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Draw your lines (and simplify your life)

Set your standards. Commit to them. And let the rest go.

Photo: Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash

I recently re-arranged my work schedule to make time for something I have missed doing: taking a mid-morning yoga class once or twice a week. It’s a simple way to commit to my ongoing goal of feeling great in my body.

When I shared this with an acquaintance, I heard something that is far too familiar: another version of “here’s why I could never do that”.

His “why nots” were filled with assumptions. (In this case, about the differences in our work lives and personal commitments that allow me to change schedules.)

The thing is, those assumptions weren’t true. You see, none of this is really about re-arranging a schedule or prioritizing wellness. That’s just today’s example. You could substitute any topic you like in this conversation.

It’s about where our lines get drawn, who is drawing them and the beliefs we have about the choices we make.

How and when I work and what I prioritize is just a line that I drew for myself early on. One that matters to me and that I commit to holding, even more so now as a model for what I coach.

It’s that simple.

Everyone has these lines. Some of them we’ve drawn and many others we’ve adopted without paying much attention. We all have choices about what we let into our life and how we respond to what life is presenting to us. Our lines are where those choices play out.

We all draw our lines in different places. Where are yours?

Our lines are where our boundaries, standards and values all come into play. Drawing them requires you to be intentional, to decide where you are willing to commit, and to prioritize among the vast amount of things vying for your attention, energy or time.

Drawing your lines puts you in control—of you.

This is how you take a stand for your bigger picture vision. Clear lines help you to define what matters to you, identify and give yourself what you need to be your best, and be honest about what you will and will not create in your life.

If you’re getting started with drawing your lines, it’s easy to be reactive instead of creative. When we’re being reactive, we enact a shield to protect ourselves against perceived threats. We try to wall out what we don’t want.

That can be useful, but drawing a line is about you, not them (and not about controlling outside circumstances). It’s where you set your own standards and priorities. It’s where you make your values count by putting them into practice.

Your lines are joyful and life affirming. They’re the engines of your day. They help you grow into your vision.

Your lines are about who you are being as well as what you’re doing.

This requires nothing from anyone else. But it does require some work from you– work that eventually makes everything simpler. Everything.

It’s a decision-making framework. (Not within your line? Then it’s a no.)

It’s empowering. (You made this rule. Don’t like it? Change it.)

It focuses your energy. (If you know what works for you, you naturally focus there.)

It eliminates drama lightning fast. (You’ve already set your standards so you know what will meet them—and what will not.)

It gets you unstuck. (Channel that creativity into holding your lines and you move forward, faster.)

Excuses, experimentation + evidence

Where are you saying “here’s why I could never do that” to something that intrigues you? Where are you making excuses or assumptions that prevent you from moving towards what you really, really want?

That’s your clue.

You’ll need to experiment to see where you want to draw a line, and be creative in practicing ways of holding it.

If you’re like me and my clients, you might find that real-life inspiration and evidence helps to counter the excuses and assumptions. While you’re looking for your own evidence, here are some examples from my recent experiences:

For the working mom who is committed to putting family first, drawing a line meant exploring new work opportunities instead of continuing to tolerate a job that was at odds with her priorities – while remaining her family’s breadwinner.

For the woman who is done with pushing away or denying her emotions to make others feel comfortable, drawing lines has meant showing up for difficult conversations, including with herself.

For the CEO who surprised his colleagues by giving employees responsibility for creating sustainable work-life balance, it meant being vulnerable, sharing his own experiences and trusting his team to test out new ways of working and communicating.

For the entrepreneur who is navigating a major life and work change, drawing her lines meant getting comfortable with what makes her different, instead of obsessing over how to fit in.

For the young couple with a toddler and an infant traveling around a foreign country, drawing a line meant sticking to their vision of the family life they want to create instead of listening to well-meaning naysayers.

For the new manager who took a stand for work that lights her up, honoring her line meant learning to see her strengths and demonstrate her value within her company to open up more challenging career opportunities.

Start here.

I encourage you to go out into your world and find the lines that matter most to you. Experiment with the stand you want to take.

Try on these mottos:

I am a person who ___________________.

I am a person who does not ___________________.

____________________ is non-negotiable for me.

What matters to me that I make time every day/week for _________________.

Draw your lines for you. Stand tall. Commit without apology to the vision you have for who you are being and how that shows up for you– at home, at work, in the world.

Originally published at wholelifestrategies.com

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