One of my all-time favorite books is a business fable called, “Cirque du Soleil: The Spark – Igniting the Creative Fire that Lives within Us All,” by Lyn Heward and John U. Bacon. In it, the author tells the story of a burnt-out sports agent whose energy is renewed when he connects with the leader of the famed Cirque du Soleil. Among the important lessons imparted is that of setting boundaries.
Among the examples of boundaries or limitations mentioned in the book, the author references deadlines saying that, “…without them, your mind is not focused.” Another example: athletes and artists who perform for Cirque du Soleil must operate within the boundary of never putting themselves in danger – no matter how high they swing or fly, no matter how they move or change shape – otherwise, people get hurt. A good boundary to put in place.
When we think of boundaries, we often imagine walls that keep people out. But in reality, boundaries are healthy and necessary limits that protect our time, energy, and well-being. Setting boundaries can actually be freeing and empowering in all aspects of our lives, including our professional pursuits, our volunteer effort, and, certainly, our relationships. That may mean leaving work at a certain time each day and not checking work emails or messages outside of certain hours. It could mean that we decline invitations to social events with colleagues if we already have a full schedule. Or, perhaps we decline to do favors for others if we don’t have the time or energy.
Setting boundaries can help us to:
- Say no to additional responsibilities or projects that we don’t have time for
- Maintain a healthy work-life balance to avoid overwork and burnout
- Set clear expectations with colleagues, clients, organizations, friends, and family
- Protect our personal time, energy, and space, along with our emotional and physical well-being
- Avoid resentment and conflict
Setting boundaries can be challenging, especially if we’re not used to doing it. But it’s important to remember that we deserve to have our needs and wants respected. Here are a few tips for setting boundaries:
- Be clear and direct about your boundaries. Don’t beat around the bush or try to sugarcoat things.
- Be assertive, but not aggressive. It’s important to communicate your boundaries in a way that is respectful of yourself and others.
- Be consistent. Once you’ve set a boundary, it’s important to stick to it. This may mean saying no to people or requests, even if it makes them unhappy.
- Be prepared for resistance. Some people may not be happy when you set boundaries. But it’s important to remember that you have a right to protect your time, energy, and well-being.
Setting boundaries is an important skill for everyone to learn. It can help us to have more empowering and fulfilling lives.