Why We Need Boundaries

Friday 17 January, 2014

Establishing boundaries is a vital part of life. On the surface it looks to be more restrictive than liberating, but therein lies the paradox. Only when you set the boundaries do you have clarity about what is permitted and what is not. In sport, it is the rules and regulations which shape the game. In business we draft contracts which provide a precise framework for collaboration. Without rules every contest would quickly descend into chaos; a free-for-all with everyone doing whatever they wanted. Interestingly, one of the causes of the latest financial crisis was the deregulation of the institutions.

  • Boundaries create the freedom to work, play and explore.
  • They make decisions easier and interactions simpler.
  • They save time and energy by allowing us to avoid repeated consideration of familiar problems.
  • There are even occasions when, because you are clear about where your boundaries lie, everyone you encounter responds to them unconsciously, falling unknowingly into line with who you are.
  • It’s only when boundaries exist that we are able to push them.

But before you can push the boundaries, you need to know where they are. And the best way to do that is to set them yourself. I have had conversations with three people recently and, although their respective situations varied, the message has been the same: set your boundaries; decide how you want to be and how you want to work.

The first person, rather than focus on his ultimate targets, needed just to concentrate on standing firm. In doing so he will create surety for himself and clarity for his ongoing negotiations.

For the second person it was a case of knowing the value of her ability and coming from a place of confidence that says, ‘They need me more than I need them‘. That way, she can be clear and open with the plethora of people who are falling over themselves to work with her. Again, when she does that, she is providing the parameters within which a collaboration can occur.

The third person simply needed to make a decision on how much time he could invest in a particular project in order that the extra work will not interfere with his existing commitments. In doing so, he is being fair to himself, and fair and open with his client.

When you know your boundaries, you are able to operate more freely, more easily and more effectively. Communicating them means everyone knows where they stand. The clearer you are, the more confident you can be. The more confident you are, the more likely it is that there will be a positive outcome for everyone. And remember: as soon as you know where your boundaries are, you can begin to push them.

Related posts: Consistency, Boundaries & Discipline | Be The Boundaries

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