A lot has changed during this pandemic year.  We’ve all had to be flexible and make adjustments here and there. There have been closures. You or your clients may have had to take on homeschooling, childcare, or in some cases parental care when senior centers or assisted living situations became too dangerous.

We’ve made some short-term shifts to get through things. Some of those changes may be incredibly helpful and worth keeping around after the pandemic. However, we don’t have to adopt all of them as long term habits and patterns -- especially if some of those habits aren’t sustainable or healthy.

For example, I recently spoke with one of my clients about broken boundaries. Over the past year or so, he’s constantly overcommitted with a client. He’s done a bunch of work beyond the boundaries of the original agreement, but he hasn’t charged them for it. He’s created a false narrative that by removing this boundary and doing extra work without extra cost, the client will stay with him forever. It sounds good, but it doesn’t work.

Now, as he onboards more and more clients, his baseline of services has changed. But his prices haven’t adjusted accordingly. He’s broken both a personal boundary as well as a business boundary. But now that he’s aware of the problem -- we spent an hour and a half talking it all through -- he’s realized the ways he can reassert those boundaries. 

But how did we get here to begin with? Why do we break boundaries that could be detrimental to our personal and professional lives? In many cases, we’re trying to cope with difficult times. We break these boundaries because it makes us feel busy and productive. If we give more and more to our clients, they’ll love us forever, right?

Well, let’s take a moment to consider: if you’re spending more time and energy on a project than your client realizes, they can’t appreciate the full value you bring to the table. Providing these extra services can be a coping mechanism. You want to do a great job and impress the client, so you do more than you’d originally committed. But if you do it too much or for too long, you’re going to burn out.

It’s important to check in with yourself regularly -- are you self-sacrificing? How often? What is it costing you -- in time, energy, and money? Are you inching toward burnout? Take time to sit with those feelings and decide if that’s what you want.  Keep in mind, though, that burnout can be a way out. It can be the trigger to realizing that a job or project is no longer fulfilling or sustainable. 

As you move forward and establish (or re-establish) your boundaries, make sure that you allow for flexibility. Don’t just set healthy boundaries once and leave it at that. Re-examine your boundaries as your business grows, as your family responsibilities change, and as the world changes around you.

We can’t be stuck with boundaries we created five years ago. We can’t be stuck with boundaries we created one year ago. The world is a completely different place. And so are you.

Take some time to periodically reassess your boundaries. If you’ve dropped a boundary, decide if it’s time to put it back up. Flexibility is important.

If you’re struggling with establishing or re-establishing broken boundaries, explore our Accidental Entrepreneur services. We’d love to help you get back on track!

What boundary have you broken lately? How did it make you feel? Let us know in the comments!

Terry Doloughty is the Founder of B.O.S.S. Consulting with thirty years of experience in both the for profit and nonprofit sectors. Terry believes that leadership is the most valuable renewable resource. He’s passionate about sharing his skills and life experiences with the next generation of leaders so they can grow their organizations and support their communities.

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