“We’re tight fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should be the toughest of misers.” - Seneca

In my old life as a corporate executive I used to find myself laid up in bed every couple of months with a bad flu or cold.

Now, one might assume that being ill would mean resting, but instead I’d be propped up in my bed with my computer on my lap working away… every single time.

The more that was asked of me, the more I said yes and delivered. The old saying if you want something done, ask a busy person rang true in my case.

My old boss once told me that my core skill was 'getting shit done’.  Which I wore like a badge of honour.

Now, these all might sound like great qualities for someone who truly values a solid work ethic but I was continually filling a full pond.  Each time a new task appeared I removed nothing from my full plate, I just kept adding,

The lack of boundaries in my work and life meant that every waking moment was full. Not to mention it was making me sick and the things that truly mattered to me like human connection, positively impacting the lives of others and being present and in the moment were side-lined.

I just didn’t have time for them…or so I thought.

I’m wondering if this might feel familiar to you?

Today I want to challenge you to look at boundaries through a new lens and consider how critical they are to amplifying your energy levels, your mental wellbeing and your happiness.

This blog is for anyone looking to find the time for more of what matters, anyone feeling exhausted by life and longing for the energy to change the status quo.

So, what is a boundary?

I would define a boundary as an intentional choice that clearly articulates (to you and to others) what you value through your action.

If I flash back to my earlier story I was clearly sending the message through my behaviour that I valued being busy, I valued the demands of others, I valued my work ethic and others opinions of me… over and above my health, wellbeing and happiness.

This behaviour, after 16 years as a professional had become unconscious. I was so used to this exhausting state that I was operating in auto pilot.

I had cultivated a life that left absolutely no space or time to question whether it was what I wanted.

It took burnout, turning my life upside down in pursuit of happiness and six years of experimenting with healthy boundaries to realign my behaviour towards what I truly valued. Values that went against the grain of a busy, productive, efficient life and instead unlocked the door to a focused, intentional and impactful existence.

Here’s the thing, healthy boundaries have huge benefits:

  • they allow us to define through action who we are and aspire to become
  • they demonstrate what’s important to us
  • they help others understand us
  • they enable us to make intentional choices in how we invest our most precious resources, time and energy
  • they provide the space for growth and vulnerability
  • and they amplify our mental wellness and our happiness

They are in fact the ultimate practice in self-care and living a fulfilled life.

But be warned, creating intentional boundaries and consistently applying them is hard work.

It is what I would call a lifelong practice, as your boundaries are not static. They should evolve as you do, so revisiting them over time is crucial to their benefit.

It’s also important to appreciate that boundaries are a balancing act. Hard rigid boundaries with little flex can hold you back and boundaries that are too loose may leave you filling your time with everything and yet nothing… that matters to you.

The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle. A boundary that is intentional, clear, has a little flex and accommodates the fact that you won’t get it right every time is where the magic lies.

We don’t want to create boundaries that cultivate guilt when they are missed on occasion.  Instead we want boundaries that enable us to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t and adapt as needed.

A great example of how this has worked for me is the boundaries I have set around my weekday mornings.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a firm believer in gifting yourself the start of the day. Because how you start the day sets the tone for how your day is most likely to unfold. 

About a year ago now I created a boundary that meant that the start of the day is just for me and it is sacred.  I rise at 5am, do a little mindfulness, yoga, journal and learn something new. This boundary applies to weekdays only, as I know that I need a sleep in on the weekend to maintain my energy levels.

On the odd occasion I miss a day because my body tells me I need a little extra rest. This flex is built into my boundary so I never feel guilty about it as it indicates to me that I am in tune with how I am feeling and what I need. 

Equally the boundary doesn’t apply when I go on holidays… more flex.

It’s this flex that has enabled me to stay consistent and the impact of this boundary over time has been profound. I am more energised throughout the day, clearer in my thoughts, more intentional in how I invest my time, calmer in general and honestly I’m more excited by life. I so look forward to this time just for me even if it means getting up early.

Now this is my boundary, I’m not saying it’s right for you. It’s merely an example of a healthy boundary that enables me to inject more happiness into each day.

So, herein lies my challenge to you. What micro boundaries could you start to cultivate to create the time and the space for more of what energises you each day?

Where might you begin?

Let me share with you a few simple steps to help you get started. Grab a pen and paper and some quiet space…

8 Steps To Bounce Forward With Boundaries

  1. Write down a list of easily accessible activities that energise you and make you feel good that you don’t do as often as you’d like.
  2. Highlight the one that jumps off the page at you (that’s right just one, we are starting small to provide you with the best chance of success).
  3. Now I want you to do the complete opposite and write down a list of regular activities that you undertake that don’t energise you or make you feel good.
  4. Highlight the one that you most want to let go of. Why? Because we can’t add more into your day without taking something away as we are trying to boost your energy and your happiness, not add to the overwhelm and endless To Do list.
  5. Give yourself a little high five as by getting just to this point alone is helping you build. Awareness and skill in boundary setting.
  6. Now is the time to bring it all together by creating two boundaries. First ask yourself what boundaries can I put in place to let go (or do less) of the activity that is stealing my energy. Write them down.
  7. Now ask yourself what boundaries can I put in place to create the time and space regularly to undertake that single activity that I identified that energises me and I’d like to do more of.
  8. Once you’re done put on your Imperfect Experimenter hat and start embedding your boundaries. Remember it’s a practice, you will slip up and it won’t be perfect and that’s exactly what it should be. The sole intent is to make a start, to try something new and adapt as you experiment. It’s about progress not perfection!

I’d love to hear how you get on setting your intentional boundaries, so feel free to jump into my DMs on Instagram, hackinghappy.co, or Facebook and let me know how it plays out.

If you'd like to dig deeper into understanding where your greatest opportunities lie in setting intentional boundaries take the free Hacking Happiness Assessment via hackinghappyassessment.com. This a brilliant way to hold the mirror up to where your behaviour is out of alignment with the things that truly make you feel good. 

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