“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”
Often the hardest word you can say is ‘no’. It happens to me all the time. My children want a lift, but I need to rush out to a meeting, a girl-friend wants to catch up, but I have still tons of work to do.
We all have been there. It is important to look after your friends and family, but it is also important to set boundaries and plan for a bit of ‘me-time’ alone in order to sort things out that are close to your heart or to make time to think about your life and goals ahead. This is particularly poignant in January.
According the Howes, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist in Pasadena, Calif, “the line where I end and someone else begins is really important. ” He says “Without any line the distinction becomes confusing: Who owns and maintains this ambiguous space? Which rules apply?”
When the boundary is clearly defined and respected, you don’t need walls or electric fences, just a mutual understanding.” However, when the boundary is violated in order to do harm or take advantage, then you’ll likely need walls, gates and guards, he said.
In healthy relationships partners “ask permission, take one another’s feelings into account, show gratitude and respect differences in opinion, perspective and feelings.”
In less healthy relationships, partners assume their partner feels the same way they do (e.g., “I like this, so you must, too”), Howes said. They ignore the effects of violating their partner’s boundary (e.g., “They’ll get over it”).
Boundaries in romantic relationships are especially critical, because as opposed to other relationships, partners inhabit each other’s most intimate spaces, including physical, emotional and sexual, he said.
This is why communicating your boundaries clearly is key. But what does — and doesn’t — this look like?
Below, you’ll find insights on boundaries that don’t work and tips for setting boundaries that do.
Boundaries that Don’t Work
“Boundaries that often fail are those that include the words ‘always,’ ‘never’ or any absolute language,” said Bridget Levy, LCPC, a therapist who works with couples and directs business development at Urban Balance. Such boundaries are usually unrealistic and don’t last, she said. The same goes also for vague boundaries. These include”Don’t spend a lot of money this month” or “Pick up the kids from school a few times a week.”
Many partners don’t even talk about their boundaries. They expect their partner to just know them. This is unfair, Howes said. For instance, you want your partner to recognize your accomplishments. Instead of expressing this need, you hint at it, play a game of “I’ll lavishly affirm you if you’ll return the favor” or mope around when it doesn’t happen, he said.
Not only is this ineffective, but it creates confusion and can hurt your relationship.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
According to psychologist Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D, healthy boundaries include everything from speaking up when you think you’re being disrespected to advocating for yourself to have time for your own interests.
Be self-aware. The first step in setting any boundary is self-knowledge, said Howes, who pens the blog “In Therapy.” “You need to know what you like and dislike, what you’re comfortable with versus what scares you, and how you want to be treated in given situations.”
Be clear about your needs. After you know what your needs are, tell your partner. Howes has found that many boundary violations stem from misunderstandings. One partner has a problem with certain behaviors, but they never let their partner know. Often this is because they worry it’ll trigger an argument, he said.
However, “it’s OK to have preferences, and it’s OK to let your lover know.” For instance, if you want to be treated as an equal with financial issues, tell your partner, he said.
Be specific and direct. According to Levy, the more specific you are with communicating your boundary, the better. She shared these examples:
- “I want to hear about your day. I’ll be available to give you my full attention in 10 minutes.”
- “If you put your dirty clothes in the hamper by 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, I’ll be happy to wash them for you.”
- “I love you but am not willing to call in sick for you when you’ve been drinking.”
- “Do not read my journal. I feel violated when my privacy is disrespected.”
Be clear about your love, while being clear about your boundaries. Communicate to your partner how much you care about them, said Becker-Phelps, author of the book Insecure in Love: How Anxious Attachment Can Make You Feel Jealous, Needy, and Worried and What You Can Do About It. If they’ve overstepped a boundary, mention this. “Say that you want them to respect the boundary, and explain the importance of this to you.”
She shared this example: “I need you to know that I love you and have every intention of us working through whatever issues come up. But I am not OK with you being verbally abusive when you get angry. If you want to talk about how it upset you that I ran into my old girlfriend, we can do that, but only if you don’t attack me.”
Becker-Phelps also suggested remaining open to hearing how the boundary affects your partner. Talk through the issue so both of you feel respected, heard and cared about, she said.
Use “I” statements. According to Levy, “I” statements “help you own your own feelings and allow your partner to feel more at ease and less defensive.” Rather than saying, “You need to do this,” or “You should always,” use such phrases as: “I feel,” or “I would appreciate,” or “I would like it if…”
Try the sandwich approach. This consists of a compliment, criticism, compliment. Starting with a compliment prevents your partner from getting defensive, Howes said. “This primes them for a little criticism, they feel connected and comfortable enough to take it, and then it closes with a compliment.”
Howes shared this example: “I love having sex with you, it’s an incredible part of our relationship. I find that I’m usually in the mood in the morning before work, and at night I just want to sleep. Can we keep having the best sex ever in the mornings?”
While there’s no guarantee this will always work, people tend to be more receptive to criticism when they first feel heard and understood, he said.
Ultimately, healthy relationships require clear-cut parameters. For instance, most couples agree that cheating is a boundary violation, Howes said. But what does cheating mean? Is it physical contact, going to lunch, sharing secrets with a colleague, fantasizing about someone or watching porn?
“When couples are clear about the boundaries for their own relationship, what the rules, goals, and expectations are, the relationship can be stable,” he said.
Positive thinking and focus are vital ingredients when it comes to living a positive and successful work and social life. So if right now you are stuck in a rut and want to change your life for the positive, here are a few thoughts:
- Think positive: ‘Happy’ or ‘unhappy’ thoughts can have a real impact on our lives. That is why it is so important to get into the habit of seeing the glass half-full and not half-empty. Children usually start out with this outlook, but somehow over time many of us turn into those negative, stressed creatures. What has gone wrong? Life is not always easy, but by having a bleak outlook nothing is going to be achieved. In fact, the opposite is true. Happy people attract ‘good luck’ and people who help them through life.
Next time you have a negative thought, analyse it and straight away turn it into something positive. Here is an example. You and a work colleague have both been to an interview for the same job. In the end your friend got the job and you did not. Of course, the first reaction will be that of disappointment. But then your reaction can be ‘Damn, Tom got that job I really wanted. I hope he fails miserably and they will call me instead’ This destructive and envious thought may vent your anger, but apart from that won’t achieve much. Would it not be better to say to yourself: ‘ Good on Tom for getting this job. Sure, I am a bit disappointed, but I why don’t I call him and congratulate him. Then I can also find out a) how he managed to get this job and may get a few tips for my next job interview b) ask him if he knows of other positions that need to be filled or could even put my name forward.” This attitude is much more positive. It is not Tom’s fault that you have not been chosen, in fact he can be a vital person to help you read the situation for what it is and may possibly even help you to get another job at that company. At least with this approach you have something to gain (insight, Tom’s friendship and possible later on even a job).
- Stay focused: This is a very difficult task in today’s society. The internet, email, video games, social media are only some of the many distractions that constantly bombard us. That is why it is even more important than ever to follow through with a properly thought out life plan that gets evaluated from time to time. You can find your own system or simply use the one we provided at sign up – The LWTM goal planner. Have you followed it or even made plans? It is only a vital tool when used consistently.
Once you know what you want to achieve, spend a bit of time in ‘marketing yourself’. Making yourself and what you do more attractive to others should be an admirable aim and not a ‘dirty deed,’ as some people may have you believe. Looking clean and attractive is obviously the first important act, especially when meeting new people. It is now a proven fact that we judge others within the first few seconds of our meeting and of course the others do the same with us. So this is no myth – ‘First Impressions’ really do count!
Here is an exercise for you: Between now and the next New Moon make a list of all your life achievements so far and then spin your life mentally forward 5 more years. Where do you see yourself then? Then think positive and stay focused to achieve your future goals.
Finally I would argue that there is also a vital third ingredient and that is ‘staying true to yourself’. Don’t always succumb to what other people think, find your own voice and opinion and stay true to that voice, even if others (mostly short-term) ridicule or ignore you. Can you imagine what would have happened to most inventions if their creators did not go out on a limb and focused on something nobody had yet seen before. Well I dare say, that most inventions would have not happened.
That is why I would like to share one of my favourite fables with you. It is called ‘The donkey story’ and next time you face a dilemma what choice to make and who says what, just think of this simple story.
The donkey story:
Are you someone who cares deeply about what other people think about you? Are you often unsure of your actions? Next time you find yourself in this position, think of this little story below:
In a faraway land lived an old man who had a donkey and a son. One day he decided to visit his brother who lived a few villages away. So off he went, sitting on his donkey with his son walking by his side.
As they crossed the first village, the old man overheard a conversation. “Look at this selfish old man. He is sitting high on the donkey and his poor son has to walk’. As they left the village, the man said to his son, “I think these people are right, why don’t you get on the donkey and I will walk’. So off came the father and on went the son.
A short while later they passed through the next village. There they overheard another conversation. “Look at this spoiled brat of a son sitting on the donkey, whilst his poor old father has to walk”. The man thought to himself, ‘‘Well, these people are right. Why don’t we both sit on the donkey’. As they left the village, the father climbed up on the donkey, sitting behind his son and off they went.
A short while later they passed a farm. The young farmer came out of the gate, carrying a bucket of water to let the donkey have a drink. He said to the old man. “Look at that poor animal carrying both of you. Why don’t you ride it one at the time?”
The father and son looked at each other, not knowing what to do. Finally they decided that the only option left was to carry the donkey. Soon later an old woman passed by and went up to them. “What on earth are you doing? A donkey is there for riding, not carrying”. She went up to the old man and said, “I suggest you get on the donkey and let your son walk next to you!”
Benjamin Franklin’s quote has not lost its point in today’s fast-paced society. Years ago futurologists predicated a golden, technological Eldorado, where computers would take care for all our mundane activities, whilst we all enjoy a great deal of free time, sitting by the pool.
I am not sure about you, but I only hear that the reverse is true. Most of my friends complain about too many emails, deadlines and pressure at work. Once upon a time people had secretaries who typed their correspondence, then it all went through a process of sending and receiving. The other person had time to think, draft a response and again another secretary would type these thoughts up and the process began again. Nowadays we ping off emails with the most complex contents and almost demand a response within the hour, no time to think, no time to breathe. Now multiply this example by a thousand and no wonder everybody is under stress and overloaded. We have become slaves to a never-ending stream of communication.
Don’t get me wrong, I of course think, that technology and the internet is great – but that of course is only when it works. I think everybody has a story to tell of a printer not working, computer programs not opening correctly and so on – and that costs time!
The internet and technology has of course opened up different ways of working and living and it is fabulous how quickly we can inform ourselves about new products, services and learn something new every day, even without leaving our own home. Perhaps we have to learn to use these new products, services and strategies to our advantage, with many free-lancers and service companies now only a finger-tip away, only too happy to take some of the time-consuming burdens away. This would mean the time we gain we can do what Benjamin Franklin suggested and put strategies in place to use this time to make some money.
Step One – Take a close look at your current financial situation
Money is not the be-all, but let’s face it, we all need it and it is a vital part of our life. So let’s embrace it and let’s make it work for you!
First look at all your saving products, credit cards and current accounts. What is your current annual rate? Some products lure you in with lucrative percentages, but most of them only last so long. Are you still reaping the benefit or are these products now out of date. Do check with one of the many comparison sites you can find online. It should only take an hour of your precious time to find out just how much money you could be saving by switching your funds to a new provider! Then make it a habit of checking your products- say every three months – to see if your money is still working for you. Get complacent and you stand to lose quite a bit over the years!
Next are your outgoings. Switch provider for insurance, mortgage, bank account, utilities and so forth. Then make sure you pay for them in the most cost effective way, usually by direct debit. It is hassle free, saves time and you won’t get charged interest. The same goes for un-cashed cheques, unpaid bills and outstanding invoices? Don’t leave them in a drawer, cash them in! If people owe you money, remind them and make sure they pay you on time. It is called, having a healthy cash flow and it is the back bone of every business and household.
Step Two – invest wisely
You can’t fuel real economic growth with indiscriminate credit. You can only fuel it with well-allocated, long-term investment. James Surowiecki
Once you have managed to save a bit, now is the time to consider to invest it. Traditionally investments meant savings, pension and ISAs and that still holds true. But there are also different types of investment that you can enjoy on a daily basis like a property, wine or art. A friend of mine once bought a small painting and enjoyed looking at it for years. Finally he decided to have it valued and to his surprise it had appreciated so much that by selling it he could pay off his whole mortgage. Not an everyday story, but true!
Step Three – learn and create
An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. Benjamin Franklin
With your earthly investments in place and automated, now it is time to invest in yourself and your future. The best investment long-term is to learn a new skill. What new skill do you want to learn? There are so many on-line courses available now and there surely is one there for you! With these new skills you can create another source of income (see step four)
4 Step Four Set goal to achieve you dream
Few people know so clearly what they want. Most people can’t even think what to hope for when they throw a penny in a fountain. Barbara Kingsolver
On its own, these things don’t make much difference, but put all these strategies in place and it can make a big difference to your financial and life-fullfilling future. I suggest that you use the LWTM life-style calendar as a reminder. Whenever you see the LWTM coin symbol, then make it a habit to do something about your financial situation. Over time, these little steps make a big impact on you financial future and should ensure that you can actually save some money.
If you join the membership and you will be able to download the free LWTM Goal Planner which contains a monthly and annually goal list. So you can make sense of what you want to find a way of achieving what you want out of life – and i hope that is not just money !!