Time and energy. Two of the most valuable resources that each one of us is blessed with every day. Though it is difficult to put a price tag on these two commodities, I would have to say that their value is far greater than most realize because, it is the proper application of these two resources that allows us to create an abundance of other blessings (money, fulfillment, success, significance, etc.) in our lives.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’ve been struggling a bit with feeling as though I am constantly running out of time and energy when it comes to the pursuit of my meaningful goals. This realization really hit home this past week when I found myself rushing off to yet another get-together that I didn’t really want to go to with someone that I didn’t really want to be around. Then, when I got home, I was wiped out and had no energy left to work on the big-picture goals that I have for my life. Now, please don’t misunderstand me–the event that I attended wasn’t anything bad and the person that I met there is a perfectly decent human being. It’s just that, as I look back now, I can see that the reason I attended was because I felt like it was something that I should do (even though I really didn’t want to), and how much more well served I would have been if I had spent that time either on my own, working on my goals or with people who truly inspired, empowered or encouraged me.
Unfortunately, this pattern of wasting my time and energy on things and people who don’t add genuine value to my life is one that I have allowed to take root, which means that it is going to be a challenge to overcome. The good news is, I’ve been in this position before and therefore, am able to more quickly recognize the symptoms of weak personal boundaries and know that I have no one but myself to blame for this predicament.
If you ever find yourself in a similar situation of battling a lack of energy or feeling as though you never have enough time for the activities that bring you joy; there’s a good chance that you too have allowed your personal boundaries to become weak, or, you haven’t set solid boundaries to begin with. While these things might not sound like boundary issues, they are. Each one of us only has a finite amount of time and energy. When we don’t set boundaries to protect that time and energy, we suffer from exhaustion, exasperation and unfulfillment. Some additional signs of weak personal boundaries include…
Not having rock-solid boundaries can have a devastating effect on our relationships and on our psyche, and yet despite this; establishing boundaries can be so difficult for so many of us. Why is this? Why do we have such a difficult time when it comes to protecting ourselves from time and energy vampires? For most of us, the difficulty lies in our desire to please others and not be perceived as selfish or worse–a b!tch.
I get it, I really do. I want people to like me too. However; in the big scheme of things, there is really only a handful of people whose opinions truly matter to me. This doesn’t mean that I am out to tick everyone else off–it simply means that I need to set boundaries as to how much time and energy I expend on projects and people who don’t encourage me to be better or help me to further my goals. The people who do do this for me are people that I will gladly commit time to. They are also the people for whom I will return the favor and invest in so as to elevate their pursuits.
So, it is time for me to get out the figurative bricks and mortar and start putting up some boundaries again. I don’t do this to be b!tchy. In fact, I fully intend to still be kind to everyone. I simply do this because I know that I am only going to be able to achieve the FabYOUlous life that I’ve envisioned for myself if I stop diffusing my time and energy and instead become focused like a laser on the things that are going to move me closer to my goal. There is a quote by Brene Brown that I just love that speaks to this,
So, in a step of courage, and love for my self and my goals–here are the steps that I intend to take in order to fortify my boundaries and protect the limited amount of time and energy that I possess…
Building Boundaries without Being a B!tch (Unless of Course, You Have to)
1.) Determine exactly what things and relationships are truly worthy of an investment of time and energy. Until we know exactly what things are definite yeses in our life, we can’t know what things are nos.
2.) Understand why a boundary is necessary. Again, this isn’t about being b!tchy or a snob. It is simply a safeguard to prevent our time and energy from becoming so diluted that we have nothing left over to support our own emotional/physical health or our goals and ambitions.
3.) Clearly define the boundary. Setting clearly defined parameters around a boundary will help to eliminate any grey areas. I have found in my own experience, that it is better to define a more rigid and tight boundary that can later be relaxed if necessary, than it is to try to shore up a weak boundary that has been violated.
4.) Understand that there will be exceptions–but only if they meet certain criteria. If, for example, you set a solid boundary around a two hour time frame that you are going focus on your goals, but your toddler comes running up to you with a gash on her forehead that clearly needs stitches, you will obviously need to prioritize your child’s emergency. These scenarios are bound to happen on occasion, but by taking step #1 and clearly determining who and what our true priorities in life are (I’m assuming your children fall into that category), it becomes easy to see what things/people we will occasionally relax our boundaries for. If, on the other hand, your obnoxious but friendly neighbor wants to drop by and chat about your other neighbors for two hours–you need to be willing to defend your time and stick to your determined boundary.
5.) Be kind but straightforward when establishing boundaries. I will never advocate for meanness, but I will advocate for firmness. It is entirely possible to be firm but polite when protecting your boundaries. Those people who truly want the best for you will understand and respect your boundaries–those who don’t respect your boundaries or who get offended by them, are simply strengthening your case for having boundaries in the first place.
6.) Don’t apologize for having boundaries. Having healthy boundaries is a good and healthy thing. Don’t feel compelled to apologize for taking care of the things that are top priorities in your life. The people who love and support you won’t need an apology and those who don’t, don’t deserve one.
7.) Enlist support. I am so blessed by the fact that my hubby is an excellent gatekeeper when I need him to be. He helps to run interference when necessary and act as an added layer of protection when I need him to. He knows how important my goals are to me and he does his part to help support my efforts. I am committed to doing the same for him when he needs it.
8.) Address boundary violations early and firmly. I’m a kind person, I really am. I am not however; a doormat. In my first (failed) marriage, my boundaries were routinely violated and as a result, I became incredibly resentful. I was also emotionally and physically exhausted from trying too hard to keep too many people happy. Now, when I feel as though my boundaries are being violated, I do my best to address the issue early on and to be kind but firm in my delivery. Again, the people who are truly on my team and in my inner circle, understand and do not take offense when I enforce a boundary. It is the ones who do not understand or who do take offense, that my boundaries are for in the first place.
9.) Keep it from becoming personal. My having boundaries has nothing to do with whether or not the people for whom my boundaries are created, are nice or good people. I’m sure that (for the most part) they are. My boundaries have nothing to do with them–they have everything to do with my own aspirations, priorities, needs and desires. Establishing boundaries is not an excuse to treat people poorly or to hold myself above others. It is simply a necessary mechanism that I must employ if I am ever to live the truly FabYOUlous life that I have envisioned for myself.
10.) Trust your gut. As I have grown as a person and in my career, I have become aligned with new and different people at different times. Most of the time, these relationships are mutually beneficial and edifying. Sometimes however; I’ll come across someone who seems genuinely nice and is very intent on getting close to me, but for some reason, my gut sounds an alarm. I’m not perfect at heeding the warnings that my intuition sends to me, but I’m getting better at it because I have learned some hard lessons in the past from times that I ignored that nudge. In time, people’s true motivations always reveal themselves, but if you sense a catch in your spirit about someone, keep your boundaries firmly in place unless/until such time as the person truly earns their way into your priority circle. I’m (slowly but surely) learning that my hunches are rarely wrong, and that those solid boundaries that I have erected, end up saving me a lot of wasted time and energy.
While boundary setting can feel a bit uncomfortable at first for those of us who tend to be “people pleasers” by nature; it is an absolutely vital component to our overall well being. If, after reading these suggestions, you still struggle with setting solid boundaries, you might want to check out the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. This book made a pivotal difference in my life when I desperately needed it, and is one that I still refer to when I start to feel my boundaries crumble.
I love the quote that says “you are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm”. I don’t know who originally said it, but it is so true. Burning with the fire of your passion is one thing–burning out by not maintaining solid boundaries is another. Make sure that you are burning for the right reasons and utilize your boundaries to help in that endeavor.
Establishing solid boundaries in your life is a critical component to increasing the level of energy and FabYOUlousness in your life. For more suggestions on how to energize your life, click on the image below to receive the FREE ebook “50 FabYOUlous Ways to Energize Your Life”. As an added bonus, you’ll also receive the popular ebook “365 Questions to Help You Find Your Answers”. Both books are free and both books will help you to dramatically increase the level of FabYOUlousness in your life.