I often talk about non-negotiables in my life. These are things that I am unwilling to compromise on, for anything or anyone. I know this can sound selfish but I am unapologetic about these because setting boundaries has been essential to success in every area of my life.
If you’re new to boundary setting, it can seem cold and harsh. But creating them will help you clearly articulate your non-negotiables and ensure you are living a life by design, not by default, and this is crucial if you want to realise your dreams.
Here I’ll lay out why boundaries are so important, how to set boundaries and how to deal with the guilt. Stick with me, you’ll never look back.
Why we all need to set boundaries
There can be a lot of resistance when it comes to setting boundaries. We often fear that even having boundaries and non-negotiables will make us selfish, but here is the deal.
Having non-negotiables are essential if you want to achieve success or happiness in any area of your life. And I truly believe that in order to be our best, do amazing things, help support others and be happy, we need to first commit to taking care of ourselves and show up to create the life we aspire to. And in order to do that we need to set boundaries.
Boundaries provide us with a framework to make sure our own needs and desires are being met and protected, as well as articulating to others how we expect to be treated.
The boundaries we each set will be different but they can be in any or multiple areas of your life. These may include your relationships, career, health and wellbeing, finances or spirituality, to name a few.
By having boundaries in place you are able to ‘fill your own cup’, and show up for others in a more powerful, authentic and caring way because you’re own needs have been met first.
You’ll also find you don’t have resentment or angst because you have clarity on what’s important (i.e. your non-negotiables), how these fit into your big picture (i.e. you life vision) and you effectively use boundaries to make these things happen first before you start caring or responding to everyone else in your life.
What are your non-negotiables
It might be your morning coffee, a run once a week or avoiding family drama. Non-negotiables come in lots of shapes and sizes and these will be unique to you.
These non-negotiables form the basis of what your boundaries are set up to protect or achieve. And believe me, you need this space so that you live authentically into your own values and be aligned with your own life vision.
Think about what lights you or what aligns with your big picture. These are things you need to carve space out for, or effectively manage.
Get over the guilt
If you are resisting the idea of setting boundaries because you feel guilty, I want to invite you to embrace three important and potentially life-changing ideas:
1. You need to take care of your own needs before you can effectively help anyone else
You can’t pour from an empty cup. And while being selfless sounds like a nice idea, it doesn’t serve you or those you are trying to support.
Instead, showing up for others after you’ve taken care of your own needs allows you powerfully serve them from a place of contentment and joy rather than duty and resentment.
2. You, and you alone, are responsible for your own happiness
If you are wanting to create a rich, happy and meaningful life for yourself, then you need to take the steps necessary to make it happen.
This means you need to stop living in default mode and responding to everyone else’s needs and start living by design by creating space to fulfil your own wants, needs and desires.
Start by getting clarity on what you are trying to achieve and understand why it’s important.
3. No one cares about your dreams as much as you do
And nor should they!
You if are serious about pursuing a goal or creating the life you dream of, then you need to take ownership and make it happen. Use boundaries to prioritise the thing you need, because no else is going to.
How to effectively set boundaries
If you’re new to the idea of boundaries, and you feel a little uncomfortable with the idea, I want to suggest you start small.
Focus on one area of your life and work out what your non-negotiable is. In other words, what will make you happier, saner or bring you closer to your goal?
Sometimes it’s about creating space and time to do something that lights you up or aligns with your goals and life vision. In this case, find the time to make this happen. Schedule it in your diary and block this time out to others. Treat this the same way you would an important client meeting – it should be your non-negotiable that happens rain hail or shine.
Other times it’s about eliminating or restricting certain things or people in your life.
In the case of difficult relationships, you need to determine what your parameters are for having this person in your life. It’s about finding ways to foster the relationship without letting it erode your own confidence/agenda/happiness and then enforcing those boundaries. (If you’re stuck on this, here’s a great video from Marie Forleo on how to deal with family drama, but the lessons are relevant for any stressful relationships.)
Show boundaries some respect
Setting boundaries doesn’t have to be hard. It could be as simple as leaving work on time or making it yoga once a week.
But in order to set yourself up for success, you need to communicate with people in your life. Do whatever you need to do protect this time or this boundary.
Remember that setting and enforcing boundaries requires you to respect yourself and your goals. It means prioritising your needs and agenda that of others.
And finally, be conscious of other people’s boundaries too and respect them, just as you’d expect.
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