Learning how to set healthy boundaries can be difficult for many people. However, learning to set boundaries in all areas of your life is essential for your well-being. If you say Yes to any of the following scenarios, then you are someone who could benefit from setting boundaries.

  • Said yes to something to avoid conflict.
  • Said yes out of obligation, even though you really didn’t want to.
  • Said yes to keep the peace, even though it sacrificed your happiness.
  • Felt regret or guilt after saying yes.
  • Said yes to something because you were afraid to stand up for yourself.
  • Said yes to something in fear of hurting someone else’s feelings or fear of consequences.
  • Feel burn-out because you continuously take on more responsibility than you should.

Life is too short to continuously ignore your feelings and dismiss the self-respect you deserve from yourself and others. I have created three simple steps you can take to set boundaries in your personal and professional lives so you can build a healthy relationship with yourself and others.

Step 1 – Change 🡪 Step – 2 Create 🡪 Step 3 – Communicate

Step 1 – Change

The relationship you have with others directly stems from the relationship you have with yourself. That’s why you first need to change any negative association you have with setting boundaries and transform your mindset to how you view yourself and your purpose in life. It’s important to realize that putting your needs before others is not selfish, arrogant, mean, offensive, or aggressive. You have the right to share your feelings and why you feel a certain way. You deserve to tell people when lines have been crossed and share what your boundaries are with them.

Change Exercise: To help you achieve this step, complete this short exercise.

  1. Write down five experiences of when you allowed someone to cross your boundary, and you didn’t stand up for yourself.

  2. Now, for each example, answer these questions:
    • What boundary did they cross?
    • How did that make you feel?
    • What was preventing you from expressing yourself?
    • What do you wish you had said?

  3. Identify any common themes and patterns you notice from these experiences.

  4. State your purpose in life and your core values.

Ideally, your purpose and core values should help you more easily define your boundaries and how you communicate them to other people. Instead of focusing on how boundaries might make others feel, you can instead focus on its principle, why it’s important to you and why other people need to respect it.

Completing this exercise will set you up for success as you move towards Step 2 – Create.

Step 2 – Create

Give yourself the permission and space to create boundaries. To possess self-awareness can have profound effects on your overall well-being and how others perceive and treat you. Know what you want and why you want it. Your life’s purpose will be your guide.

Create Exercise: To help you achieve this step, complete this short exercise.

Thinking back to Step 1, you might have noticed specific boundaries that were continuously crossed. Can you clearly define those boundaries? Are there other boundaries that come to mind? Write them down. The process of writing and examining them will help you mindfully connect them to your working memory.

Learning from the past can help you implement a desired behavior for the future.

Completing this exercise will set you up for success as you move towards Step 3 – Communicate.

Step 3 – Communicate

Now that you have changed your mindset and created boundaries, it’s time to communicate them. I find it helps to write a script and practice communicating your boundaries so when the time comes to saying them, you already know the triggers and what to say. Here are some guidelines to consider when conveying your limits:

  • Be confident and respectful.
  • Communicate with grace and gratitude.
  • Use “I” statements (keep the focus on you, not them).
  • Leave room for compromise.

Communicate Exercise: To help you achieve this step, complete this short exercise.

For each experience you identified in Step 1, write a script as if you were telling them in person.

Suggested script outline:

  • Define the boundary.
  • How does this boundary align with your purpose and core values?
  • Who/what usually crosses this boundary?
  • Write how you would communicate this boundary to a specific person.

I suggest writing these boundaries on index cards so that you can carry them around with you and refer to them regularly. Lean into the discomfit of this exercise. Communicating your boundaries can feel unconformable, but over time it will get easier. You deserve to live the life you envision.

Here is a personal example of when I had to set professional boundaries with my boss.

In particular, one boss did not seek my input on key business activities for which I was responsible. Our meetings never seemed to have an agenda, which made it difficult for me to prepare for the meeting properly. This made me feel uncomfortable, and it was not how I wanted to be treated. So, rather than continue in this less than productive cycle, I decided to set professional boundaries for our working relationship.

My first step was to identify my comfort zone in our relationship. Next, I reflected on my personal values and determined that I wanted to:

  • Be treated with respect
  • Make my needs as important as his and
  • Say no without feeling guilty

Here are the actions that I took to communicate and establish my boundaries so that we could build a more productive and professional relationship:

  1. I discussed my feelings with my boss.
  2. I expressed my desire to seek solutions to my own feelings/issues instead of telling him what I wanted him to do differently.
  3. I used “I” statements when communicating the boundaries with non-threatening confidence and respect.
  4. I took the initiative to create and submit an agenda for each subsequent meeting with my boss to minimize the possibility of “surprises.”
  5. I began asking my boss what his expectations of me were for each new assignment/project and,
  6. Lastly, I started asking my boss what I could do to improve my performance.

This experience allowed me to shift into a more positive mindset and find opportunities to improve our work relationship. After this conversation, there was a distinct shift in our professional relationship whereby my key values were nurtured, and mutual respect was enriched.

It’s never too late to set boundaries. I encourage you to take action using these three steps and find the courage to put yourself first.

As a certified, experienced life coach and owner of E3LIFECOACH, I coach individuals like you to conquer life’s challenges and take positive action to get real results in your life. There’s no better time than now to take control of your life.

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