Boundaries are about what we say no to. We say no to things in order to make time for the things we’ve said yes to.
“Yes, I’ll volunteer to tutor.”
“No, I can’t play a game with you right now.”
“No, I don’t want to go to that movie.”
“Yes, I think I will read a book.”
“No, I don’t have time for that meeting.”
“Yes, I would be happy to take on that project.”
Over and over and over we face decisions that come up against our boundaries. If we have concrete, conscious boundaries, then we will say “Yes” or “No” with confidence. But more often than not, our boundaries are soft, mutable, theoretical things.
“I probably shouldn’t stay up any later…” …but I go ahead and start up one more YouTube video anyway.
“I’d like to help my friend out tonight…” …but it’s just too cold out, so I guess I won’t bother.
“I’ll get around to writing at some point today…” …or tomorrow, or next week, or next year.
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”
I love this quote. I just came across it on my meditation app recently, and it easily struck home for me.
It also got me to thinking about myself. About how my boundaries are just as important for controlling my self-behavior as they are for fending off others.
And it comes with an equal amount of disappointment.
When I say no to a social outing, in order to stay home and write, I maybe distance myself a bit from friends and family.
In the same way, when I say no to playing a video game, I distance one version of my future self from another. The vision I have of myself in the future, when playing video games, is a vastly different one than when I write, or read, or meditate, or, or, or…
And so on.
The options we have before us for our future are uncountable. And the decisions we make in each moment are what will define the future we inherit.
Setting the proper boundaries — deciding what we will say “no” to our present self about — helps guide us to an intentional future, instead of a random one.