Get the Desired Outcome You Want from Setting Boundaries

Uncategorized Dec 27, 2018

In the words of Steven Covey, it’s important to “begin with the end in mind.” Let’s be clear about that here. What is it we are trying to accomplish? The simple answer is this:

Gain control.

We are not trying to gain control of other people or of all the circumstances or even all of the outcomes. Those things will take care of themselves as you gain control of the only thing you can ever control — yourself. As you do that, you will experience the things all of us desire in the integration of work and life.

The irony is that most people are so caught up in trying to control the things they cannot control — other people, circumstances, or outcomes — that in the process they lose control of themselves. And here is the real paradox. It is only when you do take control of yourself that you will begin to have significant influence on those other things: people, circumstances, and outcomes. People in control of themselves do the most to influence everyone and everything around them to good ends, results, and profits. But they start with themselves, and that is the essence of boundaries.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s get back to that desired outcome, the vision. What does that look like? What is it we are trying to accomplish by building good boundaries? How about this? What if . . .

Each day when you get up, you know that you will spend that day pouring yourself, fully engaged, into the things that matter to you. What if you know that you will do your work well, getting great results, enjoying the process and the relationships that come with them? As a result, you feel invigorated and alive when you think about what you are going to do that day. Throughout the day, although there will be challenges, difficulties, problems, and even problem people, you will feel competent and confident to deal with what comes your way. While you may get tired, even exhausted at times, you will not feel depleted, burned out, or dead inside.

When you put your head on the pillow that night, you know that you moved the ball down the field that day, in the right game, and in ways that matter to you. You are where you are supposed to be, doing what you were made to do, accomplishing all that you are capable of. You feel good through it all, knowing that your professional life works well with the other things that are important to you: your family, your friendships, your avocations, your values, your passions, your health, and your spirituality. The two lives, work and the personal things you value, are not in conflict with each other, nor do they even feel like two lives. Instead, you feel like one person authentically living out different parts of yourself in an integrated fashion, not allowing any one part to become the whole, or to get in the way of the other parts. That is what it looks like to be fully human — and fully alive.

Certainly, that sounds good. But, do you think it is really possible? Before you write it off as impossibly idealistic, think about it. It had better be possible. The alternative does not sound good at all:

You wake up dreading another day in which you will feel disengaged as you pour your time and energy into things that do not matter to you. You may or may not get results, and the process and most of the relationships will bring you down. You will feel demotivated and heavy when you think about what is ahead of you that day. The challenges, problems, and difficulties feel overwhelming, and you know they will somehow get the best of you, no matter what. You know you will feel drained, burned out, powerless, and passionless when you are done.

At night, you look back and realize you have missed another day of doing what you were made to do, and nothing you accomplished is really important to you. Through it all, you felt squeezed and conflicted about the choices you had to make between your work and your personal life.

You realize your work keeps you from having what you need and want in those personal areas that matter greatly to you. It seems like work, supposedly only a part of life, has infected the whole of life with its weightiness, and you are not sure what has happened or what to do about it. So, tomorrow does not look a lot different than today.

People with good boundaries feel as if their lives belong to them, and no one else. Their feelings, thoughts, choices, desires, opinions, behaviors, talents, and whatever else goes on in their lives exist on their property—their minds, hearts, and souls. They do not “disown” these things by thinking they are someone else’s problem. They do not blame others when they are not feeling good. They do not make choices and then act like the consequences of those choices are because of someone else.

These people “own” their lives, their opportunities, their successes, failures, fears, or whatever else exists on their side of the fence. If a boss or co-worker or the market leaves them feeling bad, they acknowledge that problem as their own. It belongs to them. It is their problem, no matter who might be on the other end of it, or the cause of it. If the distress is in their soul, they take ownership of that distress, even if they did not cause it.

Which areas of your life — your time, energy, passion, and thoughts — do you own and to what extent? Do they really belong to you, or to someone else?

Need a safe place to relate to others about this topic? Join one of Dr. Henry Cloud's Boundaries Peer Groups. 

Boundaries in Marriage
Boundaries in Church

Boundaries with Codependency

Boundaries in Dating 
Boundaries with Parents
Boundaries with Adult Children
Boundaries After Divorce
Boundaries with Narcissists

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