When we talk about protecting and nurturing your energy, we’re talking about setting boundaries and upholding proper self care. And we are talking about these boundaries in a way that will enhance and promote greater creativity, greater productivity because you’re not wearing yourself out and burning yourself out.
An example of that is knowing that as an introvert, maybe you can’t spend the ENTIRE day interfacing with clients at work. If you don’t build in some time to do solo tasks or to decompress with other types of self care, you’re going to hate your job. We all need different things like that, and for each of us those things that we need are as normal as sleep at night and eating during the day - which, honestly, a lot of us need help protecting time for as well. I took a long time to learn NOT to, under any circumstances, take my lunch hour at my desk. Some of these things take time to learn.
I’ve been reading a book called Essentialism, which I came on here to talk about a couple of weeks ago. The main message of the book is recognizing what is truly important to you and what you need, and prioritizing those things above the many, many priorities that others tend to push on you.
A lot of “essential” priorities also center around boundaries, so I thought I’d introduce them in here as a way to recognize what is truly important for you, and then we’ll talk about how to protect and nurture these things.
In the book Essentialism, Greg McKeown uses the phrase, “protect the asset.” That asset, your most important thing in life, is yourself and your wellbeing. In doing that, he talks about the facts that the essentialist recognizes:
Play is essential
Sleep is essential
Saying NO is essential
All three of these things are what people who have loose boundaries or don’t know the importance of protecting themselves, see as trivial.
And I’ll stop and ask here - what do you know is an ESSENTIAL part of your personal boundaries? Feel free to drop those in the comments below.
I personally resonate with those three things - play is a way to disrupt mental stuck-ness and engage in new thinking patterns. It doesn’t distract, it enhances productivity. Sleep is something I cannot function without and won’t expect myself to. And learning how and when to say NO has been a big part of my boundary-setting journey.
There’s also an element here of knowing HOW you play. And maybe refer to last week’s talk on partnering with distractions for how to use those to your benefit. Also, what do you personally need to say NO to? For me, I tend to want to help others way too much. I started putting all my commitments on my calendar (including self care time) so that after I’d filled it up, I could say no to helping people or jumping on a volunteer cause with a clear conscience because all of my time was literally already taken up.
To help with this, I’ve got a tool to help you remember to prioritize yourself, and how to do that. It’s based on the scene safety steps from NOLS wilderness medicine (I’m a Wilderness First Responder) and I thought it fit so well for assessing and creating boundaries for yourself.
When you’re a leader in a wilderness emergency situation, you have to make sure you keep yourself safe, or else you really can’t help anyone else. It’s that same idea as putting your mask on first before helping others with theirs on an airplane.
So let’s look at those 5 steps, the 5 to Survive by creating and protecting your boundaries. And you can do this like we do in wilderness medicine, by stopping to put your hand to your head as if you’re shielding your eyes from the sun, before diving into any situation where additional energy from you is required by another human. So while we’re doing this, we’re standing back to assess before going in or allowing a boundary to be crossed.
We’ve talked about this one, remembering that you’re the most important person in the situation, no matter what anyone else needs or wants from you. If your energy is not properly charged and nurtured, you are not of the best use to anyone. I use this reminder to make sure I’m showing up for others as my very best self, and in order to do that it’s perfectly acceptable to spend time doing whatever it is that you need to do.
When people push you to let them cross your boundaries, always remember that whatever it is, is NOT your emergency. They are having the emergency, you are not. And the feelings they’re having about it are theirs, not yours. And so you get to choose whether or not to engage. At the same time, you can step back mentally and empathize with where that person is at, without having to own the feeling or the emergency.
This is where you decide what you need to protect yourself from the energy that others try to put on you, or emergencies they try to make yours, emotions they project onto you. In wilderness medicine, this is the step where we put on our Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We haven’t stepped in yet. We are still assessing the situation.
Do you need to walk away for a moment? Do you need to express your needs to make them aware? Do you need to arm yourself with your to-do list to show your other priorities? Do you need a deep breath to connect with the stories you’re making up, then come back in more centered?
We have SO much time especially if you’re dealing with someone virtually right now, that you can disengage and practice coming back when you’re ready and feeling protected.
Alright. When you’re set with what you need in order to protect you, you can come back in ready to defend your boundaries. And don’t give more than you know you are able to.
In order to know what you’re able to give, you need to know what’s sacred to you and what you’re willing to compromise on, right? So how far into your sleep schedule do you allow work or personal emergencies to cut? How far is OK to shift your lunch break? And here is where saying NO is essential to make sure you’re not giving more of yourself than you truly have to give. Not letting your cup run dry.
Are we feeling like our boundary has been defended, or is something off? At this point we can look back and assess if we met our own needs, and also get a read on whether the other person is respecting of that or not. It’s a whole other story if you’re able to protect boundaries while others continue to cross them. Those are relationships and situations you then have to decide whether to stay in. But in this case, do a self-checkin to determine if the energy requested from you can be given or if you need to decline the request to give.
So to sum this up, we talked about a few things to do to protect and nurture your energy: Know what is essential to you and prioritize those things. Know what you tend to say YES to that you need to start saying NO to. Then utilize the 5 to Survive to assess the situation before diving in and letting your boundaries be crossed.
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