top of page
  • Andy Steele

Creating boundaries

*want to listen to this article as a podcast, now you can:

We've all heard the phrase, "a problem shared is a problem halved". Nearly all of us have had a conversation with someone else and then we instinctively offer to help in some way. Or maybe just by listening we've found ourselves thinking about it afterwards? Maybe it's annoyed us or made us sad; ultimately an emotion or thought or set of thoughts has been triggered inside by that conversation. Maybe it's with a colleague, a boss, a friend, a child, a parent. Every day of our lives we're interacting with others, listening and taking on the emotions, thoughts, sensations and energy of others.

Quite often we'll do this over and over again without realising we're just absorbing all this stuff until at some point we will open the door of our car and realise that we've been carrying all these damn monkeys with us all along. Now this is not my analogy, it was analogy told to me by someone else who had read a book called "One Minute Manager" but I love that concept that we pick up all these mental pictures off of other people without really considering that they're not pictures at all, but monkeys that are out to cause mischief.

If only they were actually monkeys as then it would be a lot easier to notice them holding us back.

Ultimately, this issue is about having healthy boundaries. And no matter how good we are as human beings, it's an inevitable part of life that we will collect these monkeys without realising it. The skill is selecting when to lower our boundaries and how often we do it.

I'm not giving this advice as someone that has all the answers, because I'm naturally very empathic; I take a lot of stuff on from others. I used to see my chameleonic skills as a massive positive but actually, the more you drop your boundaries for others and take on their mental monkeys, the less space there is for yourself. And slowly over time, you become less like yourself and more imprisoned by the mental monkeys around you.

Bleak, right? Well, no. Recognising that you're carrying those mental pictures belonging to others means that you can get rid of them. It's a bit similar to the beliefs that I mentioned in the last post, only this is at a much more subtle level, and it's caused by us lowering our boundaries, maybe to please someone else, gain their trust or a reflection of our own hidden beliefs.

So how to create and maintain healthy boundaries? Here are some tips that I've practised for myself and collated from around the interweb for you.

Encourage the person you're talking to come up with their own solutions

Even if you know what the person you're speaking to needs to know, the only way they have any chance of tackling it is if they come up with their own solution. You can guide them in the right way, even suggest something if they are really stuck, but if you do this, you need to ask them if they think that will help and how they could stick to it.

Encourage the person you're talking to take responsibility for their solution

Similar to above but ultimately even if you're the boss or a parent or a friend; if you take responsibility for every solution in every interaction, you're going to be so weighed down by these monkeys you will very quickly burn out. Delegation is a necessity in maintaining healthy boundaries. This doesn't meant you don't care; it's actually about respecting that someone else needs to take responsibility for their own mental pictures.

Journal what you have achieved each day

This is the hardest thing on the list for me because I find it easier to communicate in abstract ways, such as music (I know, what a surprise, right? :)) But I have known this to really help others, including my wife. It can also be a really important step in turning a negative feedback loop into a positive feedback loop. Celebrate those wins when you're feeling overwhelmed by how much you have to do and seeing. even if you don't the impact after a couple of days, try it for a week, 2 weeks, 4 weeks and then look and you should be able to see that actually even though you're really busy, the important thing is that you are making a difference even when you're not feeling like you are.

Sonic journaling

Ok, I made this up, but it's the best way I can think of to describe this. If you have any kind of musical abilities at all, then pick up an instrument and play and just listen to what you're playing. You don't actually need to be a musician though. You could do it with a drum. You could do it a himalayan singing bowl. You could even do it with a crystal pyramid and you can pick up one of those for less than £50. I will include a video of this to show you how I do this with a drum below to explain it better.

3 is the magic number. Prioritise what you need to do and treat this as your backlog. Only concern yourself with the top 3 things and only tackle the next thing on your backlog when you've got one of the 3 things that you want to achieve completed first. If something stays on your list for too long; get rid of it, because if it was really important, you either need to prioritise it as one of your top 3 or delegate to someone else.

It's ok to say No. When I first started out as an engineer, I used to get into a lot of trouble with how I said No, so I went to a creative writing course and after 6 months, I found that I could say No in a much more diplomatic way, although I did use longer words and my emails were twice as long. :D

Om Shanti


5 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page