how to set boundaries

Are you feeling overwhelmed, overworked or frustrated? Well, you’re not alone. And the likelihood is that you don’t have clear boundaries in place. Because let’s be honest, boundaries get a bad wrap. Most of us don’t know how to set boundaries and we fear having them will make us seem selfish. So we avoid putting them in place.

But the truth is boundaries are a game-changer if you want to thrive in work and in play.

So here I’ll be sharing how to set boundaries, why you need them and everything else you need to know about boundaries so they can support you to have the life you want.

What are boundaries?

So what are boundaries? Boundaries are guidelines or limits that determine acceptable behaviours.

Boundaries serve two functions:

  1. They provide us with a framework to make sure our own needs and desires are being met and protected; and
  2. They articulate to others how we expect to be treated

Contrary to popular belief, boundaries are not something you impose onto other people. They are about how you decide to live your life and they are completely within your control.

I like to think of boundaries are my personal protective bubble which ensures my own agenda, health and happiness stay on track, and allow me to show up as the best version of myself in all scenarios.

Why do we all need them?

Boundaries are essential to managing our health and to having success in any and all areas of life.

They allow us to compartmentalise our lives, managing both our needs and those of others.

And whether we realise it or not, we all already have boundaries in place because they are necessary for us to function.

That said, in many cases, we aren’t aware of the boundaries we have because we have never intentionally set them. They may be things we learned as children or societal norms we’ve adopted.

But the more deliberate we become about how we set boundaries, the more aligned our life will be with what we want, and how we want to feel.

Setting appropriate boundaries is therefore crucial to living life on your terms and pursuing your dreams.

How to set your boundaries

Think about all the areas of your life (e.g. work, family, health, finances, relationships etc.) and consider what are the unspoken rules you have in place that pertain to that.

For example, you have an understanding that your standard work hours are 9-5 Monday to Friday, but you sometimes stay back till 6pm when it’s busy.

These are your expectations and will most likely reflect your current boundaries for the different areas of your life.

Now, think about the life you want.

  • What are your priorities and what is a non-negotiable in your dream life?
  • Consider what will make you happier, healthier or bring you closer to your goals?
  • What do you want to create more time for?
  • What do you want to eliminate or restrict?

Next, determine how you might adjust the existing unspoken rules you’re living by to accommodate your non-negotiable and actually make your dream life a reality.

These then form your personal boundaries that will allow you to shift from living life in default to intentionally creating a life by design.

How to implement your boundaries

Now that you know your personal boundaries, it’s time to actually implement them.

How you go about this is up to you. You might want to take the slow and steady approach and make incremental changes. Or you might want to rip the band-aid off and implement your newly defined boundaries all in one go.

Determine which approach feels best for you and then run with it.

In some circumstances, you’ll want to create time for things in which case schedule this time in your diary and treat it as sacred.

Other times it’s about eliminating or restricting certain things or people in your life, which may require you to have open conversations about your requirements.

Keep in mind that this will likely feel uncomfortable to start, but like anything, the more you practice implementing your boundaries, the better you’ll become at it.

You should also be open to review what’s working and what isn’t and adjust your boundaries as you go, based on what aligns with your desired life and your needs at the time.

Troubleshooting resistance

Generally, people have a lot of resistance when it comes to implementing their own boundaries. So here are my tips for dealing with some of the most frequent challenges people face:

  • Don’t apologise for having boundaries – Boundaries are not selfish. They are an important mechanism for allowing you to thrive in your life. Do not apologise for that. After all, you need to take care of your own needs before you can effectively help anyone else.
  • Communicating your boundaries will make it easier – By sharing your boundaries with the relevant people in your life it’ll be will make it easier for you to manage expectations. Plus it allows them to understand and work within your new parameters. But…
  • Don’t expect other people to respect or be happy about your boundaries – It is not a requirement for other people to support your boundaries. They are your boundaries. You are the one responsible for enforcing them.
  • Boundaries can change – It’s entirely up to you to adjust and amend as you see fit
  • Enforcing boundaries can be uncomfortable – Because having boundaries sometimes means prioritising your needs and agenda over other peoples. But that’s your prerogative and remember you, and you alone, are responsible for your own happiness, so own it.

Finally, remember that setting boundaries doesn’t have to be hard. It might be as simple as leaving work on time or making it yoga once a week.

You are best placed to know how to set boundaries that will support the life and lifestyle you want, so use them to your benefit!

I’d love to know what boundaries do you have in your life and how do they support you? Share in the comments below.