Key Elements for Creating Healthy Boundaries


If you truly want to be your best you, to have a happy and healthy life, you need to learn how to set boundaries. Boundaries are being clear about what your limits are, and they are necessary to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed by the demands of other people. Without boundaries, you are likely to be overburdened, stressed, and resentful, and it’s up to you to set and maintain your limits.  You are the only one responsible for your happiness and wellbeing. No one else can do it for you.


If you find it hard to say no, and it’s affecting your wellbeing, you need to stop and recalibrate. Here are some key elements for creating healthy boundaries:


  1. Know your limits

Knowing yourself is the key to creating and maintaining good boundaries. Know your emotional, mental, and physical limits. Work out what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed and what feels good. Easier said than done right? Start by paying attention to your feelings—what situations make you feel good? What situations make you feel bad? Why? Find a way that works for you where you can record the answers.


There is no right or wrong answers here, only answers that work for you. I know that when you are at what you think is your limit the thought of adding one more thing can put you over the edge, but this is important. Find time where you are already doing something-drinking your coffee, driving to work, sitting at your kids practice.  You can do this. 


  1. Learn how to read your feelings

In assessing where your limits are, you will have felt a range of different emotions. Two key emotions that signal that your boundaries are being crossed are resentment and discomfort. If you feel you’re being taken advantage of, not appreciated, or even being exploited, that’s a sign you’re being pushed beyond your boundaries, and it’s time to reassert those boundaries and say no. Sometimes, we wait too long and we explode or blow up and if that happens give yourself a break. Ask yourself, “What do I really want from this situation?”, “Why is this bothering me so much?”, “What would I want to happen in this situation if I could have my way?”


As one of my consulting jobs, I worked for a company assisting with their marketing and their technology.  I had been working for them for a few years and I had been frustrated because I felt that they were asking me to do things without giving me the authority to do it. They were asking me to act as a supervisor for people that I had never met and who did not even know who I was in the organization.  It all came to a head one day when I received and email from the owner of the company where he basically accused me of not doing my job and outlined all of the ways he felt I was cheating his company and included how much I was getting paid. This would normally not be a problem; I know that I worked for the money that I charged. The problem was he also copied everyone in the home office on this email. I was fuming! I was so pissed off!  In this moment I stopped and asked myself the same questions that I outlined above and it helped me come to the realization that all I wanted was to be respected and given the authority that I needed to complete my job. Once I was calm and clear, I realized that I would not be able to get this from that job, so I resigned.



  1. Give yourself permission to enforce your boundaries

It’s okay to say no. In fact, it’s necessary for your self-respect to maintain your boundaries and refuse an unwelcome request. There is no room for guilt or self-doubt in this. Having clear boundaries and sticking to them is not selfish. In putting yourself first, you’re ensuring that you will have the energy to do the things you want to do and be there for people when it’s right for you.

One tool that you can use to help you feel good about enforcing your boundaries is to focus on your outcomes. What are you trying to achieve by putting these boundaries in place?  Make sure that they are clearly defined and written down in front of you where you can see them.  You do not want the “busy” part of your day overwhelms you taking action to get these goals.


I told you earlier, that when I am off I walk away from my cell phone.  I have sometimes left it in my car and did not even charge it until Sunday night.  People have complained and sometimes still do complain, but it is a boundary that I need to make sure that I do not let problems and/or issues that can wait until Monday seep into my weekend and my time with my family.  Those people who know me really well know that if you want to reach me on my time off, you can call my husband’s phone.  If not, leave me a message and I will get back to you on Monday.


  1. Be clear about what’s up for negotiation

Know what you need to stay happy and healthy, whether it’s your daily walk, a gym session, or yoga practice. Make it clear that these are non-negotiable parts of your daily schedule. Similarly, be clear that you won’t host family parties, but you will contribute with food or drinks. Being clear and direct about your boundaries leaves no room for doubt, guilt, or leverage.  Outline in advance the circumstances where you are willing to bend and exactly how you will bend before you find yourself in the situation.  This makes it easier for you to take the emotions out of the decision and helps you feel good about the decision in the moment.

There are times when I do have to work on my designated days off, but I make sure they are exceptions to the rule.  I also make sure that I allocate time for my husband and my family to make up for the time lost.  This makes sure that they understand that spending time with them is important to me.



  1. Be direct

When you're clear about your boundaries, you don’t need an excuse, a back-story, or a note from your mother. Be direct and leave it at that. You can be polite and kind about it, but in the end, it’s okay just to say no and keep your boundaries strong. You have to start seeing your life with your boundaries in place and seeing yourself as the person you want to become. Use your phrases “I am ____________”, “I don’t ___________”, and “I can’t __________”.

Who is already like the person that you want to become that you can ask to be a mentor?


About 5 years ago, I knew that I needed to expand my vision of how martial arts schools are run beyond the organization that I was a part of, so I committed to going to the largest Martial Arts School conference. It was scary, because I was definitely a small fish in a big pond, but making that move was exactly what I needed because it introduced me to people in my industry that were and are doing what I wanted to do and how to do it well. I began to get a clearer picture of who I wanted to become and it allowed me to identify a new pack.  I always want to put myself in a group that makes me feel slow. I found that pack and I am constantly being introduced to new concepts and principles that are forcing me to grow.  I know that I am on my way and am surrounded by a group of people who will help me get there. 

My biggest surprise when I took that leap was how giving and helpful these leaders in the martial arts industry were to everyone.  Talk about leading by example.  Find your pack; find your group—I know that they will want to help.

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