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Protect vs. Affect: How are You Using Your Boundaries?

Strong boundaries are an essential part of an Audacious Life. Without them, it's easy to say yes when you really mean no. Tasks and commitments begin to build up, and before you know it, you have no time, energy, or freedom to go after your own dreams or make the positive changes that you want for yourself.

There's another side to having strong internal boundaries: with them, others know how to interact with you.

They know what you will and will not do. They know what you do and do not value. And they know what answers they'll get if they do ask for your time or talent.

So how are you using your boundaries: to protect yourself or to affect the environment around you?

Protect

When you first begin claiming your Audacious Life, you are very often setting and upholding boundaries in order to protect yourself.

(In fact, this is the main reason why we cover how to set effective boundaries in Release & Refine, my multimedia workbook on creating time for your Audacious Life.)

Allowing yourself to go after and have what you really want is a new feeling, and because it's so foreign, it's also easy to get derailed in the beginning.

You may be frightened, consciously or subconsciously, of what lies ahead.

You may not have a supportive group of people around you.

You may feel that in finally admitting to yourself that you want something MORE, the life you have is crumbling around you.

On top of all of this, the people in your life have no idea that you've made these internal shifts, and they'll continue to ask you to take on just one extra project at work, to fix dinner for the surprise guest coming home tonight, to bake three dozen cupcakes, or make some other demand on your time and energy.

And, because you're frightened, unsupported, or feeling insecure, you may just allow others to make those demands.

But you can't, for your own sake. You have to have your boundaries in place to protect yourself.

Affect

Eventually, the boundaries you uphold will begin to affect the environment around you.

When new people come into your life, they will quickly learn what your boundaries are—whether through experience or because you told them upfront.

The people who were already in your life eventually make one of two decisions: they accept your boundaries and change with you, or they reject your boundaries and fall away.

In both cases, it comes down to expectation management. When others learn what they can and cannot expect from you, then they can change their behavior accordingly. (Or not. But that's another topic for another day.)  And when you do this on a consistent basis, you set the tone for your personal situation.

A Warning

Attitude is everything here.

It's one thing to establish boundaries for the sake of your health and happiness. I highly encourage that, because the happier you are and the more you take care of yourself, then the better you can serve others. As Gretchen Rubin writes in her "Further Secrets of Adulthood" column, "Be selfish, if only for selfless reasons."

However.

It's a totally different thing to refuse to share the load, to make demands on others' time and energy, to reject your personal responsibilities, and to expect special or deferential treatment.

This shows a great deal of disrespect for yourself and to the people around you. You will, of course, affect your personal situation, and you may not like the results.

Bamboo, Not Ironwood

Finally, your boundaries are not meant to be inflexible or rigid.

Sometimes, an emergency requires you to act outside of your boundaries.

Sometimes, your circumstances change and you need to reevaluate your boundaries.

Sometimes, you just feel like doing something unexpected and out of the ordinary.

In the end, your boundaries are an outer reflection of your inner Personal Core Values. A little flexibility with your boundaries (within reason) does not mean that you are devaluing yourself or ignoring that which you hold dear.

Want some help with establishing your boundaries?

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We discuss boundary-setting in detail in Release & Refine, my multimedia workbook for creating time for your Audacious Life.

We start by discovering your Personal Core Values, a set of—you guessed it—values that you hold above all else and that affect everything you do. Then, through a series of easy and proven exercises, you use your Personal Core Values to establish firm (but not inflexible!) boundaries so that you can continue to go after your dreams and become the person you truly want to be.

Click here to learn more about Release & Refine