Business owners and entrepreneurs especially need to put boundaries between ourselves and other people’s demands, because we are human, and we need a certain amount of space in order to think clearly and respond effectively. That doesn’t mean we stop engaging, networking, meeting, delivering great products and services, and providing top flight leadership and customer service. Quite the opposite. In truth, we can do none of those things well if we don’t set boundaries and start saying no to the right things.
If you don’t put up boundaries, people will abuse you and your kindness. They will abuse your desire to gain recognition, visibility, and be uber-responsive to gain more of their trust and business. That doesn’t mean they are bad people, or wish you ill. They are just oblivious to your overwhelm.
Here’s the truth bomb: You might even be forced to do things that go against your will and your beliefs simply because you didn’t have boundaries in place. It happens very quickly in many cases—before you even realize what has happened. When this happens, you’ll lose your self-respect and your self-esteem will begin to drop. After all, why can’t you be all these things to all these people like they are asking of you?
I know. I’ve been there, and I have watched too many others do the same thing as they launched a new business, or pivoted their efforts in order to grow, or adapted their approach to a new set of economic pressure.
Boundaries Are Important
Boundaries might seem like a soft skill that is part of life coaching or therapy. We’re powerful business owners. We can set our own boundaries thankyouverymuch! But boundaries are hugely important when building your self-discipline in a new role or new dynamic. New level, new devil, and it is important to monitor your boundaries, and even set some new ones in order to protect your priorities. Boundaries keep you real and honest with yourself. They keep you focused on the prize.
For some of us, FOMO can interfere with our boundaries. Just remember, if you say yes to everything, you cannot do it all well. A weak, ineffective no means an equally ineffective yes. And saying no to something off your priority list (for now) means you can say yes to something better.
If you’ve always acquiesced to doing tasks you don’t particularly enjoy, or worse, doing great work for far less than you deserve, but you’re too afraid of offending the person doing the asking, then it is time to start practicing. Otherwise, it can get to an unhealthy point where you continue doing things that are counterproductive to goals you’ve set for yourself. I see many entrepreneurs working long hours for not nearly enough income out of fear that there’s no one willing to pay what they are worth. However, at some point, we simply must say no to the low paying work, in order to pursue and serve the higher paying clients. That’s a boundary exercise.
If you’d like to achieve your dreams and your goals within a specific time frame, then you’d need to start saying “no” to requests and tasks that do not align with your values and your goals and instead waste your time.
Saying “No” the Right Way
If you’re afraid of offending a potential client or a peer by saying no to a piece of work or that in-person coffee you don’t have time for, don’t. Because you can’t control people’s emotions. You can, however, be kind.
You exude confidence whenever you give someone a clear, firm “no”. When you are comfortable with your boundaries, you only have to say “no” once because more often than not, the person doing the asking will believe you the first time you say it. If they don’t, however, you don’t need to engage in an argument to justify your no. You can explain if you feel the need to, but even that is your prerogative. You aren’t rejecting the other person. You are affirming your time, skills and strengths need to be elsewhere at the moment.
I have noticed that many leaders who are learning to say no more often can initially feel awkward setting such a clear boundary. Their delivery can sound abrupt, harsh or defensive. Be mindful of your tone, and remember, the one who needs to hear the no most clearly is you.
How New Boundaries Improve Our Self-Discipline
If we are not cut off from our society, we live in a world overflowing with diverse, and seductive distractions. They range from social media to networking opportunities of various benefit, to family and friends’ demands, and much more. Knowing in advance what you simply must say no to limits your distractedness. It focuses your attention. It amplifies your motivation and energy. It boosts your confidence and esteem. By definition, self-discipline is the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it. Setting those carefully considered boundaries ahead of time, and saying no to tempting distractions is the essence of meaningful discipline.
If you think you would like to explore setting some more productive boundaries for you as you grow your business, reach out, and let’s set up a complimentary strategy call.