Windows, Not Walls
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Hope you enjoy!
When you envision a boundary, what comes immediately to mind?
I'm not kidding here - give it some thought. Read this, then take a moment to think about it calmly and patiently...
Clear your head, take a deep breath and imagine a boundary that is really important to you. What is it keeping out? What is it keeping in? What is the shape of it? Is it solid? Liquid? Can you see through it? Is it clear or opaque? Do you visualize yourself in relation to the boundary?
What kind of boundary did you visualize? Does that visual represent all of your personal and professional boundaries, or just the particular one you were thinking about?
The beauty (and struggle) of boundaries is that they are what we make of them. Want your boundary rigid like a brick wall? It's up to you. Want a boundary that can flex or allow light through like a curtain? That's on you, babe.
LET THE LIGHT IN
For me, personal boundaries have - almost without exception - been a form of a wall.
A brick wall maybe. Or concrete. Something you could build a castle from. Those boundaries are solid and firm and designed to protect what it inside from whatever harm could come to them. Much like a castle wall protects the community inside from attackers and brigands.
Those are the kind of boundaries I needed to take care of myself. My socialization and my own personal history means that I found the idea of super solid, inflexible, and impenetrable boundaries super helpful.
Over time though, I've found that boundaries - particularly many professional boundaries - are most useful when they come with some flexibility, adaptability, or scalability.
The idea of a window has become more useful.
Consider: a window can be open or closed. It can have a light shade or a blackout curtain. Best of all? It can be changed to fit the weather on the other side.
Those different visuals have made me realize that how we visualize boundaries can have a very real impact on their effectiveness.
Where do you start when looking to set healthy boundaries?
Begin at the beginning, by understanding what you value (worksheet).
Discuss your boundaries with important people, like your boss (article)
Mentally prepare for when people do not respect your boundaries (video)
Challenge negative self-talk which tries to undermine your boundaries (article)
Want to feel more connected? Consider joining one of our Boss-to-Boss cohorts. These peer networks are designed to foster community in our inherently competitive world.