How do you create a life worth living in a world that feels like it’s already crammed with responsibilities, plans, and projects?
Most of us start as children going to school, aiming to get good grades to make our parents happy. Then, as we get older, we focus on getting a good-paying job to afford a nice car and a house, thinking that will bring us joy and satisfaction.
Eventually, we start to realize despite all the time and hard work we’ve put in striving to reach the “next level,” we’re still not happy. I’m sure I’m not the only person who woke up one day to realize something missing without a clue what it could be.
Busy on the hamster wheel of life, doing the same things we’ve always done; it’s a struggle to find the time or mental bandwidth to figure out what needs to change.
It’s hard to know what to do, or better yet, what we need to stop doing to get on the right track to creating a life worth living.
Focus our awareness
The first step to improving our life starts with knowing the type of life we want. No one else can tell us what is going to make us happy. Only we can understand the quality we’re looking for.
Do you like the idea of spending your days peaceful and calm? Maybe you fantasize about having enough time to take a walk, a nap, or read a book. Perhaps you’d rather live a life of excitement and adventure, stepping out beyond your comfort zone, learning to paint, write a book, or go sky-diving.
Either way, creating a path toward a life we can look forward to starts knowing how we enjoy spending our time, what experiences we hope to have, and who the people are we want to spend time with. Although we may not have all the time and money we need yet, it’s good to have a dream to aspire towards. We plant the seeds to our goals by investing our time thinking about them.
“You have to dream before your dreams can come true.”A.B.J. Abdul Kalam
I like to daydream while cleaning the floors, folding laundry, and doing dishes. I figure I might as well use my time wisely. I was putting clothes in the washer when I came up with this idea for a blog post. You’re welcome. 🙂
Dreams don’t have to be huge, expensive, or in the far-away future. The point is to listen to our hearts and find something fulfilling, like learning a new skill, developing a hobby, getting a new job, or healing a relationship.
Look at what we have to work with.
Looking at our time and money forces us to realize there are boundaries to our resources. Having limits doesn’t mean we’ll never have what we want. It simply shows the areas we have opportunities to grow and expand. Knowing our boundaries allows us to develop how we see ourselves beyond the stories going through our minds.
I needed some help in this area, so I researched and came up with eight boundaries we all have that help us see ourselves.
Physical: our body, personal space, energy level, and privacy. Along with our physical presence, we need to consider our comfort level while engaging other people. Do we give a handshake or a hug – to whom and when? How do we feel about loud music, nudity, and locked doors? Do we feel safe? Where do we live? Do we recognize when our body is tired and needs rest? When in doubt, we can stop, take a deep breath, and tune into our body to understand what it’s allowing us to do or not. Protecting ourselves starts from within us.
Material: our supplies such as money, clothes, books, food, and transportation. These are our provisions. Our boundaries determine whether we give or lend things, like our money, car, books, or toothbrushes. They also refer to our finances and whether or not we can afford something. Knowing what we’re dreaming about helps us recognize what our finances allow us to do. Money isn’t the answer to happiness. It’s a tool we use to create a quality life for ourselves and the people we love.
Mental: our thoughts, values, knowledge, guiding principles, and opinions As the author of our life, our thoughts and words tell us the story of who we are and what is sacred to us. For example, what do we think about Black Lives Matter, the minimum wage, Roe vs. Wade, or equal rights for women? Can we recognize what’s important, valuable, and worth defending? How are we willing to show up and protect our sacred relationships? Can we listen with an open mind to someone else’s opinion without becoming upset? Finding ourselves becoming highly emotional, argumentative, or defensive is a sign of weak emotional boundaries (covered next). Mental limitations also refer to whether we know how to do something or not. For example, if we go to Italy, can we speak Italian? If not, that’s a boundary we need to overcome.
Emotional: our feelings, emotions, and responsibilities Healthy boundaries allow us to control our emotions instead of being carried away by them. They distinguish our feelings and responsibilities from someone else’s. Have you ever felt responsible for making someone else feel better? (I have!) Being highly reactive to someone else’s emotions suggests weak boundaries. Recognizing and enforcing our limits stops us from taking things personally or taking on other people’s baggage. Healthy emotions allow us to navigate our relationships (including the one with our Captain), gain mastery over our feelings and feel love for ourselves instead of depending upon outside validation. By adjusting our attitude toward what is appropriate within the moment, we give ourselves time and space to chart a course toward a life worth living.
Sexual: our comfort level with intimacy and identity. These reflect our relationship with sex – what, where, when, and with whom. Although these boundaries may change with age and experience, ultimately, it’s up to us to recognize how, when, and with whom we want to share ourselves or spend our time fantasizing. Here’s a handy article offering a yes/no/maybe checklist. Sexual boundaries also affect the way we identify ourselves in the world (i.e., he/him, she/her, they/them, married, single, divorced, etc.), and, like it or not, they come into play when deciding our responsibilities at home and work. Being a happily married woman of 26 years, I believe cultivating joy and happiness is a personal responsibility and a private matter worthy of love and commitment.
Spiritual: our connection to spiritual guidance represents our connection to God; Allah, the Universe, the Divine, the Source, the Force, Vishnu, Brahma, the Big Guy in the Sky, or the Cosmic Love Muffin. The name doesn’t matter. What matters most is our connection to it. Acknowledging this connection and looking for a deeper understanding of ourselves allows us to develop self-mastery. Using our awareness to recognize signs from our higher power enables us to take advantage of unexpected opportunities for healing and new relationships. Sometimes it looks like facing a problematic relationship, making us decide who we are and stand up for what we’re willing to defend. Other times we learn something about who we believe we want to become. Like a sailor tuning into his internal compass to stay balanced, our spiritual connection leads us toward our best life.
Temporal (Time): our dedication to our priorities. Looking at how we spend our time and prioritize our energies, firm boundaries give us the ability to manage our responsibilities and accomplish our goals. Healthy boundaries give us the ability to focus and minimize distractions. People with weak time boundaries are often late for appointments and unable to finish projects. Another example of poor time boundaries would be getting lost on social media, going down the “rabbit hole.” I know it’s not just me who struggles with this! It takes a lot of self-awareness and dedication to the people we love and the projects we believe in to pull ourselves away and get back to taking care of business.
Social media’s distraction leads us to recognize the latest boundary in our evolutionary adventure.
Virtual: our online presence. These refer to our influence on the internet, such as social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat, Twitter and texting, websites, Skype, blogs, video, and email. Whenever we post something on social media or send an email or text, we send out something representing us. The videos we make show a side of who we are and what’s important to us. Along with every post we write and share on social media. Every video we watch and every call we take feeds our attention while occupying our time. To create a healthy virtual presence, think about this the next time you get ready to post.
What do you want your message to accomplish?
How do you want others to feel or respond?
Would you like your kids to come across this message after you’re gone? How about your spouse?
Our virtual boundaries give us a platform to connect with others while learning more about ourselves.
Our dreams become a reality when we engage our awareness and make minor, necessary adjustments. Starting with our vision of a life worth living, we can use our boundaries to see what we need to improve/address/heal and stretch* ourselves toward fresh circumstances in the meantime.
For example, working on this blog post for the past couple of weeks, I knew I needed plenty of time and mental awareness to finish it. I blocked out four hours to work, turned off my phone, and told my family to give me space to write. Sitting here, tuning into my spiritual boundary to wrap up this post, I trust you also have a dream you’ve been thinking about while reading this. Maybe it’s seemed too big or far-out to be possible until now.
Looking at the boundaries above, what do the details of your dream look like?
Where in your schedule can you find time to cultivate your plan? What do you still need to learn? Who do you need to ask for help?
I’m offering a Boundaries class once a month at Rochester Holistic Arts. You can join me there or sign up for coaching with me.
Please leave a comment below and let me know if this post helped clarify your dreams.
p.s. I’d be happy to help you look at the details of your vision. Read through my Alchemy Cards and Coaching page to see if we would be a good fit.
p.s.* Before you go, please join me for the Stretch, a balancing, center exercise that helps focus and stress management. Do it with me live on Facebook every Tuesday at 2 pm EST.