What’s better than having good boundaries?

 If you feel you’re getting the short end of the stick, doing more than you said you would, or your personal space is being invaded, you may think you need better boundaries. Think again.

I’m not against boundaries. They’re a necessary step in development, so you don’t spend all your time in other people’s business where you don’t belong, or with other people all up in your business where they don’t belong.

I learned appropriate boundaries late in life. I was so enmeshed in other people’s needs and desires that I rarely said no when asked for something. When I did say no, I felt guilty. A few decades ago, my therapist took me through simple exercises to experience where I ended and the rest of the world began. Pretty rudimentary stuff that every child should know, but somehow I’d missed that essential step.

Boundaries are important. They define and delineate. They separate countries, cities and neighbors. We build them with walls, fences, intentions and actions. We maintain them and defend them, sometimes with our lives. In certain situations boundaries are exactly the right thing. But not always.

When clients tell me they want better boundaries, it’s usually because someone, somehow, did them wrong. They feel like a victim. They don’t want that to happen again, so they want to build a big fat wall to keep the problems out. But there are a couple of problems with the big fat wall:

  1. It doesn’t fix the past. So it doesn’t address what’s making you feel like a victim.
  2. The big fat wall might not work in all situations.
  3. It can be exhausting to keep propping up the wall.
  4. The wall doesn’t just keep others out, it keeps you boxed in.

When I ask clients to describe someone they admire for having good boundaries, they say serious, strong, disciplined. The words I have yet to hear in these descriptions are fun, joyful, energized, loving, or spontaneous.

When I help clients get to the root of how this other person did them wrong, we can almost always find that the problem began when my clients first wronged themselves. She agreed to do something that didn’t feel quite right, but she didn’t honor that feeling. He accepted less money for his work than he wanted, and resents it now. She takes care of everyone else first, hoping someone will take care of her in return. She wants her mom to stop calling every morning at 7:00am, but picks up the phone whenever it rings. They say they want one thing, but behave differently. Their words and actions are muddled and confused.

So what’s better than boundaries?

Clarity. It comes from knowing who you are, and being true to yourself.

Clarity requires that you slow down. Discover your deepest desires. Pay attention to that feeling you get that suggests something’s not quite right. Take time to imagine what would feel right.

Clarity demands that you love yourself. You take care of yourself and treat yourself well. You fill your cup first. The more you love yourself, the clearer you get. When you treat yourself lovingly, it’s easy to love others. Boundaries can dissolve with the clarity that love brings.

Getting clear requires more awareness upfront, but requires a lot less work later on. Rather than continuing to define and defend your boundaries, you get to live spontaneously, in the way you want to live, as you evolve. And you’ll be amazed to discover that when you are clear, the world responds to your clarity in kind.

With Clarity your choices originate from love, and truth, and living in the moment.

Boundaries are rigid. Clarity is dynamic.  Here’s how this might look in the real world?

Boundary = Nobody should phone you before 7:00am. You want others to respect that boundary. Clarity = You answer the phone whenever you want. You turn the ringer off when I don’t want to be disturbed. If you’re in the middle of something else, you don’t let the phone interrupt.

Boundary = Your rate is $150.00 an hour. Period. Asking you to work for less crosses your boundary. Clarity = Your rate is $150.00 an hour. Sometimes you’re inspired to support someone by working for less. In those cases you do it joyfully.  Sometimes you offer your skills for free. Other times you charge more than your usual rate. People can ask you for whatever they want. You’ll respond with what’s right for you.

Life is always bursting through boundaries. So when you try to defend your boundaries you may find you’re fighting with life.

Your true nature is limitless. When you’re clear about that, there’s no need for boundaries.

Is there an area in your life where you feel you need boundaries?  What might clarity do for you instead?

I’d love to hear your ideas on this in the Comments below.

The Joy of Paying Taxes

It’s a wonderful time of year. The weather is warming, birds are singing, flowers are blooming… and taxes are calling.

For many people tax season is a time they feel depressed, angry, stressed, resentful or afraid. It’s so ingrained in our culture to hate paying taxes that we assume feeling like sh*t is normal. But it doesn’t have to be.

How about this year, as an act of radical self care, you make paying taxes a joy?

Before you dismiss that as impossible, consider this: Paying taxes doesn’t cause you stress, or fear, or resentment. It’s your attitude about it that creates it.

Worrying about the work it will take to get everything organized, putting it off until the last minute, avoiding paying because you don’t have the money will all create unnecessary stress. You are better off dedicating time to do it and diving in.

Avoiding your responsibilities will never bring long term joy and peace, but being responsible won’t guarantee it either. You need to handle it differently than just “getting it done”.

Consider for a moment what would elevate tax day from a dreaded chore to a beloved task or curious adventure. Would you do it with someone else – invite a friend, each take a corner of the living room, put on some music, open a bottle of wine and make a day of it? Take a moment and think about anything that might make this year’s tax filing different from all the rest. How can you turn your focus from the result to the process?

I turn it into an annual ritual. Rituals have a way of deeming actions as special, important, spiritual. They suspend the ordinariness of the activity and set it apart as sacred. By creating a ritual I turn taxes into a sacred act, worthy of respect and presence.

In preparation for doing my taxes:

  • I work alone, when the house is empty.
  • I clear the space so I’m not distracted.
  • I add flowers for beauty and fragrance.
  • I light a candle.
  • I say a prayer to give thanks and ask for focus.
  • I keep a note book to record any insights I glean from reviewing my year.

While I’m doing my taxes:

  • As I record income, I give thanks for the money I’ve made.
  • Reviewing expenses, I remember and bless the people I’ve paid.
  • I am grateful for the money I’ve spent and the contributions it’s made to people and places.
  • I am literally counting my blessings as I work.
  • I consider if I’ve made the best choices, and if not I record the the changes I’ll make this year.
  • I remember good times and challenges I’ve faced. I write down ideas and inspirations that come with them.
  • Even if I don’t love all the choices my government makes, I focus on the contribution I am making to society.

Paying quarterly is just an expense, but April is a time of reckoning. It brings clarity, and where there is clarity there is power. I can see where I am at and make informed choices.

One of the things that makes tax time easy is that I set tax money aside from each payment I receive, so it’s available and waiting to be used. If you haven’t set the money aside that you need, don’t let that be an excuse to shove your problems in a dark closet and hope they’ll go away. They’ll only grow into haunting problems the like monsters in the closet of your childhood bedroom. Do your taxes, make a plan to pay it over time, and set yourself up differently this year.

What is one simple thing you can do that will bring more joy to the process of paying your taxes this year?

You can’t avoid it so you might as well enjoy it. Try this, and you can learn a lot about yourself in the process.