Setting Boundaries And Keeping Them


In their book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, Psychologists Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend note “Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.” One place I can easily see where I end and you begin is with values.

As you lean into your values, you become better able to see how they can be used for setting boundaries. For instance, if you value generosity, you may find yourself in conflict with a person whom you perceive to be selfish. This values clash doesn’t make the other person bad and you good or vice versa. It just means you hold different core values.

This lean-in of Grow Yourself is all about using your top personal values to create boundaries that only allow into your life the things that you want and value, and then, how to hold these boundaries.

If, like me, you have ever been told, “you need to teach people how to treat you,” or, “you get what you tolerate,” then this lean-in is key for you.

Understanding what you will and won’t allow in your space and then enforcing those lines is all about teaching people how to treat you and to get only what you desire to tolerate.

Setting boundaries helps you create a personal environment that allows for your biggest success, and it is important to do it everywhere in your life, whether it is setting boundaries at work, in personal relationships, or in your relationships with friends.

 The Boundaries worksheet

The Boundaries worksheet

To convert your values into boundaries, I recommend using the boundaries worksheet (download the worksheet packet here).

On the worksheet, you write your top five values and begin to translate them into boundaries that fall into one of the three following categories: (a) what I will allow in my space given this value, (b) what I will allow in my space but don’t like given this value, and (c) what I won’t allow in my space given this value.

For me, one of my top values is authenticity. This one is straightforward for me. I allow people into my space who are authentic in tell the truth. I don’t allow people into my space if they lie or are dishonest.

Each value you have can be converted into a boundary like this, some of them with more wiggle room than others. This gives you a clear framework for understanding your personal boundaries and gives you something concrete you can communicate to others.

If you are having trouble setting boundaries or determining where the line is, then there are few internal alarms that we have that indicate a boundary is being crossed.

The first of those is anger. When you get angry, many times it is because one of your core values is getting compromised or offended.

The second warning sign is the cringe factor. I learned about the cringe factor from Dr. Henry Cloud in his book 9 Things a Leader Must Do. The cringe factor is any time you have to cringe or take a big gulp to agree to do something or to work with someone. If you experience this, that likely means you know one of your values is about to be upended.

Before you can enforce your boundaries, you have to understand exactly where the line is. Once you have set your boundaries and know where that line is, you can start to understand better how to maintain them.

How do I maintain my boundaries?

This is the next big challenge. Just because we know where the boundaries are doesn’t make it easy to hold the line.

My father was a child psychologist, and one of the things he said to me years ago in regards to raising my kids was key on understanding how to maintain my boundaries.

He told me that raising kids now is no different than the frontier days. “You have to tell them where the property lines, and that they can’t go beyond them, but other than that they are free to explore within them.”

It is the same process whether you are setting boundaries in relationships, at work, with family, or wherever else. You have your property lines and you have to let others know where they are.

One of the best ways to let others know what your boundaries are is by establishing a code of conduct. You can create your own code on The Code worksheet (download the worksheet packet here).

I did this with my family because I wanted my children to perform extraordinary feats and I felt like that started with clear boundaries, but you can do this in your business, with your family, and in lots of different settings to establish the behaviors that are and aren’t acceptable.

maintain your boundaries

The point of The Code is to have clear expectations of what is and isn’t allowed. Whereas the boundaries worksheet is useful for understanding our own personal boundaries, the code can used to establish broader boundaries in different settings.

If you have another way you prefer to communicate expectations to others, that is fine, these actions are just about creating a common understanding of where the property lines are, making it easier to maintain your boundaries and hold others accountable.

The code of conduct is a constant reminder of the commitment you have made individually but also in group settings it is a reminder of the commitments you all have made to each other. Many people behave rudely or inappropriately because we allow it. Don’t allow it. Maintain those boundaries!

Call the penalty by telling the person what they just did was offensive to you or hurt your feelings. They knew the expectations and they violated them. You have every right to let them know they crossed the property line.

Ask them not to do it again. If the person persists in that hurtful or offensive behavior, then they don’t need to be in your space. You can’t change them so you have to make the choice to minimize the time you spend with them.

Okay, I know my boundaries, but is it really worth all that effort to maintain them?

Yes! 100% YES! These boundaries allow you to create your ideal environment and give you the space to live the life you want to lead. One thing that is important to understand-

You don’t have to put up with things you don’t want in your space!!!

Additionally, setting boundaries and then maintaining them is not about placing limits on others. It is about limiting your exposure to behavior that doesn’t align with your values.

Maintaining boundaries can be challenging, because it does require us to speak up and let others know when a boundary has been violated.

If we aren’t used to this then it is even more difficult, but some strategies for having these conversations successfully are by practicing with a friend first, using me-first language (like I feel this way as opposed to you did this or you made me feel this way), and creating a safe environment to have the conversation.

Your cape awaits!

Tomi Llama

P.S. Crushing the boundaries? Now it’s time to find the right place to work for you to live your best life! Check out the next lean-in, How to pick the right place to work!

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