Are you ready to set your New Year’s resolutions? Do you remember the ones you set last year? If you remember, are you still maintaining them?
Resolutions are notoriously unstable. We make our list and then sometime during the course of the year, we forget to adhere to what’s on the list. Maybe we justify our lack of follow-through with other “more important” priorities. Unless we make it public or choose an accountability partner, we skip out on our commitments because (shhh!) nobody else will know. (We can see you; put those cookies back in the cupboard!)
Even if you’re among the few who can stick to your end of year promises, there is another way to improve your life besides New Year’s resolutions: set boundaries.
Boundaries are the flip side of goal setting. Just like a fence indicates the limits of your property, boundaries keep others from trespassing. You are setting a standard to discourage behaviors that jeopardize your well-being or the well-being of those you love.
Your words let people know where you stand and give them a sense of the ‘edges’ that help identify you.” —Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
For Whom Do You Set Boundaries?
Some, more than others, deserve to have limits placed on their words or actions. (You’re probably thinking of someone now.) These are not the people who occasionally have a bad day. These folks routinely impose themselves upon you.
So set new rules for the person who:
- drops by at dinnertime
- borrows tools and doesn’t return them
- offers unsolicited advice on how to raise your kids or treat your spouse
- asks for money on a regular basis
- expects their self-imposed crisis to become your priority
- regularly comes into your office to chat, preventing you from doing your work
- speaks to you disrespectfully
4 Steps to Set Boundaries
1. List those who are “downers” in your life. These are people who leave you feeling like you have to take a shower after spending time with them. They are critical and accusatory of others. They spend their time complaining about their life, their health, the neighbors or their boss. Tip: Create ways to limit your exposure to this person. Example: return their call five minutes before you have to leave for an appointment. Make your responses brief.
2. List people who bring sunshine into your life. Always a smile on their face or a good word to say, these folks brighten up the lives of those around them. They don’t sugar-coat challenges, but they ask constructive questions, offer encouragement and suggest options. Tip: Adopt their positive habits. Seek out people like this and welcome them into your life. The more of them you have around you, the less you’ll fret about the downers mentioned above.
3. List your non-negotiables. These are values you won’t compromise, such as time with family, church, exercise, and illegal or unethical practices that put people at risk. Tip: When threatened, protect these non-negotiables ferociously. Make it clear you have a firm commitment you will not break. Limit your time with people who routinely ask you to do otherwise.
4. Identify your Horror Floor. In other words, how low you will go? Rather than allow the drip, drip, drip of words or behaviors to eat away at you, decide what event will push you over the top. Then choose your response. It will set your mind at ease to identify when you reach the “horror floor” and have a predetermined course of action. Tip: Document each incident as it happens so you won’t have to rely on memory. Use the “If X, then Y” equation to set your limits.
Common Boundary Myths (from the book Boundaries)
While setting limits is second nature to some people, others talk themselves right out of it. They believe setting boundaries will hurt themselves or others and succumb to the following myths:
Myth 1: If I set boundaries I’m being selfish
Myth 2: Boundaries are a sign of disobedience
Myth 3: If I begin setting boundaries, I will be hurt by others
Myth 4: If I set boundaries I will hurt others
Myth 5: Boundaries mean that I am angry
Myth 6: When others set boundaries, it injures me
Myth 7: Boundaries cause feelings of guilt
Myth 8: Boundaries are permanent and I’m afraid of burning my bridges
Remember, you can be gracious, helpful, kind and considerate of others while still protecting yourself and your loved ones. Ultimately, setting boundaries is a sign of self-respect.
Inspiring and Humorous Quotes:
“Wisdom is innocence recovered at the far end of experience.” —David Bentley Hart
“Whether the reader will agree with all my conclusions is another question entirely. But disagreements can be productive, while misunderstandings seldom are.” —Thomas Sowell
“Resolutions: So many will fail; NOT because they didn’t set goals, but because they didn’t set behaviors.” —Steve Maraboli
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” —Anonymous
“I’m not offended by blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb…and I also know that I’m not blonde.” —Dolly Parton
Books I Recommend:
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell (economist, author of 30 books, social theorist, Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution) by Jason L. Riley
Jesus Always: Embracing Joy in His Presence by Sarah Young, a powerful daily devotional
Videos and Movies I Recommend:
The Dressmaker with Kate Winslet: set in 1950’s Australia, a beautiful, talented dressmaker returns to her tiny hometown to right wrongs from her past. Humorous, quirky and suspenseful.
Personal Responsibility: the Ultimate Freedom with author, musician and podcaster Zuby Udezue. Another great 5-minute video from Prager University.