A good friend of mine is doing something most people only dream of – she’s taking almost two months away from her entrepreneurial business for a writing sabbatical. When I mention this to people, they usually gasp and proclaim they could never do that. But when I really look at what it takes to successfully do this – whether a two month sabbatical like hers or even a writing weekend – it all boils down to two things… boundaries and limits.
Boundaries are letting others know where the line is, and limits are how far you will or won’t go. For instance, when I suggested a short coaching session during her sabbatical, she immediately said no. Her boundary was clear. Yet she did it in such a loving, intentional way that I didn’t take it personally. Far from it, I respected her more. She knows that it’s all those little “exceptions” we make that eventually put a big dent in our plans.
On the other hand, I too had limits set for my summer, which included minimizing the number of new clients I’d take and the workshops I’d do. While I was successful on some fronts, I wasn’t on others. I realized that, rather than making a firm commitment, I’d made a hazy intention. I hadn’t gotten full clarity on why this was important to me, and what I stood to lose by not holding firm.
That’s where many of us stall. We aren’t clear in the first place, so when those boundary shifters appear, we waffle. Soon the thought, “Well, maybe this one time” starts creeping in and before we know it, we’ve lost sight of what was truly important to us and are dancing to other people’s tunes and feeling resentful. No one is perfect with this, but the quicker we can catch it, the better.
I’ve also discovered that boundaries are not walls. A wall is sitting down to write and not making exceptions… ever. But as author John Lee says, “The emotionally intelligent adult can easily set boundaries and limits that can be pulled in, extended, or shifted based on new information, more experience, or choice.” As I’ve been writing this newsletter, my daughter popped her head out the door to where I’m sitting on the front porch and belted out a song. It was a fun two minute break, so I chose “yes” to it, and when it was over I went back to work. Had my wall been up, an automatic “no” would have been there and I would have missed that feel-good break and possibly regretted it later. Had my wall been non-existent, I would have not only heard her sing, but would have answered the phone, gotten side-tracked with Facebook and taken our exercise-deprived dog for a walk.
What I’ve discovered about boundaries and limits is that I have to start with clarity – really understanding my own needs and desires. I also have to give myself permission to have these wants in the first place, and then to follow them. Far from limiting our possibilities, boundaries and limits expand them. We release distractions and focus more clearly on that inner voice that knows our greater good. As I write this, I’m already envisioning for myself a full month off in late summer to travel, recharge and spend time with family. There’s nothing so freeing as a good boundary or two…
1. What is an area that’s important to you, in writing or life, where you’d like to see more progress but have instead been feeling frustration?
2. Where are other people crossing the line or where are you overextending yourself to the degree that it doesn’t feel good?
3. Notice this without judgment. Then, decide what boundaries and limits would better serve you?
As founder of Backyard Pearls, LLC, Carolyn Scarborough helps people tap into their inner wisdom, then share it with the world through books, blogs and articles. As a Writing Wisdom Coach, she supports you through the journey from inspiring idea to published piece in a way that’s joyful, effortless and profitable.
She’s done almost every kind of writing imaginable, including magazine features, newspaper columns, books, journaling — even ghostwriting for Donald Trump! Her favorite sort of writing is the kind where she has to be really present to find the story, so her life and writing are both a constant awakening to a deeper, richer way to live in the world.
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