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Drawing Boundaries is an Essential Skill for Getting What You Want

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If you’d like to learn how to implement boundaries in your everyday life so you can be fulfilled, sign up for the free 90-Day Master Class hosted by the founder of Addicted2Success.com, Joel Brown.


How many times have we all caved and immediately said yes to something we didn’t really want to do? Then, we either do the thing begrudgingly, or we give it our all and resent it every step of the way. Martyrdom will not get you what you want, but it will give you hemorrhoids. A U.S. Supreme Court justice once famously said that your right to swing your fist ends at my nose. A lack of boundaries is self-sabotage, and your inability to draw them will seriously obstruct you from getting your heart’s desires.

Establishing boundaries is an essential skill if you want to be fulfilled. Below, I’ll share some tips that will help you start implementing boundaries in your everyday life:

1. Get Clear on the Yes Behind the No

Let’s start with a basic technique for drawing a line in the sand that also incorporates a golden one-liner. A brilliant, fundamental phrase with three simple words is “No, thank you.” 

Why is this phrase so hard for some of us to say?! All you people pleasers, all you go-along-to-get-alongers, I get it. I relate. Saying no can be difficult. Yet, when you get clear on what you’re actually saying yes to, it gets a whole lot easier. 

The next time someone asks, “Will you volunteer for this committee?” take a moment to pause and think through what you really want. Before you utter a single, solitary word, and before they pounce on you, ask yourself, “If I don’t want to volunteer, what am I saying yes to? My self-respect? My integrity? Investing my time in a better opportunity? Ensuring my value?” Getting clarity on what you’re saying yes to is crucial for increasing your confidence and saying no with conviction. 

Maybe by saying no to volunteering, you are saying yes to more hours with your kids or more time to exercise. You might possibly be saying yes to less stress and more energy to complete an important project. Perhaps you’re saying yes to some sorely needed time to unwind. 

Saying no does not require an explanation, nor does it require an apology, but it does require clarity. This clarity comes from knowing exactly what you’re saying yes to. To set good boundaries, ask yourself, “What are my negotiables and non-negotiables? What might I need to say no to? And what does that mean I’m saying yes to instead?” 

Once you get clear on the yes behind the no, it’s much easier to say it without apologizing, delaying a commitment that you don’t ever want to fulfill, or saying yes resentfully.

“When you say ‘Yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘No’ to yourself.” – Paulo Coelho

2. Know When To Say No (to Yourself)

Setting boundaries doesn’t always require a verbal no. It can be a quiet, internal awareness of your limits and your own unique operating system. What you need and want is to best manage an optimal and highly functioning you. 

Do you know how to set limits with others as well as yourself? Do you know when to say yes and when to say no to yourself? Knowing when to say no is not the same as being able to say no. Fully knowing that we are separate from others helps us honor our own individual needs. It also makes it easier to filter out all the noise and take care of yourself. 

Can you hear your own needs and desires above the din of family, friends, neighbors, online posts, advertising campaigns, and well-intentioned soul-suckers? Can you feel your desires and needs through the screen of guilt, fear, or wanting to be liked? 

Setting boundaries is accepting the assignment of managing and caring for your own well-being. You are 100 percent responsible for your choices, decisions, and actions. When you can’t say no to the requests, demands, and pressures of others, you are no longer practicing self-care but other-care. When you can’t say yes to the self-care you need, such as time to refuel, reset, or rest, you’ve stopped accepting responsibility for self-love.

When you have clarity on where another person’s space ends and where your sense of self begins, establishing boundaries gets a whole lot easier. 

3. Stop Feeling Guilty

When you feel guilty because you believe you should say yes, should agree, should help out, you’re no longer in self-control and self-management, but rather self-denial, and in some cases self-abuse. You tell yourself,” A good person helps. David needs me. Jane shouldn’t do this alone. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” 

Even when you perceive that you are sacrificing your wants for the wants of others, it doesn’t necessarily make you generous or a responsible adult. However, it can make you question why you aren’t happier or why you feel empty or unfulfilled. It can make you wonder why you often feel lonely and left out or underappreciated and disrespected. It can result in your being stretched too thin or feeling exhausted.

Until you start to see that so-and-so isn’t actually making you do anything without your willing consent, you will never practice the discipline of self-care and self-love. Learning to draw lines in the sand is a fundamental skill of getting what you want.

It doesn’t mean you never help others. It means that you take care of yourself so that you, as your most awesome self, can go out and make a positive difference.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” – Steve Jobs

4. Their Reaction Is Out of Your Hands

You may be thinking, “That’s great, but what if they don’t cave so easily? What if they snarl and bite and say horrible things in reaction to my offer or request?” Let them. Inoculate yourself against their choices. You’re not responsible for their reactions. You are responsible for creating the life you want. One hundred percent responsible. 

The next time they throw a temper tantrum or behave egregiously, you might say in response to their tantrum, “Thank you for validating my request. As we can both see, it’s more than understandable.” 

Warning: this response won’t have them sitting up, smiling, and waiting for you to toss them a treat and say, “Good boy!” What it will do is let them know you respect yourself enough to have boundaries, and you won’t tolerate being pulled into their mess.

5. Install a Gate

Setting a boundary is not about building some huge, impenetrable wall. It’s about installing a gate. You can walk through it when you want. You can come and go as you please. 

With a gate, you can easily hand out the security code to a few folks and you can deny it to others. If need be, you can change the code. In other words, there are times you will say yes. There are times you will step up, not out of resentful obligation, but because you genuinely want to lend a hand. 

Then, there are times you will focus on yourself, without guilt, without fear, and without worrying that somehow you will be punished for prioritizing self-love. Taking care of yourself, showing yourself that you matter, and working through your resistance to setting boundaries is a splendid way to help yourself get whatever you want. 

How do you set boundaries in your daily lives? Share your advice and thoughts with us in the comments!

Amy K Hutchens is an international award-winning speaker, Amazon bestselling author, and has over nineteen years of experience in training and consulting with clients such as The Home Depot, Starbucks Canada, Comerica Bank, Expedia, Lockheed Martin, Securian Financial, Walmart, John Paul Mitchell Systems, and hundreds more. AmyK travels the globe sharing with executives, influencers, and go-getters how to navigate their toughest conversations. AmyK received her MS from Johns Hopkins University, and has been a featured guest on numerous TV and radio networks including Bloomberg, NBC, Fox, and ABC. She resides in San Diego, California.

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