Proactive Boundary Management

A recent gift from a friend included a question card deck, and one of the questions was:

What is one of the most valuable lessons you have learned in the past year?

I’d say my biggest lesson of this year was to more deeply understand the relationship between intelligent boundary management and investing in deep and meaningful connections with people.

I had understood the importance of saying a firm “no” to partial matches as they arise. It’s necessary to reserve space to say “yes” to those really aligned opportunities, and I can’t do that if I’m caught up fussing with partial matches.

It’s been helpful to see partial matches as tests that I need to pass (by intelligently declining them). I know full well that the most aligned opportunities probably won’t be visible at all till I decline any partial matches that may still be tempting me. This has helped me grow into a person who feels less and less tempted by partial matches and mismatches.

Settling for less doesn’t make me happy, and it doesn’t work well for other people either. We thrive when we keep our standards high. It’s easier to enjoy abundance when we’re very clear about what we want and why.

This year showed me how important it is to do some proactive boundary management now and then. Instead of handling issues on a case by case basis, sometimes we gain enough clarity to do a more involved house cleaning.

One of the big ones I did this year was to purge Trump supporters from my life and work. I realized that their reasons and excuses for such support didn’t matter to me. I could make this evaluation based entirely on their words and actions and impacts. If someone expressed support for the current administration, that alone was more than enough to make us mismatches. It become obvious that I was never going to feel aligned with maintaining relationships with such people, even if they wanted to stay connected.

This wasn’t particularly complicated. There are zero Trump supporters that I feel aligned with enough to feel good about investing in a relationship together, personally or professionally. At best I can tolerate them, but that isn’t good enough. I don’t want to fill my social life with people I’m tolerating.

So this was an interesting invitation of sorts. Other misalignments can be complicated or ambiguous, but this one was super clear, so I went with it and cleaned house as best I could.

Even when there were misaligned situations that I initially had to resolve reactively, I paused afterwards to reflect on why those situations arose and how I could proactively prevent similar issues by making some adjustments. One example was shared in the post about admin baiting, which hasn’t been a problem in the months since I wrote that piece.

What I didn’t expect was just how much this more proactive approach would resolve and transform some social heaviness I felt earlier in the year.

Presently I feel a special kind of lightness, ease, and flow with respect to my social life. I feel more interested in people, and I enjoy connecting with them so much more (even if it’s all online still).

I think this is largely because I feel more committed to protecting my social space against intrusion from nutters and other misalignments. I had some friends I really didn’t know as well as I thought I did, and I realized that I didn’t want to consider them friends anymore. I had lost too much respect for them. Maybe that respect was too easily granted to begin with.

Since we can’t have meaningful relationships with all of the billions of people on earth, we’re always going to be limited to a small social bubble consisting of dozens of people that we could potentially get to know very well… maybe hundreds if we really push ourselves. While we can serve a lot more people, such as through business, we can only truly invest in a much smaller number on a personal level.

I feel like I’ve freed up (or somehow generated) some extra capacity and desire to invest in people close to me. This isn’t from opening myself up to love for all or anything like that. While I can still feel a connection to all people based in unconditional love, I can’t invest my time, energy, and attention in all people, so I have to be way more selective there.

I think some people have been picking up on these energy shifts in me since I’ve been observing more positive outreach from people, especially people who’ve been going through similar house cleanings this year.

I feel this year has made me more attuned to the differences between compatible and incompatible social connections. With the most compatible connections, we energize each other. We amplify each other’s energy.

This has been a draining year for a lot of people. It’s not just COVID that’s causing that. I think it has a lot to do with the social misalignments that have been exposed by our different responses to the health and political situations in the world.

What response did you choose for dealing with exposed misalignments? How has that worked for you?

And moreover, what was your most valuable lesson of the year?

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Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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