALLY getting on your nerves so you yell at him for it. He is confused you let him do it the last two times! So now you are in a pickle because you didn’t set the appropriate boundary UP FRONT and STICK TO IT.
I used to have problems with boundaries. I wanted to be perceived as “nice” and “easy to get along with”. People who know me are laughing at this reading it right now. LOL I’m laughing too. But I was a different person then. So, I’d be nice and accommodating and people would take advantage of me and then
months, even years later, I’d get sick of it and stand up for myself. Only I wasn’t very good at that yet so it never failed that whatever issues resulted ended up being MY fault in everyone’s eyes. I actually had a relationship end so badly due to this that I dropped completely out of social circles, moved and
started over. I was involved with an extremely manipulative person who made sure that the perception of the situation was the one that was favorable to them, not me.
Manipulators, you will notice when you start setting immediate boundaries, are tireless when it comes to the webs they weave. What you will also find, WHEN you start setting boundaries, is that you are immune to those webs and those people will start to avoid you. And THAT my friends, is a good thing. You want these people OUT of your life. You want them to never ENTER your life for that matter. They are karmic drainers. NONE of us need that.
So, what does all this have to do with anything? Only everything! Because by knowing your boundaries and living by them you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble. You can surround yourself with the right types of people. People who are positive and will support you while you in turn support them. You can move toward your goals because you aren’t wrapped up in pleasing or accommodating others all the time. When you set boundaries and stick with them you’ll be amazed at how free you suddenly feel to be yourself and live your life completely.
It all starts with one word. Brace for it cause it is a tough one. The word is NO. Say it with me now - NOOOOOOOOOO. Get used to how it feels on your tongue. Sam quotes someone he used to know as saying something like “saying no is easy, it is saying yes that‘ll give you problems” - this was in relation to business but it can be applied to anything. Before you say yes to something you really need to weigh it out in your mind. The pros, the cons, the time it will cost you, is it in line with your goals, who will benefit, who will suffer - all those things come into play. So, practice saying NO. You can say yes to other things or provide other alternatives, but NO is a word that defines boundaries.
I like to set boundaries up front so there are no misunderstandings later. Lots of people label me as cold because of this. Many feel I’m standoffish, not approachable. THOSE are their definitions, not mine. I think it just makes them uncomfortable that I am not immediately ready to jump into the role of pliable silly putty.
Boundaries are not only important in your work and personal relationships but also to your health and your fitness. Basically, any type of healthy lifestyle is defined by setting and following boundaries. You decide to train daily. You need to set not only the expectation and goal that you will but the boundary that you will not let other things and/or people interfere with that goal. You set up or follow a diet plan. It is your BOUNDARIES that will keep you on that plan when grandma offers you a whole strawberry pie. NO thank you, you can say - because you have set a boundary. See? There is that word again!
So I challenge you today to go out and SET SOME BOUNDARIES. And practice sticking to them. I promise you’ll be happier. I promise you’ll be more productive. I promise you’ll feel less put out, put upon and more willing to do the things that really matter and weed out the ones that don’t. And that my friends is the first step in meeting your life’s goals!
Trying to live well in every way...and sometimes laughing about it later.