Last year, after fourteen years of trekking around in a Toyota minivan, my husband and I took the plunge and purchased a new vehicle. My first venture out in our new Volkswagen SUV was to work. As I drove through one of the highway construction zones with tractor trailers in the lanes to my right and left, I felt a constant tug on my steering wheel. Frustrated, my immediate thought was that something was wrong with this new vehicle and I longed for my reliable ‘ole minivan. Thankfully, the tugging stopped once the lanes widened. I guess I should have read rather than skimmed the contents of the owner’s manual. There was nothing wrong with the car, what I experienced was the lane-assist safety feature. Because the lanes in the construction zone were so narrow, the sensors automatically shifted the steering wheel so that the car, and I therein, remained safe within the boundaries.
A few days ago, I was walking by my boss’ office and noticed the constant barrage of colleagues standing by to get his attention. I knew he had a deadline to meet that afternoon. Establishing a few rules around his availability that day could have eliminated all those interruptions and protected his space and time to focus on completing his task. And, who knows, maybe a few of my colleagues could have figured out how to address the issues on their own – what a novel idea! We all have difficulties setting boundaries. Even something as simple as the time we set aside to catch up with a dear friend on the phone is worth protecting, no? My kids would get the “evil eye” if they dared to ask me some ridiculous question while I was immersed in such a phone call. That was my way of protecting that boundary and being present to my friend.
One of the most common obstacles that my coaching clients face is their struggle to protect their boundaries. Besides eliminating the obvious distractions such as turning off the cell phone or TV, my clients have come up with creative ways to establish and set expectations around designated work times both at home and in the office. They have also gone as far as to not allow themselves to be guilted into serving on yet another school committee.
Establishing boundaries and setting clear expectations can go a long way in placing appropriate limits on the external forces that keep us from reaping the rewards of fulfilling a personal or professional achievement. Focused productivity relieves us of our lingering to do lists so we can be fully present to the relationships and activities we value most. By allowing ourselves to live at the whim of external forces, we give those forces permission to direct our lives. Give those external forces the “evil eye”, protect your boundaries, and live your life as YOU intend.