After last week's post about making your priorities an anchor, a number of readers reached out to say, "I know it is important to identify priorities, but then what? How can I protect them?" It is a good, and important, question.
The answer is straightforward: to protect your priorities, you need boundaries. But that doesn't mean it is always simple...
The lovely Lori Mihalich-Levin recently tackled this issue on her blog, and I like how she broke it down. She speaks from the perspective of a busy working mama, but her advice is relevant to anyone who struggles to set effective, enforceable limits. I encourage you to read her entire piece here, but for those of you who prefer to cut right to the chase, she recommends the following:
Defining Boundaries: In her piece, Mihalich-Levin offers a beautifully non-intimidating analogy. She invites us to view boundaries as a fence around a large playground: staying within the fence allows us to freely and safely experience the things we enjoy. This approach makes boundaries about freedom rather than restriction, which is a helpful framework.
Setting Boundaries: This is the heart of the matter. After identifying what matters most to you, you need to determine what obstacles are standing in your way. Do you want to be more present with your family members? Perhaps you need to set a limit around when and how you use your phone at home. Have you set a physical goal? Maybe you need to limit television viewing to ensure you have time to hit the gym. When you have decided on your boundaries, write them down, repeat them to yourself, and tell someone else. An invisible boundary is an ineffective boundary.
Honoring Boundaries: I like the terminology of honoring boundaries so much more than enforcing boundaries. If we have established meaningful, intentional limits, our adherence shouldn't be a matter of force or deprivation. We can be comfortable saying no to opportunities that fall outside our fence because we understand what we gain in the process. Recognizing that we don't live in isolation and our decisions inevitably affect others, Mihalich-Levin also suggests allowing your limits to be permeable at times. Give your fence a gate you can open when necessary to let someone or something into or out of your playground.
As with anything, practice is critical, and patience with yourself is paramount. Some boundaries will work better than others. Some will need to evolve over time and some will become obsolete. But putting these principles in practice will enable you to more effectively pursue your priorities. Happy planning...