“A line that marks the limits of an area…a sphere of activity.” This is a definition of a boundary.
Another would be: “…limits and rules we set for ourselves and others.”
If you are a coaching client of mine or if you follow me on social media, then you’ve likely heard me say,
I said this during a coaching session as I was helping a client in a pesky situation. In the context of our conversation, I wanted her to see how the boundaries we were discussing were designed to protect her time, energy, creativity, and money. (I believe this to be true for all of us!)
The look on her face, though, confirmed it struck a chord with her.
And ever since then, in my desire for more people to have a similar experience, I occasionally share my quote across my social media channels – including as recently as this past Thursday. Let’s just say the timing was…well, interesting.
You know the expression, “the teacher becomes the student?” This aptly described me last week, and it prompted an examination of my own boundaries. Or, more precisely, the instances where they are a bit blurry!
Something happened, which exposed a vulnerability in the back-end operations of my business.
The more I thought about what happened, and why I was second-guessing my response, the more I realized how infrequently I view boundaries as a bridge. I’ll get to what I mean by “bridge” momentarily.
It’s a Barrier
But first, let’s chat about the typical ways in which we talk about boundaries – as barriers.
When I think of a barrier, I think of a wall or something non-physical that is designed to keep things and people out. Usually, the purpose of the “barrier” is to expressly or implicitly say, “no;” to minimize distractions and temptations; to manage expectations; and to increase focus.
Ultimately, the barrier protects.
It’s a Bridge
On the flip side, there are boundaries that are about what you are saying “yes” to. When I think of “yes” boundaries, I picture a bridge and how, as you cross it, the other side comes into sharper focus. And as you get closer to the other side, momentum builds and you are even more energized to reach it. Because it’s a portal into what comes next.
Ultimately, the bridge reflects the horizon.
Your Goals Need Both
There is a relationship between your goals and boundaries.
And I dare say the stronger your boundaries, the greater the likelihood you’ll achieve your goals.
I’ll even go as far as to say this likelihood increases if you take it a step further and get clearer about the “no” and “yes” parts of your boundaries.
You need to be just as grounded in your non-negotiables as you are with when you’re willing to be flexible. How are you standing your ground?
You need to know the expectations you have of yourself and others, and set the stage for what others can expect from you. Part of this involves being willing to, sometimes, have uncomfortable conversations.
Plus, the natural process of going after your goals means that something will inevitably change over the course of time. As a result, the “no” and “yes” parts of your boundaries will likely need to be re-evaluated and adjusted, as well. So, you need to pay attention to this, too.
It’s a Tricky Thing
Some people have absolutely no problem creating, practicing, communicating and honoring their boundaries. Others are good with creating them, but are not consistent with practicing, communicating and honoring them. And then there are those for whom all aspects of boundaries represent an area in need of improvement.
Into which “group” do you belong more often than not, and does it depend upon whether the boundary is personal or professional in nature?
How might examining your boundaries and strengthening those that are “weak,” help you with your goals this year?
In my case, addressing the operational vulnerability I identified and recognizing why my boundary had become blurry, helped me tighten my policies and procedures. This will, in turn, help me serve my clients even better than I do now. Ultimately, that benefits them AND me. #winwin
(Sidenote: sometimes you don’t know a boundary doesn’t exist or is weak until something happens to reveal it as so.)
TLDR: The tricky thing about boundaries is that they are most effective when you focus on how they both protect you and serve as a bridge to what you want.
Your goals need both the “no” and “yes” parts of boundaries.
Because both are necessary and crucial to your success.
Both help to create the space, energy, creativity and money you need to do what you have to do.
Some people focus almost exclusively on boundaries as a barrier and less so as a bridge? Into which “group” do you belong? If you’re game, let me know.
p.s. If you specifically need help regarding financial boundaries, check this out.