Setting boundaries is something that comes up frequently with my coaching clients.
Often times when we run into difficulties, it’s because someone is pushing us in a way that makes us react negatively. When this happens, it’s helpful to try to get some distance on the situation and figure out what exactly caused the negative reaction, and how to define and communicate your boundaries to reduce the chances that you will have the same reaction if the problem comes up again.
I’ve recently run into my own boundaries issue. I’m volunteering for a non-profit, and I just got some feedback from someone in a position of authority that I’m not doing enough, and I’m not doing it the way he thinks it should be done – despite the fact that fundraising is on target to meet our goals.
Whew! This pushes my buttons hard. I have very strong values around work ethic, and doing things right. To be criticized for these particular issues ratchets my anxiety to sky-high levels! This is a situation where my inner critic – that voice in everyone’s head that’s always telling you you’re doing things wrong – really has a field day.
Now that I have had a couple days to stew reflect, I’m able to put some perspective on the situation. First, I know that I am putting plenty of time into this project. I got some brilliant advice from a non-profit expert that we should establish the expected hours of commitment for each volunteer role in the group so that everyone has clarity on what is reasonable. Armed with this information, it will be easier for me to push back against the doubts of my inner critic, and prevent the anxiety from taking hold.
Second, I need to remember that the fundraising is our responsibility and we need to proceed how we think it should be done. We cannot give our energy to every suggestion that comes along, especially when the plan we have is already working well. (Hear that, inner critic? We are on track!)
And the third thing: I’m getting help! I’ve asked for someone else to be this person’s main contact and to keep him in the loop. Perhaps more frequent updates will be able to convince him that we are on track and head off future clashes. I’m also going to find someone to split off a few other tasks to so there’s less pressure on me to keep everything going, so that I don’t feel resentful when these kind of challenges arise.
Despite all this, I’m sure it will happen again. All we can do is practice, and when we make mistakes, try to learn from them. If this stuff was easy, we wouldn’t have to work at it so hard!
Where in your life do you need to find your boundaries?
Barbara Alfors has been trained by CTI, the oldest coach training company in the country, as a 'co-active' coach. Barbara is a member of the ICF, the International Coaching Federation.
Barbara is also a registered architect with 20 years experience in custom homes.