I never struggled with boundaries and balance in my life because I didn’t even know they/it existed. To be completely honest with you, I had no idea what a boundary was until I started letting everyone trample all over them. Literally. I suddenly recognized EXACTLY what a boundary was, and I knew I needed to get clear on them STAT.
Being there for my son as a single mom and being there for my clients as a business owner pulled me in opposite directions for 20 years of my career. The company always won and yes, I have tons of regrets. That is time I can’t get back. Ever.
As a business owner and executive I always had hired help at home so had no excuse (or so I thought) for not putting in the 60+++ hours each week. The need to be the face for my business kept me on the road and away from the dinner table way too many nights. All the gourmet dinners entertaining clients and attending networking events featuring cocktails and appetizers as “dinner” was putting my health off-kilter, but business was good, and finances were flowing.
Ultimately, being there to support my clients on-site during their programs prevented me from being a mom to my son, giving myself time to recharge my batteries, sleeping and eating right, and more. Work responsibilities always took priority over my personal life.
While you are reading the above, you may be saying to yourself, ‘So what? That is just the way it is if you want to have a successful career.’
I am calling “Bullshit!” on anyone that believes that right here and right now.
You see, we have been so programmed that this is ‘the norm’ that it has become acceptable to expect this. We have allowed this to become our standard as a measurement of success: how many hours can we put in.
Meanwhile, this puts a massive amount of strain on people’s health, family dynamics, and inter-personal relationships. We know this now. We know this is not the way it should be. We know we need to change this belief system STAT.
This is actually you having a lack of firm boundaries and also disrespecting yourself.
Late in my meetings industry career, I was retained by a company for multiple services, including securing an opening General Session speaker. They selected Dan Thurmon, an entrepreneur and motivational speaker who had written a book called Off Balance, On Purpose. I was both fascinated and appalled by the title of both his book and message; there is no such thing as true work-life balance. I was devastated by this!
I still have the book and do plan on reading it – One Day. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to read it as I’ve been a little per-occupied creating Balance – on Purpose – in my life.
His book came to mind today as I chose to write about boundaries. Dan believes we never can achieve that perfect balance and “we should learn to embrace uncertainty and initiate positive changes that lead to personal and professional growth.” Pick up the book and give it a read. I’ve a hunch the nuggets you glean from it will compliment my suggestions below for finding a balance that works for you in both your career and personal life.
Too often, we set boundaries for ourselves but allow others to trample all over them. This creates resentment for the boundary crosser and can cut into your ability to handle stress or re-charge your batteries when needed. And when you are the one crossing your own boundaries? Well, you’ve no one to blame but yourself.
You see, the bottom line is, having good boundaries means respecting yourself enough to stand firm to the reasonable boundaries you’ve set for yourself.
Read on for 4 tips on setting boundaries and sticking to them.
#1 LET’S TALK PERSONAL BOUNDARIES AND RESPECT
We, as humans, have put ourselves at the bottom of our take-care of list for so long it is sickening. We are quick to cancel on our family, our health, our friends, and ourselves the moment we get a request from a client or boss or colleague. Our clients, bosses and colleagues are quick to make an ask of us – for us to cancel our family time, sacrifice our self-care time and needs and guess what? They ask because they know we will say yes to them. Because we always do.
By being so committed to our careers (or afraid of losing our jobs?), we have given the hierarchy of the corporate world permission to use and abuse us as they desire, all in the name of bottom line profits, with no regard for the impact on their greatest asset: their human capital!
Truth bomb: You are the only one that can install boundaries in your life, and it is up to you to enforce and respect them. I truly believe this is part of the shift we will see moving forward as the world opens back up with new norms. The importance of self-care will be part of the new norm.
Millennial and Gen Z have already laid the groundwork for this by bringing mental health awareness to the conversation, many burning out before the age of 30 and they are demanding change and to be heard. This is the largest generation since the Baby Boomers. Corporations, business owners, and management are going to have to start to listen; this is their workforce of the future.
Here’s an example of how I respect my personal boundaries every single day: I know I must take care of my health. Mandatory! It is now my first priority above all else. If I am not taking care of myself, providing myself with self-care, then I risk running on an empty tank with nothing left to give others – including my clients, colleagues, etc.
Every Sunday night I look at my upcoming week and literally BLOCK time in my calendar for tank-filling self-care activities. These days, that looks like scheduling a bike ride for one day and a beach walk for another. Maybe I’ll schedule a YouTube Yoga sweat sesh for a third day. Regardless, these are just a few of the activities that I need in order to remain healthy.
What does scheduling of self-care for my week have to do with boundaries? I’m so glad you asked!
Let’s say I get a call from a client asking for a coaching session over one of the times I have scheduled self-care for myself. Here’s my response to the request; “Client, I have another commitment at that particular time but I am available at XX:XX time. Will that work for you?”
I did not say no. I did not share ‘what’ my commitment was, just that I had something else. And I offered an alternative. Now that is respecting a boundary.
The reality is, YOU ARE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT CLIENT. Start treating time set aside for yourself as an appointment with your most important client. Respect that boundary.
#2 KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO.
This applies just as much to taking on new projects as it does for going for that third martini at a networker or client dinner (see Moderation below).
Let’s talk a work-related ‘Ask’ first. Does the project you’re being asked to help on move your career forward? Does it expose you to new skills that you’ve wanted to hone that are not part of your normal work responsibilities? Does it put your face and name in front of those you desire to do business with or learn from? Or does it simply take the project off someone else’s plate with no added benefit or value to you professionally? If the later, it does not serve you to take on the project. Evaluate each opportunity and how it serves your growth or goals before saying yes. A ‘No’ delivered with kindness goes much further than a direct no. “I’d love to take on that project for you; however, I would be doing the project a disservice by accepting it at this time”.
#3 MODERATION IS A GREAT BOUNDARY!
As for that third martini….ask yourself the next morning with a clear head; Was I on my best professional behavior at dinner or was I a little too free and casual with my client last night? How dehydrated am I this morning? Check the pads of your fingers for this. If they are wrinkly like you’ve been swimming, that is dehydration. Do I have a headache? What was it I told the clients I would do first thing this morning for them? If you are not sure about any of these answers, you need to start stopping at two drinks. And if you have no headache, are not at all dehydrated, and THINK you had a great night’s sleep…..well, this might not be the article you are looking for.
You can plan and prepare for this. Alternate your alcohol intake while networking or dining with clients with club soda or iced tea. Take a pass when the appetizer tray comes around for the third time and make healthier selections when dining out. I can guarantee you, if you make healthier choices your clients will follow suit and appreciate you taking the lead on this.
While networking with alcohol can be fun and help the conversation flow, if you value your health and wellness, learning to find balance in your alcohol and food consumption will help you keep your wellness on track and prevent hangovers the next day which YOU KNOW will negatively impact your productivity and focus.
Know you’re going to a networker through the dinner hour? Pack a high protein snack to have before you go. Rolled meats, a protein shake with added peanut butter, oats, or bananas go far as a healthy filler to help you stay away from too much alcohol and yummy high-calorie appetizers.
#4 BE SELECTIVE AND CHOOSE WISELY
This is saying no to things that do not benefit you. There are networking opportunities every night of the week. Be selective as to which ones you commit to. Does this one put you in front of an audience of prospective clients or peers? Is there a buyer there you have been wanting to meet that will be there? Is there a learning opportunity at this one that will forward your career? What is the impact if you are not personally there? Is there someone else on your team that may get better value from going in your place? By asking these questions before accepting, you are making sure the networker fits into the boundaries you’ve created for yourself. You will be able to curtail the too-many-networkers a week down to just a couple, giving you more quality time with family, loved ones, and even yourself!
Do you ever feel resentment in your belly when you are doing something you agreed to do but now while doing it you’re kinda seething and having a complete bitch-fest in your mind about it? There is a good chance you’ve been allowing someone or something to trample over a boundary you didn’t even know you had. For this I recommend journaling. Yep, write it down, remember it, commit it to memory and drill down to the root cause. What were you doing when you noticed the resentment starting? Was it an ask? Who asked? Was it something you should have said no to? The next time someone has an ‘Ask’ for you that automatically goes to resentment in your belly, know there is a boundary in there and it is OK for you to kindly take a pass. This gut reaction is like intuition. Listen to it.
Still need help? Let’s talk. I got this boundary thing down pat now.
Hi I’m Rachelle Stone. I was a 25+ year veteran of the Meeting & Convention Industry who, in 2014, left to transition to full time Consulting & Coaching after my implosion (yes, I burned out!). I now guide stressed out business owners and executives through the strategic steps needed to break through plateaus and ceilings, accelerate their growth, increase profits, and reach their goals WITHOUT burning out.
BEFORE YOU GO
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Are you a high performer who can’t say no and is fearing burnout? I love to coach high performers through the process of learning how to set boundaries and navigate the challenges of being a high achiever WITHOUT burning out. Coaching provides you with an outside perspective, someone to hold you accountable to your goals and get you to the finish line quicker, all while advocating for you to succeed. Let’s chat for 30 minutes on my dime and see if we are a match to work together on your journey.
And if you (or someone you know & love) are anything like I was and would rather be more like what I have become – someone who wants to do great things in your career while still loving your life – I invite you to hop on over to my website and take a look around. There’s a cool and quick assessment you can pick up for FREE which will help you determine your current state of capacity and balance right on the home page. Then let’s stay in touch!