As we start our new year with some fresh New Years resolutions, it is easy to get off to a good start and then lose focus as we tackle more things and feel the strain of more pressures. This requires setting boundaries. What do I mean by boundaries? It involves knowing and holding our own limits. Our boundaries mark where we end and others begin. Instead of separating us from others, boundaries allow us to connect in a deeper way. Haven’t you noticed that you respect others more when they set and reinforce their boundaries?
Here are 5 steps to remaining focused, setting limits and holding on to your boundaries:
1. List your limits – the lines you must draw to stay focused.
Without good boundaries, we become exhausted, resentful, and implicated in other people’s problems. For example, limits can be: I will get to bed no later than 10:00 pm. Or I will complete one task at a time and only take on the next when I am satisfied I am finished. And I will not engage in gossip. I will politely extricate myself, ending the discussion.
2. Acknowledge any tension you feel.
According to Charles Jones at the Institute for Adaptive Mastery, emotions carry messages and show up through physical tension. Pay attention to signs such as a stiff neck, tightness in your shoulders and back, which can signal you are feeling stress. Tightness in your stomach and chest may signal fear. You can tell this more easily by breathing into these areas of your body and then letting go of your breath fully, relaxing that area. Keep doing this until you feel a release. You then may be able to name the emotion, which will let you know when a boundary needs reinforcing. For example, if you feel anxious, the message is that you are not feeling on track to mitigate a risk. You can then ask yourself, what are my concerns about “what ifs…?” How can I address them?
3. Listen to your subconscious voice – your gut.
Our subconscious works many times faster than our conscious mind, and our gut is almost always right. Trust the voice of your deeper self and don’t second-guess yourself.
4. Start small by drawing limits on minor things.
This allows you to practice setting boundaries so you will feel more confident setting limits on the bigger things. For instance, I will say no to tasks that push me into weekend work or I will not bring work home or work beyond 6:00 pm.
5. Align yourself with people who support your boundaries.
You can reinforce who you are by associating with others who support you and respect your feelings. You must know exactly what you will not allow in your life and disengage from anyone who takes over, tries to manipulate, or doesn’t behave with respect. Watch out for others who try to guilt-trip or pressure you. Know who they are and avoid them until you are stronger.
The more you practice clarifying your limits, and establishing the boundaries that improve your focus and wellbeing, the more your connections with others at work and at home will be fulfilling, healthy, and authentic.