In the last post, I discussed the importance of clarifying values to feel fulfilled, authentic and have positive control over your life, your core values need to show up every day. In this post, I want to talk about protecting your values. Life can be unpredictable and create opportunities to throw you off you plan; we can lose sight of your values in the chaos of our commitments. To stay on the path of your best self, you need to protect your ability to live your values.
Two easier-said-than-done but immensely potent tools to protect your ability to live your values out loud are setting healthy boundaries and establishing bright line rules.
Boundaries, according to Brené Brown, are a list of “what’s okay and what’s not okay.” When we hold ourselves and others accountable to respecting a boundary, we have greater self-respect and integrity. When we allow ourselves and others to violate a boundary, we open the door to disappointment and resentment.
To create a boundary, think of the value you want to protect. Then reflect on the typical challenges or circumstances that interfere with your ability to live that value. Finally, establish the boundaries of what’s okay (acceptable behavior) and what’s not okay (unacceptable behavior).
Value: I make choices to live a healthy lifestyle, including exercising every day.
Challenge: sometimes my body needs more time to recover, making it difficult to exercise every day.
Boundary: it’s okay to take a rest day if my body needs it. It’s not okay to be sedentary on a rest day. (This boundary allows you to recover but encourages a walk or gentle yoga series as part of healthy recovery.)
Value: I spend money wisely to promote financial stability.
Challenge: Sticking to a tight budget feels very restrictive.
Boundary: it’s okay to treat myself now and then. It’s not okay to treat myself without reviewing my finances first. (This boundary allows you to indulge and splurge now and then but hold you accountable to smart decisions about how much you can spend right now).
Bright line rules are described by Gretchen Rubin in Better than Before. A bright line rule is “a clearly defined rule or standard that eliminates any need for interpretation or decision-making”. Bright line rules eliminate the need for making decisions and preserve willpower. Willpower is the ability to control oneself and the decisions one makes. It's the ability to delay gratification and choose long-term rewards over short-term rewards. Willpower is also an immensely limited resource that is nearly impossible to replenish throughout the day.
To create a bright line rule, think of the value you want to protect. Then reflect on the typical challenges or circumstances that interfere with your ability to live that value. Finally, create a rule or standard you can abide by that will support your value and eliminate the option of deviating.
Value: I make choices to live a healthy lifestyle.
Challenge: on hectic days, I often hit the drive through or order food to pick up on the way home.
Bright Line Rule: I only eat out when its planned at least 24 hours in advance.
Value: I spend money wisely to promote financial stability
Challenge: I have trouble sticking to a budget
Bright Line Rule: I get $xxx per month in cash for spending money, when it’s gone, I don’t spend more money that month.
Both boundaries and bright line rules create clarity and simplicity. They establish baseline behaviors and choices that support your values, and let you know when you make choices that go against your values.
What are the values you are struggling bring more fully to your life? What core values seem to be the first that are sacrificed when life gets hectic? What are boundaries or bright line rules you can establish to protect your ability to live your value?
Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work. Tough conversations. Whole hearts. New York: Random House.
Brown, B. (2015). Rising strong: How the ability to reset transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York: Random House.
Baumeister, R. F., & Tierney, J. (2012). Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength. New York: Penguin Books.
Rubin, G. (2015). Better than before: Mastering the habits of our everyday lives. New York: Random House.