A Coaching Power Tool Created by Kyle Anderson
(Executive Coach, UNITED STATES)
Boundaries are the limits we set that allow us to spend our time and energy wisely. Boundaries allow us to consciously choose what and who we allow inside our lives. They help us create and maintain balance. Setting good boundaries means we don’t waste energy on what’s not good for us – people, activities, or food. When we compromise our boundaries, we allow things into our lives that shouldn’t be there. These things zap our energy and our commitment to our priorities.
Why are boundaries so difficult to set and keep? Perhaps because we haven’t given them the attention they deserve. In this exercise, you will have the opportunity to determine why your personal boundaries are so important, how they are grounded by what is truly important to you and to set them in writing.
Good fences make good neighbors. – Robert Frost
Begin with a blank piece of paper and a pencil. Imagine that this piece of paper is a big, beautiful yard. Your first step is to draw a fence (boundary) around your yard. Beginning 1 ½ -2 inches from the edge of the paper, draw a line that represents a fence all the way around your yard. Add one gate somewhere along the fence.
The Roots of Resilience
Once your fence is complete, begin at the bottom 1/3 of your yard and draw the roots of a large, strong tree. This tree will be the primary plant in your yard, so give it lots of room. The roots should be deep and wide to support the tree. Next, take a moment to think about what grounds you, nourishes you and brings you joy. Family? Friends? Free Time? Being outdoors? Reading? Label the roots with items from your list.
The Trunk of Strength
After your roots of resilience have been labeled, draw a wide, strong trunk. This trunk represents what makes you strong. Dig deep and make a list on the trunk of what makes you capable of all that you do. (Intelligence? Values? Priorities? Vision? Kindness? Tenacity? What else?).
The Fruits of Your Labor
Next, draw branches reaching high and wide. On these branches, add leaves and your favorite fruit (even if it doesn’t grow on a tree!). The fruit on your tree represents the amazing benefits of planting and maintaining your Boundary Tree. Some examples include more time to do what you WANT to do, more focus on priorities, less guilt and regret about over-committing, better relationships, more choice in your life, few distractions, the list goes on!
Closing the Garden Gate (gracefully)
When we establish strong, healthy boundaries, we create a “safety zone” for our lives. We ACTIVELY choose who and what we allow into our lives. This ability to choose (using our gate) provides a great deal of balance, freedom and power.
Take a moment to look at all three parts of your tree. This tree is unique to you and you are the only person that can protect it. How? By learning to say, “NO”.
There is an old adage that states, “Don’t give like a pipe: it’s open at both ends and never remains full. Give like an overflowing cup. The cup never runs out, but the overflow is available to be given to others”.
It is very easy to say “no” when there is a greater “yes”. –Stephen Covey
What is your greater yes? How will you say no? When we say yes to others when we really want to say no, we are making the other person (or their needs) more important than the commitments we’ve made to ourselves.
How do we say no gracefully? We say it clearly and kindly.
- “My plate is full right now, but thank you for thinking of me”.
- “I have so much going on right now, I wouldn’t be able to give it my full attention. Perhaps, next time”.
What other responses would work for you? Write at least 2 responses on the outside of your fence.
When we say no, we will (for the most part) be respected by those asking something of us. If we are not, perhaps it is an opportunity to set a new (tighter) boundary regarding this person (close the gate!).
Unfortunately, weeds make their way into every yard. What weeds are living under your tree? What commitments have you made that you regret and wish you could undo? Keeping in mind that weeds steal nourishment from our roots, think about ways that you can remove these weeds. Are there commitments that you can step away from without causing harm to others? If so, do it.
Be vigilant about weeding. After years of saying yes, it can be hard to stop weeds from popping up. Keep your yard clean and your tree healthy!
Posting your tree in a place where you will see it often. It can serve as a reminder of what is important to you, what makes you strong and capable and why good boundaries are so important.