When a client shows up to a coaching session very happy with the fact that they have finally created a boundary or two I say BRAVO!! Good for you! Excellent work! YES!!
Most of the time we set a boundary because something is not working for us, and I want your life to work for you. So I thought I’d share a bit of the conversation that’s been happening lately.
I’m going to start with a really simple illustration that will help explain a few key ideas about boundaries.
This is a little story I used with some clients this week to get really clear about the how, why, and when of boundary setting.
Mary works from home and usually finishes up her workday around 6:30 in the evening. Down at the bottom of Mary’s hill there is an eatery that she really likes to visit nearly every day for dinner. The little bistro has a sign on the door that says “We Close at 7pm”.
Mary often gets there at 7:10 or 7:15…but if she knocks they come and unlock the door, greet her with a big smile and let her in. And then they serve her something delicious. It’s a wonderful place!
If the above scenario keeps happening Mary will most likely feel free to keep showing up after closing time. Because, “Why not?!”, she thinks,”They always open up for me (I must be special!)”
And behind the kitchen doors there is a lot of grumbling and complaining…because the owners and workers would like to be cleaning and closing up and instead they are preparing food for Mary. They are in that space of tolerating Mary’s late arrivals, over and over, and they are doing it with a big smile).
(Here is a hint for you – are you grumbling and complaining about someone’s behavior? and maybe smiling the whole time?)
Even though the bistro has a sign that says they close at 7, they don’t hold to it, it’s a weak boundary and Mary doesn’t pay much attention to it.
Now…here is the thing (that invisible thing that keeps popping into my head lately!) – the boundary they’ve set (closing at a certain time) is to help them create the life they want (they want to be done with serving customers by 7, they want to finish up their work day and go home, they want to have time in the evening to have a life outside of their restaurant work). THESE are the reasons for creating the boundary – NOT to create a different behavior in Mary.
Do you see the difference? Yes, if they stop opening the door when Mary arrives after 7 she will probably stop arriving late, because she won’t be getting what she is coming down there for, so yes, her behavior will most likely change, but that is not the intention of a good boundary.
In fact, if I set a boundary with an intention to change someone else’s behavior, the boundary won’t really be able to serve me, because I’ve just attached the happiness/comfort/safety/whatever I’m trying to create (the success of my boundary) to someone else’s behavior, which is something I cannot control.
In our example above, if the intention is to get customers to stop coming after 7, then every time a customer knocks on the door after 7 we will feel frustrated that our boundary has failed. However if the boundary is created to protect our time/space/energy after 7 so we can use it as we choose (cleaning and closing the restaurant and having a life) then we have succeeded.
The boundary must be set (and made strong by our willingness to uphold it through action) with the intention that it supports us in creating the life we want. It releases us from tolerating something that we don’t want.
The number 1 reason to create a boundary is to support you in getting your needs met. Because when your needs are met (physical, emotional, financial) your life works better. You feel better. You start seeing more Magic happen. (Seriously)
Your boundaries are there to serve you, not to change someone else.
When we have weak boundaries all kinds of things come into our space. Things that bother us, irritate us, harm us, frustrate us, etc. Then we proceed to “tolerate” these things.
In fact, tolerating
crap things, is the number one symptom that lets you know you have weak boundaries.
Something I’ve told my clients (and myself) over and over is this:
But, it’s the INTENTION we have when we set a boundary that is so extremely important. Anyone who has worked with me or read my blog or hangs out over at The Love & Magic Salon, KNOWS that I’m an intention setting ninja. I believe that intentions have POWER.
The outcome you really want to see plays a huge part in determining your success. And most of the time it is something below the surface, something unspoken, something I’ve had to dig around to find. (OH! So you’re wanting him (her, them, it) to change? Well then, no wonder you’re struggling!)
Here are a few tips to support you to create strong boundaries, with the intention that will give you a much better chance of success.
1. Know why you want to create them, and what you want to create ultimately (remember, your boundaries are about YOU getting YOUR needs met, NOT a tool to get someone else to change their behavior.)
2. What are you tolerating, and what would you like instead?
3. Know what you will do to make your boundaries strong – a boundary needs to be more than just verbal, there needs to be action involved.
4. Know what you will do if the boundary is crossed or tested (because I guarantee it will be).
5. Choose these things wisely, create your boundaries only as strong as you are willing to keep them.
Strong boundaries are a big key to you living a life full of Love & Magic.
And let me know in the comments section what you enjoyed most about these ideas!
Love & Magic,