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Boundaries Set You Free: Learning how to create & joyfully live within boundaries.



Parcels of land have contractual, rigid boundaries—some are noticeably marked with fences, while others are more subtly designated by a change in sidewalk stone or by plant variations. Using precise locations, they divide one unit from the next to assist in development, valuation, and sales.

People have boundaries, too. However, their personal and professional boundaries are typically imaginary, are often not agreed upon, and are sometimes flexible to the point of not existing.

A common behavior among those who live an organized life is living within a set of evolving boundaries, so it is worth thoughtful consideration. Do you know what your boundaries are? Are they clearly defined so outsiders know before they cross them? Do you immediately know when someone has obstructed them? Do you impose them consistently? Do you reliably respect them?

You know from experience without proper boundaries, work takes over your life…or children do…or other people do. Furthering the concept, you also know that kept boundaries, strangely, manifest freedom. They help you to avoid time wasters, stop accepting unreasonable requests, and curtail inappropriate behavior from others so you have the liberty to do the things you want to do.

When you notice your energy is running low or you feel resentful, you likely need to erect a new boundary—or to respect an existing one you’re ignoring. Take time over the next several weeks to determine what boundaries you need to establish in order to maintain a healthy blend of family, work and rest. Maybe you decide missing your yoga practice Tuesday evening is completely unacceptable. Perhaps you determine replying to email over the weekends is off limits. Possibly you decide your children can indulge in a maximum of one hour of computer/television/video game screen time per day. Conceivably you resolve to participate in only two committee positions at any one time.


Following are the steps to inventing these freeing restrictions:

  1. Identify. First you have to spend time being more aware of your circumstances and emotions. When you feel frustrated, stop to determine if instituting an outward or inward boundary would prevent this situation from happening again. When you find yourself missing another important family event, decide to build boundaries to protect these time-sensitive treasures.
  2. Create. Here’s where you have to draw a line in the sand. You don’t have to get it right the first time, but you need to define the limit in measurable terms. A critical, but typically forgotten, piece is to specify the consequences for adhering and for disregarding the boundary. This is a must for success.
  3. Inform. You need to alert all involved parties of the new boundary and the associated consequences. Clarity is key. If you’re setting a private boundary, make a plan to track your implementation of the new rule. For example, create check points every week for at least one month, or ask a friend to hold you accountable.
  4. Enforce. Enforcing new boundaries is difficult, but is the difference between having them and not. One or two uncomfortable public conversations enforcing the negative consequences of ignoring a new boundary typically ignites the social pressure system which takes over as boundary keeper from then on. Early adopters should not go unnoticed either. Recognizing them supports the social pressure system as well.
  5. Enjoy. Once you and others have embraced the boundary, there is much to enjoy. Create whatever you want on top of this steady foundation you have secured.
  6. Adapt. Evaluate boundaries from time to time. Push the ones that need pushing. Change the ones no longer aligned with your life goals. This evolutionary process keeps life rich. As the anonymous quote says, “Your current safe boundaries were once unknown frontiers.”


Boundaries are an essential key separating the joyfully productive from the regretfully overloaded. We needed them as children, and we need them as adults. Have fun with creating and honoring your own network of liberating limitations.

Is this helpful? Please let us know in the comments your thoughts on this as well as other ways we can help you with your career and training.

Jan Wencel PhotoAuthored by:   Jan Wencel, Life Contained



Click here to view all Jan's Women's Ally content.



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