Want to know how to ensure you live life on your terms? And how to ensure that others respect the ways in which you define your life? One of the keys to that is to have firm boundaries. That may sound like a no-brainer. Because if you want to live a life that you love, you probably know you need standards for your life. And boundaries.
But the thing is, though most folks will respect your boundaries. At least when you are both firm and clear about them. Other folks will try to push through them or pretend they don’t exist.
While I know how important boundaries are to a life well lived, the clearest way to understand people’s reactions to boundaries came to me due to living on a golf course.
There are a lot of things I love about living on the golf course. It’s beautifully maintained and often peaceful. The neighbors take immaculate care of their flower gardens. I love sitting on the deck with my morning coffee as the birds have their breakfast and the early golfers get in a round. It’s a paradise in many ways.
Paradise isn’t perfect, though. We haven’t had any broken windows, but we have had to replace two broken porch screens. And, of course, there are the golfers who have no respect for boundaries.
Our boundaries are mostly invisible to the naked eye.
Golf courses have these poles that mark the bounds of play. There are only two or three of them on each side of the course and it’s up to you to connect the poles to make a firm line.
Humans are like that. We have the obvious boundaries of our bodies, but most of our boundaries aren’t going to be visible to most people. Often we hope that most folks can figure out the general bounds without having to spell all of them out.
Sometimes we need to create boundaries up front. So no one has to guess.
A couple of my neighbors have huge flower beds along the border of their property. They’re beautiful to look at, of course, but most importantly it puts a barrier between their property and the golfers.
Whether you need to set boundaries with clients, children, family members or friends, sometimes the best thing you can do is to create some boundaries up front so no one has to guess. You put “house rules” on the fridge as a reminder to children. If you own a business, you set hours or provide availability to clients. We tell our in-laws that we’d love to spend Thanksgiving with them, but will be spending Christmas at home so the kids can enjoy Santa.
No matter how clear the boundaries may be, a lot of folks will push them.
The official rules of golf are that if a ball is hit out of bounds, you drop a new ball near the boundary of where you lost your ball. Most folks playing golf don’t follow that rule, though. They go into the out of bounds area and search for their ball. Now, most folks quickly find their ball, pick it up, and then drop it into bounds and hit it.
In all honesty, almost everyone else truly want to respect our boundaries because they want us to respect theirs.
They may send an email and ask for clarity about business hours or ask if there’s a night next month you’ll be having evening office hours. They may call and leave a voice message and explain Uncle Al is going to be there for Christmas, but can’t make it Thanksgiving, so could we spend Christmas Eve there and still have Christmas morning at home?
We’re all in this life together and seeing if boundaries are solid or stretchy is a way that people find ways to coexist with other people. It’s about the art of the ask. The art of the compromise. Sometimes, it’s testing the boundaries. This isn’t about a lack of respect.
Some people are more likely to push your boundaries if they think you aren’t looking (or paying attention).
Golfers are often surprised to see us sitting on the porch with our coffee. It’s as if all the houses are simply a part of the scenery and the proof that someone lives there is a shock. If they don’t see us, they are more likely to linger as they look for balls (and peek into windows). They are more likely to drive the cart into your yard or take a swing from your property instead of picking up the ball and moving it in bounds.
There are a lot of people that get lax about rules. There will always be people who take easy way out. They sense you are away from home, so to speak, and will try to push it. And they ask you to do things that are nudging it (like hosting Christmas since you want to spend it in your home). They try to guilt you into saying yes when you really want to say no. They are more likely to ask (push) when you are in a hurry, tired, or stressed.
Some folks feel entitled, and will purposely cross boundaries. And then be belligerent about it. They believe that rules don’t apply to them.
Some golfers are downright rude. They drive their carts across the boundaries and into yards. They look for balls right next to the house (or in the flower beds). I’ve seen golfers walk onto a neighbor’s porch and pick up balls sitting there. I’ve also seen golfers ready to hit a ball from the middle of the yard.
You have to be firm with some people. You can begin kindly and gently, but when someone feels that your boundaries are unimportant (and that rules of humanity don’t apply to them).
One week, I had two encounters with golfers and had to remind them that they are out of bounds if they’re in my yard. One apologized and said he didn’t know (he was a teen). The other got belligerent and sarcastic, made a big show of picking up his ball, asking if a particular spot was “ok with me”.
Thankfully, I stayed calm when I firmly reminded him that hitting out of bounds was completely against the rules of the game. He was surprised that I stood up to his attempted bullying.
People who feel entitled won’t respect your boundaries because, in all honestly, they have no respect for themselves. They get angry or belligerent with you when you make your boundaries clearer. They believe that the rules don’t apply to them. Be firm and calm, but stand your ground if someone tries to bully you.
Let’s be honest here: these are the folks you don’t want to continue to battle with, so maybe…just maybe they shouldn’t be getting much (or any) of your precious time and attention.
You have a right to your boundaries and the right for them to be respected.
It doesn’t matter that there isn’t a fence around our backyard, it doesn’t give anyone the right to cross into it. Just because a golfer pays to play a round of golf doesn’t mean he has the right to break the rules if he feels like it.
You have a right to your boundaries. It doesn’t matter if it’s your favorite aunt, a beloved client, or your adult child. Just because someone has a relationship with you doesn’t give them the right to change your own rules or boundaries. A client paying you for a good or service doesn’t have the right, either.
And, baby, you don’t have to explain why you have a particular boundary if you don’t want to do so. (Just sayin). It’s no one else’s business but yours.
People will treat us the way we ask to be treated.
A couple of the instances of golfers pushing the boundaries had to do with young players. Our children will observe how we play the game of life and follow suit. My belligerent golfer had a teen with him, so he was teaching his teen to have no respect for others and that the rules didn’t apply, which may not lead to harm on the golf course, but can certainly do great harm in life.
There’s an old saying that “good fences make good neighbors.” In much the same way, well-defined boundaries, even though they may be invisible, ensure that we have good relationships with each other and ourselves.
No matter how others may respond to the boundaries you set, it begins with you.
if you want people to respect your boundaries, then you have to get clear about what those are. You also have to respect them yourself. So, get clear, darling! What’s acceptable and what’s not? How do you wish to be treated? Then, we must be firm and gentle in how we convey them.
When you are both clear and firm about your boundaries, you’ll naturally love your life even more. And when someone tries to break the rules you’ve set for your life, you’ll be better prepared to deal with them.
Boundaries is a great life hack for creating a life you love. Want to learn some more “life hacks” to living a life you love?
I spent many years of my life just moving from moment to moment. I believed that loving life was something that happened for others. They had luck or good connections. Until, that is, I learned that shifting my mindset and creating some new habits empowered me to go from dreaming and thinking to doing. Best of all, step by step, my life began to blossom.
Soon, I realized that though my life would never be perfect, it was perfect for me. And even the most boring of days finds happiness, delight, and love. Even if it’s just for a moment.
I’m sharing some of my favorite life hacks to help you make that happen for you in my new (free) ebook: Make Your Life Blossom: Life Hacks to Help You Fall in Love with Your Life