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Why You Need Good Boundaries

marathon gamesThat’s a photo of Griffin with his good friend at the “Marathon Games” – a 6-hour celebration and the culmination of his year-long soccer season.

It also marked the achievement of another one of the goals he had for himself – to score more goals in the spring than he did last fall.

It’s so wonderful to see him celebrate his success after he achieves a long-held goal!

The sad fact is that many people never achieve long-held goals because they find it hard to ask for what they need and get support for making them happen in the first place.

As it happens, I believe the not asking has a lot to do with not having good boundaries, that is, with not being able to tell people what is and is not okay with you.

Not setting boundaries is also the source of A LOT of unnecessary suffering – so, if you have this issue, read on!

I recently read a great question from Brené Brown that has really informed my thinking about how good boundaries are REQUIRED to live in integrity, love and generosity. Here it is: What boundaries need to be in place for me to stay in my integrity and make the most generous assumptions about you?

Make no mistake: when you value yourself enough to make good boundaries, you will show up more powerfully in all areas of your life – and all areas of your life will benefit.

But there is a caveat: If you are not in the habit of making yourself a priority, you have taught the other people in your life that you are not a priority.

So be forewarned: those others in your life will have gotten in a habit of seeing you in a certain way. When you start showing up differently it may cause some dissonance for them. They may not be able to show you the support you’d like as soon as you like it.

BUT I PROMISE that if you follow the 4 rules for creating good boundaries below, you WILL get their support and encouragement to continue this new way of being in the world.

Rule #1: Identify The “Boundary Breakers” You Deal with Most

business boundariesHere’s the thing: Boundaries are agreements you have with yourself and others about how you want to be treated.

While no one likes to admit to getting hooked into a boundary issue – a situation in which one of these “how to treat me” agreement gets broken – the truth is, it happens to all of us. Which makes it critical for you to know exactly which types of “boundary breakers” are likely to undermine your priorities.

For example: If you routinely do too much for others and not enough for yourself, you’re likely to have people in your life who are asking for more than you can give while honoring your priorities to yourself. Makes sense, right?

Or if you’re someone who inwardly questions her own value, you’re likely attracting people in your life who question your value and don’t see why they should be inconvenienced so that you can take care of yourself. Also makes sense, right?

Dr. Phil is right when he says YOU teach people how to treat you.

Now that you know where you’re most likely to get hooked, it’s time for the next step.

Rule #2: Know How To Handle These Situations BEFORE They Happen.

Being unprepared isn’t likely to set you up for success, is it? Which is why I highly recommend you get a strategy in place in advance of your boundary being tested.

For example, if you tend to acquiesce when asked to do something for others, even when that means you won’t be able to do something for yourself (like exercise or plan and shop for healthy meals), then define your priorities in advance and then have them written out on a paper you can refer to easily.

This way, when a request is made for your time, and it’s something you’d like to do but conflicts with plans you’ve made, you’ll be able to confidently say:

“Thanks for thinking of me, and I’d love to help. However, I have plans for that time (you can be a little more forthcoming about what you’re doing if you like, but it’s not necessary). Would you like to look at our schedules and find another time that works for both of us?”

If a request is made for your time and you know it’s something you don’t want to do (or even if you’re pretty sure it’s not), kindly say:

“Thanks for thinking of me, but I won’t be able to help. I’m making “x” (my health, writing a book, spending more time with my kids, etc.) a priority and that’s taking up all my free time right now.”

Rule #3: Don’t Make Excuses Or Over Explain

Giving excuses and over-explaining when a simple explanation will do just lets people know that you need to please and need to be loved, and that you’re prepared to sacrifice yourself to make that happen.

Remember, you are the priority here and you need to please yourself and love yourself before you truly can be of service to anyone else.

Of course, this is challenging to remember when you’re feeling triggered. So here’s what to do to prepare for those moments when you’re going to want to tell someone your excuse or explanation.

The key is to take deep belly breaths and focus on 3 things:

#1 Taking care of yourself is never selfish.

#2 You are not responsible for someone else’s feelings.

#3 (really just a corollary to #2) No circumstance or person is ever responsible for how you feel. You decide how you want to feel by choosing the thoughts to support that feeling. Instead of focusing on how bad you feel because you didn’t help someone else, focus on how good you feel for helping yourself.

When you skip the excuses and the over-explaining your commitment to yourself will shine through. You’ll find yourself earning your own respect and the respect of others.

Rule #4: Define Your Priorities and Share Your Agreements/Boundaries

Make no mistake: Taking responsibility for yourself and your feelings is one of THE most challenging paths you’ll ever walk.

And learning how to define your priorities and create and maintain awesome agreements/boundaries is a big part of valuing your self and improving all aspects of your life.

Just think about it: Do you want others to do for you from a place of duty, guilt, or resignation? Of course not! Then why do you allow yourself to stand in that place when you do for them?

So grab a pen and jot down three agreements/boundaries you know you need to put into place in order to honor your priorities and yourself. They can be things like:

  • “I won’t check email until after I eat a healthy breakfast and exercise in the morning.”
  • “For the next week, I’m not going to agree to any change to my schedule without at least 48 hours’ notice.”
  • “I will ask my husband for help in creating a schedule that will work for our family.”

Share your agreements/boundaries with your family, your friends, your coworkers and anyone else close to you so they can know about them in advance (no more expecting your spouse to be a mind reader, okay?). If you do this, you’ll find they will support you as you make this important shift.

You can do this and YOU are worth it!

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How to wake up from a nightmare

Griffin's birthday slumber partyThe photo to the right was taken at Griffin’s birthday slumber party for his BFF’s.

You may remember that we had a big birthday party for all of his classmates a couple of weeks ago, but this was an opportunity to celebrate Griffin and his friends and the great friendships these special boys share.

I’m thrilled to enjoy such lovely moments, but make no mistake, I work hard to create them. They simply wouldn’t happen if I didn’t set many intentions and then take a whole lot of actions to ensure they happen.

So, yes, it takes a lot of focused energy to make sure good things happen…but what about when bad things happen? After all, bad things seem to happen with no effort on our part. They seem, in fact, to happen even when we make considerable effort to avoid them.

Many people I know are dealing with really unfortunate circumstances, and of course I’ve confronted enough of my own that I’ve learned it takes even more focused energy to respond to such circumstances powerfully.

Byron Katie has the most powerful process I know for dealing with such challenges. What makes her process so powerful? It’s powerful because it deals with the only thing you have any control over in any situation – your thoughts.

In the spring of 1999, a tornado ripped a massive old oak tree out of my backyard and threw it into my neighbor’s driveway, crushing three cars.

wake up from a nightmareI’ve had nightmares about tornadoes ever since. And ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had nightmares about being engulfed in tsunami-like waves.

Do you see a theme here? My nightmares always involve events over which I have no control.

In one of my most memorable nightmares, I dreamed that my son had a bunch of friends over to play. One of them opened the back door to go outside and said, “Look at that cloud!” It was a funnel cloud headed right for our home.

I screamed for everyone to get inside, but I couldn’t find my son. In that moment of panic I realized I was dreaming and told myself to wake up. But somehow I chose to find my son first.

My panic continued to rise as I searched for him in vain, and then, just as I felt the tornado sucking the air out of the house, I commanded myself to wake up. I woke in a cold sweat.

Carl Jung once said, “When an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate.”

Now, I don’t think my dreams are inviting another tornado to come roaring up to my house, but I do think my recent unconscious experiences provide an opportunity to look at other things in my life I consider undesirable, or even nightmarish, and invite myself to wake up to the reality, which is storm-free.

It’s funny, but I see that even in my nightmare I wanted to make things right – I wanted to find my son and keep him safe before I would wake up.

And that makes me wonder: how often do I try to force a conclusion – what I consider to be a desirable outcome – instead of making peace with the present moment?

I’m sure it happens a lot. That’s why, I think, I chose to keep the nightmare going rather than wake up to reality.

When I attended the “Who Would You Be Without Your Story?” event hosted by Byron Katie a few years ago, I saw her help people wake up from what I consider the worst nightmares – death of a child, sexual abuse, chronic pain, addiction – and see that our biggest crises are our greatest teachers.

She said, “If you see anything as the enemy, your mind gives you all the concepts to believe it. To break free, we need big teachers.”

What I learned was that the mind’s job is to prove that it’s right. When you believe any negative thought, your mind will deny all evidence to the contrary, and be very selective about the facts that it will even allow to serve as evidence.

Ultimately you have to ask yourself, “Does this thought bring peace or stress into your life?” And if it’s the latter, you are responsible for burdening yourself with that stress.

I want to share a bit of dialogue between Byron Katie and a woman who had a son, sister and mother die from cancer. She said she was in constant pain because of her losses.

She said cancer was the enemy and she hated it. Katie invited her to do the Work with her.

I’ve shared Katie’s (to me) revolutionary process in other articles, and you can read more here if it’s new to you.

Here is her conversation with this woman who lost so many of her family members to cancer:

BK: What image do you see when you think the thought, “Cancer is the enemy and I hate it.”

Woman: I see my son dying.

BK: Go back to what you were doing when he was dying…

Woman: I was loving my son.

BK: That sounds beautiful.

Woman: He said, “I love you…forever.” right before he died. I guess I can hold on to that thought.

BK: What did cancer teach you?

Woman: It taught me that I’m a loving mother. I used to doubt that.

BK: Give me another example of what cancer taught you.

Woman: Cancer taught me to live. It taught me not to take anyone or anything for granted.

BK: Cancer is a great teacher.

If you have a problem with a person, or a condition you find undesirable, Katie invites you to put your stressful thoughts on paper and question them using her process.

The questions educate you. They teach you that it is not your situation, but your thoughts about your situation that make it undesirable.

As you do the Work, you learn to replace the stressful thoughts with non-stressful thoughts that are as true as or more true than the ones you’ve been having.

We think we want control over undesirable situations, but don’t we all really want peace? Don’t we really want the undesirable situations to cause us much less stress?

After all, everything “out there” really is out of our control, and down deep we know that. But our thoughts are under our control.

As long as we are aware of them, we can write them down, we can invite them to tell us what they want to say, and we can find out from them what we need to learn.

And it’s crucial that we do that. Bad feelings are an alarm clock, signaling to us that we need to wake up from our dream. And take it from me: if you find yourself in a nightmare, your first order of business is to wake yourself up.

It’s time for you to create YOUR Bucket List!

May 10, 2016

Last week Griffin turned 11! The photo to the right was taken at the trampoline park where he celebrated with his friends! The park had an obstacle course, a basketball court (where you could get a big enough bounce to do an awesome dunk!) and a dodge ball court. It was another amazing experience that

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Why the Problem is Never the Problem

May 3, 2016

The photo to the right was taken after a very celebratory last game of the season for Griffin’s soccer team. They won 4-0 to one of the league’s best teams! I mentioned the team in a newsletter a few weeks ago after their first win all year – yes, the team played together all last

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Stop wasting your time in negative emotion and do this instead!

April 26, 2016

That’s a photo of me with Griffin taken during the Rainbow Marketplace for Socially Responsible Entrepreneurship. He and his fellow sixth grade entrepreneurs sold their products and shared about their socially responsible businesses on the school’s deck on Friday. Griffin practically sold out all of his stock (30 of his 34 Tiny Terraria!) and made

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How to Use Your Emotional Guidance System to Feel Great AND Accomplish Great Things

April 19, 2016

Yesterday I celebrated my 18th wedding anniversary with the amazing man you see in the picture to the right. We’ve actually been together for 23 years, which, I’m sure you can appreciate, is no small feat. Of course, we’ve had our share of conflict in our marriage, but as Mignon McLaughlin, American journalist and author,

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How to Be Your Brain's BFF

April 12, 2016

That’s a photo of Griffin with his beloved Coach Zak after his team won their first game of the entire fall/spring season 5-4! Griffin scored the game-winning goal and just all-around played awesome. Each week various members of his team would bemoan their losses and look at future games with resignation and doubt. But not

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You're Changing the World (whether you like it or not)

April 5, 2016

That’s a photo of Griffin with Mason LaMotte accepting the Rainbow Community School Peace Award on behalf of his dad, David, a local songwriter and activist for peace who was out of town for a retreat. Griffin researched David’s life and interviewed him for his project, and what a rich life it is. David is

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How an "Empathy Jolt" Jumpstarts Your Happiness!

March 29, 2016

That’s a photo of Griffin with 2 of his BFFs after an impromptu Easter Egg Hunt. I thought they might be too old for it, but when I asked if they were interested their all-out enthusiasm confirmed that you’re never too old for friends, fun AND candy! Along with Easter I also celebrated a very

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How to Say No to Other People and Say YES to Yourself (a proven strategy for doing what lights YOU up)

March 22, 2016

That’s a photo of me and Doug celebrating his birthday at our favorite French bistro. Notice the Paris skyline in the background? C'est magnifique! I’m SO close to pulling the trigger and sending my revised book proposal to my agent. At which point I hope she’ll sell it. Fingers crossed!! Writing the proposal (not to

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