What Will Make This Your Best Year Yet? Strengthening Your Boundaries

New Year, New You? Or, do you fear it will be the same ol' routine?

What will make this year different for you, is surprisingly simple. All it will take to achieve your best results at work and in life is to define, set, and protect your boundaries, and respect others'.

Successful leaders are masters at defining, setting, and reinforcing their boundaries.

What are "Boundaries"?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a "Boundary" as "a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line."

Applied to human engagement, it is delineating the parameters of your property - what belongs to you (and is therefore within your responsibility and control).

Without a doubt, boundaries are the single greatest determinant of peace, progress, and prosperity in every area of life.

This is because your interpretation (thoughts, feelings, actions) of what is within your responsibility and control, is what will have you either staying true to who you are, what you are called to, and leading a life that honors that, or guilty, shaming, and condemning yourself into doing what is not for you to do.

You already have boundaries in place - you already know your limits of what you can tolerate.

Strengthening your boundaries, however, goes farther than just knowing what to say, "Yes" and "No" to. It reaches farther back into the forged recesses of your mind to look at the foundation of your life that makes you think and feel that leads you to your Yes or No.

Strengthening your boundaries requires you to choose to change the way you instinctively think and react with a Yes or No.

When you change your thoughts, you not only change your actions, you also change your feelings, leading to a more authentic, peaceful, and fulfilled you - a person that can make good judgments and decisions to deliver optimal results.

So, how do you strengthen your boundaries?

1. Define Your Boundaries

What is my responsibility and within my control?

Asking yourself this question is the beginning of defining your boundaries.

Since every single area of your life affects all others, when working on strengthening your boundaries, you will have to do so for every area of your work and life.

In the 360 Leadership Planner, the areas within your responsibility and control include:

  • Spiritual (daily disciplines, faith, action)

  • Mental (exposure to sights, sounds), thoughts)

  • Emotional (feelings, actions)

  • Physical (food, rest, exercise, environment)

  • Behavioral (words, actions)

  • Relational (who, type, access, development, growth)

  • Professional (development, growth, support)

  • Leadership (development, growth, practice, support)

  • Financial (priorities, limits, budget, income generation, growth, investment)

  • Career (path, development, support, growth)

  • Business (path, development, support, growth)

  • Legacy (cause, collaboration, succession, initiative)

In summary, you are responsible for, and in control of your inputs (information and influence you allow from sights and sounds around you), processes (your thoughts and the feelings you choose to nurture), and output (your actions, behaviors, and habits).

Other people are responsible for and in control of theirs.

Looking at the list of areas again, ask yourself:

Where have I taken on the responsibility and control of these areas for someone else?

It is not your job to do so.

Even if a parent or mentor, you are to guide and support, and not cross over and carry the responsibilities and control over your child, or mentee's life.

This is why, after defining your boundaries in every area, the next step is to set your boundaries in these areas.

2. Setting Your Boundaries

There is nothing more powerful than choosing in advance!

When you choose in advance, you don't have to struggle with indecision or reacting out of pressure.

Choose your identity in advance.

Choose your values in advance.

Choose your vision in advance.

Choose your relationships in advance.

Choose your path in advance.

Choose your income in advance.

Choose your impact in advance.

Choose your boundaries in advance.

When you choose in advance you are establishing your thoughts, words, and actions before a situation arises that will require you to react with thoughts (interpretation), words, and actions.

This is not to say you can predict and script every eventuality in life, it is only to say that it is possible to choose how far you will go as regards a specific area - this is setting your boundaries. That way, when the situation arises, you already know how you will respond (rather than make a knee-jerk reaction at the moment that may not serve you or others well).

For example, if you want to save a certain amount of money, for one thing, you will pass up the opportunity to spend it on something else.

If you want to soar to a specific position in your career, you will not settle for a lesser role.

If you want to live healthier, you will not abuse your spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health.

Setting boundaries is something you do with every decision you make, every single day.

Every "Yes" you give is a boundary you set on your time, energy, relationships, finances, and a myriad of other areas that are impacted by that "Yes".

When at the spur of the moment, you choose to say "Yes!" to another episode of your favorite series at 2:37 am on a Wednesday morning, you are going to impact the boundary of the time you meant to allocate to sleeping, and your health, productivity, and even temperament will pay for that choice the next day.

If you had chosen in advance what boundaries to set around TV watching, there is a high likelihood that when the great idea to binge-watch 17 episodes until the middle of the night comes, you will instead choose to set boundaries and go to bed at a time that will allow you to get enough sleep to show up in top form the next day.

When you choose in advance to set your boundaries around your work and life, even when temptation comes from another to do otherwise, you would be more likely to reinforce your boundaries because you set your boundaries as a mechanism to safeguard your course towards a predetermined destination - your vision.

Let's explore what that looks like in day-to-day life.

3. Protecting Your Boundaries

The analogy Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend give in their book Boundaries, to compare our personal boundaries with, is a fence between your property and your neighbor's property. Your fence or wall serves to demarcate and protect your boundary lines. It serves to say, 'what is inside these boundary lines is mine, and if you come in without permission, it is trespassing, and I can take adverse action to remove you.'

The onus of protecting your property lines is on you, not your neighbor.

This is the same with boundaries in work and in life. It is our responsibility to protect our boundaries from infringement. And our family, friends, colleagues, strangers' responsibility to protect theirs.

No one should trespass the boundaries you set for yourself, and you should not trespass theirs.

"But, Modesta, how would people know the boundaries I have set for myself?"

You are going to communicate them to them and continue doing so until they get the message.

What does that look like?

Protecting your boundaries looks like starting your day with alone time and asking family members not to interrupt even when they want you to help them find that sock that's gone missing. It looks like not answering calls before 8 am and after 6 pm (or whatever time you choose to set). Protecting your boundaries looks like saying no to accepting an offer that is less than what you need to sustainably remain engaged. It looks like refusing to make business decisions that will compromise people's welfare, even if it may jeopardize your position.

Protecting your boundaries can look like many different things, depending on the area and situation at work and in life, but what it will always have in common is the message,

"This is my responsibility and within my control to safeguard, and you are not permitted to overstep your bounds."

You need not communicate with great drama and public display of emotion but with sincerity, clarity, and firmness, you must communicate that that is as far as you can go on a particular matter.

What you will notice when you set out to protect your boundaries is that you will often have to first reinforce them against yourself.

To rephrase Eleanor Roosevelt's famous quote:

"No one can make you a victim without your consent."

This means that in most situations in life, people don't force themselves across your boundaries, you let them in.

A little compromise here, making an exception there, turning a blind eye to this indiscretion today, overlooking that transgression tomorrow, and pretty soon, you send the signal that you are all talk and no follow-through, a property with no boundary lines.

Therefore, in protecting your boundaries against intrusion, the first place to start is to hold yourself accountable to keep the boundaries you set for yourself at work and in life.

How Boundaries Influence Results

Can you imagine how amazing your life would be if you could focus on doing what is within your responsibility and in control to do, and leave others to do what is within their responsibility and control?

You know this is possible, right?

This is how you can make this year your best year yet - by defining, setting, and protecting your boundaries.

As you strengthen your boundaries this year, you find will find that you have the time, and energy to focus only on what is within your responsibility and control, achieving results with excellence in every area of work and life.

As you invest yourself only in what you are responsible for and in control of, you will signal to others to also do what is within their responsibility and control to do. You may need to help them to be able to do so, but once they can, you will both be free to focus and enjoy your respective responsibilities.

As with everything else, regularly reviewing your boundaries, along, then, with a trusted advisor to assess whether they are still relevant to your vision, values, and priorities is critical.

Feel free to remove, tweak, reinforce whatever you need to, to make sure your boundaries serve, rather than sabotage the plan you have for your work and life.

360 Leadership Planner

Need help structuring boundaries for work and life?

Order the 360 Leadership Planner to define, set, and reinforce your boundaries in a 360-degree plan for every area of your life, cascaded into your weekly priorities, then daily schedule, tasks and, habits.


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