professional development

Struggling to set boundaries? Doing so can lead to greater success

Martin Kovacs /

Setting boundaries (and maintaining them) can be challenging, be it in your work or personal life. However, being more vigilant about what is and isn’t acceptable can, in turn, lead to greater success.

Writing at Thrive Global, The Leaderpath executive coach and founder Caterina Kostoula observes we typically struggle to set boundaries because we care about what others think, are afraid of the consequences and fear harming our self-image, be it as a good employee, parent or friend.

“A lot of the struggle over boundaries comes from scripts we created during our childhood,” Kostoula writes.

“If our parents were not good at setting boundaries or did not respect our boundaries, it will be harder for us to do so. Also, boundaries are linked with our self-worth. Are our needs important enough to respect them?”

Being better at setting boundaries

Kostoula observes that not setting boundaries can damage the very relationships we are seeking to protect. We also neglect the things that matter to us and risk burnout.

“By not setting boundaries we fail to live a life true to ourselves and we live the one others expect from us,” she writes.

Kostoula recommends:

  • Being clear about what you do and don’t want – taking the time to consider your needs.
  • Having rules – having certain rules in place about what you will and won’t do can make decision-making easier.
  • Determine how to decline – take some time before declining a request, considering how you can politely do so.
  • Give difficult conversations structure – take time to consider what is and isn’t working; any discomfort felt over setting boundaries is preferable to potential feelings of resentment.

Kostoula recalls how Warren Buffett once said “the difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything”.

“Saying no to the things you do not want will help you create the space for the things you do,” she advises.

READ NOW: A blueprint for a happy business: Four ways to get beyond deadline and put wellbeing first

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Martin Kovacs

Martin Kovacs is a journalist with experience covering the IT, consumer electronics, retail, finance and energy sectors.

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