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3 Helpful Boundaries for a Happier You

October 10, 2022

Aren't you glad your house has walls and doors and windows? That people and critters can't just willy-nilly come in? That pets and children and possessions are safely contained within a fence around your property?

A house surrounded by a fence.

In a similar fashion, it's really healthy and helpful to have boundaries as a person!

“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. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options.”

— Henry Cloud, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life

Having healthy boundaries in place helps simplify your life, money and relationships. Here are 3 ideas:

Boundary 1: Don't take on other people's priorities.

I’ve learned this by taking on other people’s priorities, and then learning not to.

“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”

― Greg Mckeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Here’s how setting the boundaries works in real life:

Work.

Don’t say yes to everything. Ask the person giving you work about the urgency of it and the plan for implementing it. If there is no plan for implementing it, it’s most likely an idea that can wait.  Asking critical questions can keep you from taking on ideas that are lobbed across the fence to you. Have an end time for your work days. Then don’t check work notifications after hours; if there is a real emergency they can text you.

Relationships.

State your preferences. Ask for what you want. This involves knowing what you want, and that can sometimes be hard to know! But no one can know but you. Recognize that what you want matters as much as what anyone else wants. come to know who you are and don’t change who you are based on who you are around. This is easier said than done for us “people pleasers.”

Money.

Do you have friends who order the whole left side of the menu when you go out to eat? Or who love going to expensive concerts and want you to as well? Or who want you to match their spending on shopping excursions?

I must admit, I am sometimes this girl when I shop with my sister-in-law (my favorite shopping buddy!) But we know each other well enough to know that I can’t actually pressure her and vice versa. We know our shopping minds very well by this point :)

Boundary 2: Take your own counsel.

This goes for life, relationships, and money. I like to talk things out, and as a still-single woman, I don’t have a husband to be a sounding board. So with every big and small decision or problem I would call one of my people. My sister, my dad, my brother, a friend. And some of that is healthy!

Relationships are so important. Life is about helping each other, hearing each other, sharing with each other. But too much of it quiets your own voice and authority in your life.

Singles especially can be susceptible to input from others because every decision they make is technically their own.  Remember the bike I mentioned last week? I realized something in that decision process.

I realized that if I were married, my husband and I would likely have bought bikes years earlier. And for no other reason besides we wanted them and knew we could afford them.  

Learn to really think through things for yourself. Decide what you think, or what you want to do, or what you think is the best decision for you. Sure, get some input from a few people you really trust, but don’t let the whole world weigh in on your decisions.

Boundary 3: Give yourself digital space.

This one has been hugely important, as it supports other habits I want to have in my life. This is to create space between me and digital life.

I’m far from perfectly-balanced with technology, but I am pretty dang good at a couple key things:

  • I don’t keep my phone by my bed at night. It is several feet away away, plugged in in the bathroom, and I don’t check it after 10:00pm. Some guys especially give me a hard time for this boundary, but that’s okay. It’s important to me, and it highlights a potential difference in important values between us.
  • I try to not check my phone first thing in the morning, and am for the most part successful at this goal. This allows me to start my day on my terms.
  • My phone is most often on silent mode.
  • I have notifications from unimportant app on my phone turned off, and constantly work to break the habit to check apps just because I'm bored.
  • I close computer tabs that will show notifications in order to minimize distractions.
  • When I want to focus on something, I turn my phone on Do Not Disturb. It’s like a signal to my brain that I can’t be interrupted and allows me space to do what it is I need to do or think through. I will sometimes pair this with the Forest app which gives me a countdown timer. This reminds me that I’m doing something important right now and almost gamifies how much I can accomplish.
  • When I was still working in corporate, we used Slack a lot. A red dot notification interrupted me frequently even when I turned off notifications. That is, until a coworker told me she minimized her app drawer so she couldn’t see the dot unless she hovered over her app drawer. Genius!

I recognize that not all of these would be options for everyone. Your line of work may necessitate more availability, and if you have children, you understandably need to be available for them. But even with modification, you can certainly benefit from many of these boundary recommendations.

These 3 boundaries have allowed me to:

  1. Get better and more consistent sleep.
  2. Work more productively.
  3. Have healthier relationships.
  4. Be more in touch with my spending priorities and life goals.

What boundaries have been helpful for you and what ideas or benefits would you add to the list?

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