3 Steps to Set Your Boundaries

Are you a person who is able to say no to joining all the things but eats or drinks like you’ll never see food again? Maybe you have great limits around your health but you allow people to remain in your life that are sucking out everything that you have to give. Or maybe you have great boundaries around people, food, and you’re able to say no when you need to but you’re never going to turn off Netfilx when you might have a series to watch. Maybe you’re feeling like none of those really apply to you because you never walk away from work long enough to partake in any of the above. Many of us struggle with at least one, but likely more, of these traps because we don’t have boundaries, or strong ones, in place.

I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say that I have fallen into every single one of these at one time or another but the last one was my vice of choice for a long time. I would work as many jobs as I could, as many hours as they’d let me, and has hard as possible while I was there. When I got to the point that I was having babies and had to take a break from working the way I was, I fought it hard. I tried to find ways to ‘sneak’ into my laptop and shortened my maternity leave to get back as quickly as possible. When I did get back I spent the time I was with my baby sitting in bed together with my laptop in front of me, him to one side, and papers and files strewn all around me. Now all of that might be pretty clear that I was a workaholic but nothing highlights it more in my book than the fact that I wasn’t a leader, no one ‘needed’ me, my supervisor and the team had it under control, there was no pressure to get back and do more, this was 100% me and my lack of boundaries around work. I knew I needed them then but I only let the situation compound for three more kids until a mentor finally spoke some sense into me. If a senior officer of the company can make time for limits around work then so can I.

Taking time out of work to re-center.

Easier said than done though right? I mean it’s a great first step to recognize that you need to make a change but that really is only the first step. Let me tell you, if you’re not even to that point yet, if you’re thinking this doesn’t apply to you, if you’re making excuses around why your food, friends, work, or media binge is ‘ok because..,’ or ‘at least I’m not (fill in any other significantly unhealthy or illegal thing)’ then it is probably time to set some boundaries. If you’re ready to take that next step, and do something about it, I’ve got you covered below in 3 quick steps.

  1. First things first, you need to identify where you need to set the boundary or limit. If you’ve read this far I’m guessing you know whether the thing is movement, people, activities, work, etc. If not, spend a little time considering what you just can’t seem to do. Do you walk to the fridge or cabinet knowing you don’t want anything but end up with a snack anyway? Do you spend hours on the phone with someone wishing you could hang-up but just can’t find a way to do it? Is the laptop just impossible close and the email coming to your phone? If any of those resonated or they triggered you to think of another experience, I think you’ve found it.
  2. Then set some realistic rules or goals around it. I will not have a snack until I have a full glass of water first. I will only have two activities going outside of work at a time. I will take x amount of steps in a day. I recommend keeping them realistic for where you’re at so you can keep with them (if you’re currently averaging 3,000, maybe pick 6,000 steps rather than 10,000 or if you’re already committed to 5 activities maybe you set a limit around your involvement within them). Set goals that will allow you to be consistent and see results.
  3. Finally, have a reward and a punishment, and share them. I know that people talk about rewards but they don’t talk about punishments. Your punishment could seriously be sharing what you did with someone else. Or maybe it is that you have to pay your significant other $5 every time you cross the line. It could be that you’re now not allowed your typical treat at the end of the night (dessert, show, snuggle) whatever it is make sure it is realistic but also make sure it hurts. On the flip side, do the same with your rewards. If you said no to signing up for another club or volunteer opportunity go get that fancy coffee. If you ignore the call from a toxic ‘friend’ take 10 minutes of social media scrolling and own it. You would have taken that time to talk and double it for decompressing afterward. Make sure it is not a reward that will undo what you are intending to reward yourself for but also make sure it is good and you will want to achieve it. Now all you have to do is stick with the plan. Easy enough right?

Maybe and maybe not, you’re ready to make a change and set a goal around it, even if you aren’t sure what exactly that might look like at the moment, check out the Goal Achievement Challenge. It is a supported way to get into the groove of what you’re committing to. The challenge is 8 days of guided personal work with an accountability partner to help you set the goal, keep the boundaries following the steps above, and grow in whatever area you need.

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