If you are anything like me, this summer was all about letting go, being more adventurous, and loosening up many of the structures that usually keep you busy and productive.
It felt incredibly freeing to be in that space, and for most of us, we can’t live there forever.
Whether you have kids going back to school or the busyness of a fall work season ahead of you, it can be easy to fall back into patterns of overwork and overwhelm if we’re not careful.
I’m a big fan of carrying over lessons from one season to the next, so one of the big questions I’m asking myself right now is:
How can I bring the sense of freedom I discovered and leaned into this summer into a busier and more active fall?
At the top of my list? Boundaries and Agreements.
So what are Boundaries and Agreements?
Both Boundaries and Agreements are rules that define acceptable and unacceptable behavior as well as expectations we have for the way we want things to show up in our lives.
For me, what makes a Boundary versus an Agreement is who these rules and expectations are with and whether those rules or expectations are a do or a don’t.
Boundaries refer to rules that you establish with another person or group of people or particular area of your life. They also are usually don’ts.
I don’t work weekends.
Don’t call or text me after 5pm unless it is a true emergency.
Your failure to plan in advance is not an emergency.
Agreements can be with anyone or anything, including yourself and the universe. They also are usually dos.
I’ll take care of the finances and you take care of the cleaning.
I drink my cup of coffee and read the paper before I check my email.
Things always work out even if they may seem difficult or challenging on the surface.
There is definitely room for overlap between boundaries and agreements, so don’t get too crazy about needing to label these things.
How does one set Boundaries and Agreements?
We’ve all heard the adage that when you assume things, you make an ass of you and me.
The truth is, that when we get in trouble with boundaries and agreements, it is because we have a rule or expectation in our mind that lives only in our mind. It may even be unconscious.
Most people still aren’t mind readers, so they will transgress something that feels like a clear boundary or agreement to you. You’ll know when this happens because crossed boundaries make most of us really angry.
The way to avoid this is to make the unconscious conscious.
What assumptions are you making when it comes to your own boundaries and agreements?
What are your rules and expectations about the various aspects of your life?
Once you have become conscious about what your boundaries and agreements are, it is time to communicate them to the people who are affected by them. Note that no one has to agree to your boundary to make it a boundary except you. On the other hand, an agreement is just that, an agreement. Nothing with another person can be an agreement unless they accept it and are willing to follow it. Agreements with other people may require some negotiation.
I’ve set my Boundaries and Agreements. Now what?
Chances are that simply setting a boundary and an agreement isn’t enough.
People will make mistakes. Your boundary will be crossed. Your agreement will be broken.
That’s human nature.
So you will have to uphold your boundaries and your agreements until they feel like second nature.
The first step in upholding your boundaries and agreements is reminding the person it is with about that expectation.
So what do you do when a simple reminder isn’t enough.
When it comes to boundaries, you will have to uphold it.
If your boundary is that you don’t work on the weekends, you will have to ignore your email and text messages all weekend long. Maybe you’ll need to put an “out of office” notification on your emails which reminds whoever might receive it that you won’t be answering until Monday. When you do reply, you will remind them of your boundary, no apologies, just clear communication.
When it comes to agreements, you will have to work through it. If your agreement is with another person, you will have to talk about why they aren’t following through. You may have to discuss ways to help it make it easier for them to do so.
Or maybe the agreement isn’t totally aligned for both of you. So you’ll have to renegotiate.
Ultimately, it’s not a fixed process, as much as we might like it to be.
Now it’s your turn.
Set aside some time to revisit your own agreements and boundaries. Journal about the questions in this post.
Here’s one more:
Where have you started make assumptions and where can you communicate better about what you want and need?
As a bonus, share one discovery you made about boundaries and agreements in the comments below.
I look forward to hearing from you.
PS: If you want more support with setting boundaries and agreements, join this month’s New Moon Circle where we are going to be specifically working on finding more support and grounding by clarifying our personal boundaries. Click here for more details and to sign up now.