Boundaries: The Key to Creating Your Life Your Way

By admin / January 4, 2009
By: Kirsten E. Ross, MLIR, SPHR
Category: Time Management

When you think of the word boundary, what images does it conjure up; A fence around a pasture; A concrete barrier between two lanes of highway, how about the Berlin Wall?

These are all physical boundaries. What about boundaries in your life? Saying no without guilt, for example, provides a great boundary around your time.
Have you ever seen Stephen Covey give his demonstration with the bucket of rocks and the pail of sand? It is one my favorite visuals for boundaries.
He holds up a full bucket of sand and a pail of rocks and asks a participant how to fit the rocks into the sand. One after another, the participants try to push and force the rocks down into the sand. At most, they can get a small part of one or two rocks down into the sand. The rest of the rocks are just left out.
If you are not utilizing good boundaries, this is how you are living your life. You are starting with a bucket full of sand and are trying to fit in the big stuff to no avail.
Let me explain. In his analogy, the rocks represent the things that are most important to us in life; our core values, our core goals. The sand represents all of the little stuff; the phone calls, emails, junk mail, junk pile, gossip, obligations forced upon us. There is no end to this stuff. It is voluminous and WILL NOT go away.
The sources of little stuff are endless; your needy co-worker, your mother-in-law, your grown child, the unwanted sales person, the chatty neighbor, the gossipy friend. All of this stuff will fill the bucket that is your life if you let it. And, then how do the big things fit in? The career goals, family, time for you.
The answer to the Covey Puzzle is to start with the bucket filled with rocks. That is your core. From there, pour the sand around. These little things can fill in the crevices, the little bits of time in our lives, while the rocks stay solid. Life is filled first with what is important and the rest fills in where there is room. Some of the little stuff may be left out and that's okay because the core is there.
The boundaries you set to protect what is most important to you are the key.

· Saying no without guilt,
· relieving yourself of obligations and spending time on the activities that add value to your life,
· instituting consequences when others are not respectful.
Which bucket do you start your day with? Are you trying to fit the rocks around the sand or the sand around the rocks? Will you create your life the way you want it or will you let others dictate your journey?
You choose! Boundaries are your key to staying in the driver's seat of your life.

Kirsten E. Ross is a Leadership and HR Coach who brings a unique blend of energy and insight to her work with clients. She is skilled at transforming leaders and creating profitable, drama-free workplaces.

She has a Masters in Human Resource Management, is a Certified Senior Human Resource professional and brings more than 17 years of hands-on experience. Kirsten has also authored a variety of articles and e-books and has been interviewed as an expert for media such as: NBC Nightly News, Fox 2 News, National Public Radio and for publications such as Working Mother Magazine and Crains New York Business. Visit her website:

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