Boundaries: The Art of a Loving “No”
In order to fulfill the contribution you came here to make, one of the mission-critical skills you need to master is how to set boundaries with others. This is where the art of gracefully saying “No” comes in. In this world of information and opportunity overload, without clear boundaries you will find yourself honoring everyone else’s agenda above your own in the important moments of your day.
I’ve seen many clients struggle with saying “No” to distracting requests and options, because they value generosity above all or desire to see only the unity that underlies all. Others are reluctant to set boundaries because of the fear that disappointing others may cause harm or anger. Do any of these tendencies sound familiar to you?
This struggle can feel like a moral dilemma – how do you honor what you need to succeed as an individual with a unique purpose, while still having a loving heart that sees the collective “we” that moves beyond “me?” And beyond that, how do you even know how to decide when to say “Yes” and when to say “No?”
Here are three basic steps to creating boundaries that honor others and your higher calling at the same time:
- Clarify your purpose
- Use your purpose to set your priorities
- Protect your purposeful priorities with loving boundaries
The first step is to clarify your purpose: Ask yourself, “What am I here to do? What contribution do I want to make to leave this world a better place?” There are many ways to clarify your purpose, ranging from inquiry to assessments to a meditative connection with your own inner wisdom. (For more details about how to find your purpose you are welcome to download your copy of 4 Steps to Catalyze the Purpose That Calls You from the right-hand column.)
Next, use your purpose as a guiding principle to set your priorities. In order to fully live your unique purpose, categorize requests and opportunities as either purpose-aligning or purpose-avoiding. A certain ruthlessness is required to be honest with yourself about why any given commitment is important to you.
One helpful way is to make a list of every major activity taking your time. Under each activity list the reasons you are doing that activity. Is it for income, for community building, to grow as a professional, to pursue your heart’s desire, or to support someone you love? All of these reasons are valid, but the issue here is whether these other reasons align with your purpose or distract you from it. There are many worthy causes and courses and projects available, and the lens of purpose is one dependable way to know what is truly yours to do and what is not yours to do. And remember that others could do many things on your list equally well if not better.
Another important step is to unfollow individuals and unsubscribe from all newsletters that don’t directly support you in fulfilling your purpose. Of course there are always exceptions such as continuing to receive news from those you love or from those that bring you great joy.
Finally, when your heart is full of the joy of your purpose and your mind is clear about your priorities, it becomes much easier to say “No” in a loving way. One of the most skillful ways of setting a boundary is to give appreciation for the person offering the opportunity so that they feel seen and heard rather than rejected. Knowing that you are the only one who can fulfill the unique contribution you are here to make helps you stand firm in your commitment to your calling, while honoring the calling of others as equally valid. Inspire others by directly modeling how to stay on course with one’s purposeful priorities.
Take stock and see where this process may be breaking down for you.
- Are you clear about your purpose and direction in life?
- Are you setting priorities based on your most purposeful direction?
- And finally, are you firmly and lovingly establishing boundaries that allow you to have the impact you came here to make?
We’d love to hear your wisdom about loving boundary-setting. What has worked well for you?
By Audrey Seymour