The truth about boundaries

There is one key element of boundaries that I never knew. And once I got the “truth” in my head, I started to handle my boundaries differently and more effectively. And this “truth” makes setting boundaries a lot easier.

After 10 years of practicing setting boundaries I first had to get this clear in my head:

People don’t need to respect your boundaries, you need to uphold them.

Basically, this means letting go of putting the responsibility on someone else to honour your boundaries and then, you taking action (not the other person) to uphold them.

But the one “truth” I still missed was what I was actually upholding?

When you uphold a boundary you are in essence managing your time commitments.

Yeah, I didn’t know that boundaries actually was a time commitment skill. A skill I didn’t have.

Commitment as defined in the dictionary is about dedication and lack of freedom due to obligation. Now, while this is an accurate definition, it fails to direct how we handle commitments.

Commitments are a decision you make ahead of time about your time. And looking at it from this perspective you can see how setting boundaries relates to time.

We give our time to work, our family, health, etc. And when we set a boundary around it we make a commitment about the amount of time we dedicate to it. We say we’ll go to the holiday dinner and spend time there. We say we’ll help a friend move so we’ll spend time there.

Upholding your boundaries means that in the moment when your boundary is challenged you keep your commitment. When we say we’re going to exercise at 9AM Saturday morning and your best friend texts you to have coffee at the time. What do you do?

Now, it may seem like there is no freedom as the formal definition suggests. But when you look at all the decisions about your time and map it out you actually become more flexible. How? Because you have the knowledge of how your time is being used and then, can adjust your schedule from an informed place rather than being at the whim of whenever someone asks you for your time last minute.

Time commitments at first look like a time management problem but really it comes done to what you commit to ahead of time and then, what you choose to do in the moment.

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