Thanks for popping in. This is part 3 of a little series that I’ve been doing. If you’d like to know what the series is about and it’s purpose check out my intro to the series Practically in Love here.
Alright, part 3 here we go!
Boundary setting is an act of love.
For yourself yes, but also for others. Why is it so important to set personal boundaries? Because it gives you space to think and to grow.
Without proper boundaries, you open yourself up to distractions and to stressors that in the end tangle you up and can affect your ability to grow. Obviously some stressors are relatively unavoidable, but if we look closely at our lives and the things that leave us feeling overly stretched and stressed, most of those things come from the inability to set boundaries around our time, commitments and involvement.
Lets talk about gardening for a moment. Random? Not quite.
There are plenty of people who are amazing at gardening. I, for one, am not one of them. These gifted people can take a pile of dirt and some seeds and grow all types of things for all seasons. I know some people like this and plan on at some point in my life picking their brains because the idea of going to my back yard for produce instead of to a supermarket is such a beautiful concept to me. As amazing as gardens are, whether it’s a flower garden or a vegetable garden, they don’t just happen. A lot of work and planning goes into creating a garden. Gardens are mapped out and created with an end goal in mind. Kind of like us. I know that when I think about my life, I have a hazy idea of where I’d like to be in 30 years, and even though that idea changes every once in a while, and I don’t really have much of a plan of how to get there, I still have some kind of goal floating in the back of my head. There are things I want to do, places I want to go, goals I want to achieve. You can’t just step out and do them tho, you need to set yourself up for success. How?
There are specific things that successful gardeners do to ensure that their gardens have the ability to grow, and just like those gardens we need to do the same with ourselves. Gardeners set boundaries for their product.
- Space Boundaries – You can’t have a garden that’s too crowded or busy. When a gardener maps out their garden, they make sure that their plant has enough space to set their roots and grow. There needs to be enough room for the plant to receive the proper amount of sunlight and enough room so that the plant doesn’t have to compete for nutrition in the soil.
- Time Boundaries – You don’t immediately start harvesting a strawberry plant as soon as you place it in the ground do you? No. You have to wait a certain amount of time before the fruit is ready to be picked and bring nourishment to the harvester. Each plant blooms at a different rate and the gardener is aware of that. You don’t hear experienced garners complaining that their potato plant just won’t bloom as quickly as the bean plant. That’s because they are aware of the time it takes for each plant to become what it was designed to be.
- Intruder Boundaries – Most gardens have some sort of barrier between the plants and the rest of the wilderness. I remember when I was a child we had a little garden with strawberries, tomatoes and a few other things (herbs maybe). We watered the plants, watched the plants, tended to the plants and squealed with excitement as we saw the first blush of pink fade into the once bright green budding strawberry. I also remember getting up one morning, heading out to the garden and to my horror finding bites had been taken out of every single strawberry and tomato. I learned at that time why fences are an important part of gardening, if you’re depending on your produce, you need to protect it from things that want to consume it. You also pull weeds from your garden to protect the roots and make sure that they have enough space to grow as deep as they can without the risk of being choked and damaged. We need to do this with our own lives too sometimes, more often than we think.
Imagine if you were responsible for feeding your family and friends from your garden. You would become painfully aware that you could only feed them if what you plant actually grows. You would be sure to guard your garden and give it everything it needed to prosper. If that meant building a fence to keep animals out, you would. If that meant adding extra nutrients to the soil, you would. If that meant removing weeds that threatened to tangle the roots and choke your plant, you would. Wouldn’t you? I would. So why don’t we do that same thing with our time, energy, hearts and minds? Why don’t we guard them against people whose sole purpose is to be negative and divert our attention away from being a resource for people in need. Why don’t we preserve our energy instead of packing our days full so we have no room to invest in our goals and personal growth?
So, how to we move forward? How do we start setting personal boundaries to protect and nurture our growth. Well, start like you would if you were planting a garden and make a plan. Start by asking yourself a question. What problem are you trying to solve in your life? Are you too tired, too stressed, overbooked, overwhelmed? How do you want to be instead? Here’s the action piece: How do you get there? Maybe you simply need to start declining more often. That means saying no. “I would love to help you out in this way, but I actually cannot, I am too overwhelmed at the moment.” Yes, guilt will come, because we’re human and most of us are kind-hearted people who want to help make everyone feel good, but the truth is you can’t…Now, don’t go about saying no to everything that crosses your path. That’s not the goal, the goal is to simply use discretion and give a purpose to the things that fill your space so that you don’t find yourself filling your space just to fill your space. You need to give yourself mental, emotional, spiritual and yes even physical space to grow so that you are able to invest in your future and participate in the purpose for your life. Just as you can only share food from a garden that’s producing, you can only benefit and bring health to others when you yourself are healthy and setting yourself up to produce.
- Set some space boundaries – Be cautious of overcrowding your schedule. It is okay, even healthy to have down time where you’re not doing much of anything for a little while. Learn to enjoy your own company, and learn to entertain yourself with small things. Breathing room is healthy for plants and its healthy for us too.
- Set some time boundaries – Give yourself time to be nourished. Set aside time to learn new things, time to work on a skill, time to clean up your space, time to organize your life, time to think about your goals and plan your strategies. If your life is constantly filled to the brim with extras, you will never be able to grow in these areas because there won’t be time to.
- Set some intruder boundaries – Give yourself space from people who don’t help you grow. More specifically, the people who challenge you in negative ways. Keep your circle of people who are allowed to speak into your life and your dreams limited to people who are honest, encouraging, uplifting and who will challenge you to grow. Pull the weeds if you have to, protect your ability to grow.
I started this topic by saying this was an act of love, and all I’ve been talking about is us. Here’s how it comes full circle. You cannot help someone else grow, you cannot provide nourishment to someone else’s life, if yours is drained beyond measure. You’ll instead end up dragging someone into a friendship/mentorship/partnership/relationship with someone who is very unhealthy and can bring very little longterm into whatever relationship you may have. Love others by allowing yourself to be healthy so that you can support them.
Even Jesus did this. There are moments recorded in scripture where Jesus took time & space away from the noise and the crowd that he was constantly attracting and filled himself up with what he needed to go back to people and give them what they needed. If Jesus needed that…how much more do we need it? The answer, a lot.
I’m not the best at this by any means, but I want to be better at it. Let’s work on this together!
Thanks for reading see you next time!