Francine Pratt

We enter a time of year when many people show more love and are more joyful, while others may look for inner peace and recognize the need to practice patience. We never know a person’s story, their challenges and what they face day to day. This gives us an opportunity to be kinder and practice goodness. With a little bit of faith and gentleness, we just might be that person who becomes a light for someone who is experiencing a dark time in their life.

These are words, words that we hear often around this time of year. Words that are meaningful, but how does someone put these words into action? What level of self-control is needed to really live your best life during the holidays and beyond? In the book “Boundaries,” written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, they provide a framework on how to say no and when to say yes to take control of our life.

Many times, situations happen in our lives, and we may say: “He/She hurt my feelings or made me mad or took me for granted. …” — the list can go on. I learned self-control really points the fingers back to the individual. The only thing we can control is taking responsibility for our life. We open more options for ourselves when we stop blaming others.

Options become very limited when we do not take ownership for the choices we make in life. We are not responsible for other people — we are responsible to other people and for ourselves. Boundaries help us see where we are as a person — where we start and where we end. Sometimes we allow others to be an extension of ourselves by giving into another person’s needs to the point that we do not know where we start and where we end.

For example, at a previous job, I had a boss who called me on the phone at 2 or 3 in the morning when he had an idea or thought. This happened several times during the week. I started keeping a note pad and pen on my nightstand. This same boss would come to my office late in the afternoon and request reports due the next morning for a meeting he needed to attend. I would make it happen. Eventually, I found another job. However, I told others about his behaviors and how he made me leave a job I really enjoyed.

When I reflect on what I know now, compared to what I knew then, I realize it was me not having boundaries that cost me a job I enjoyed. I had to ask myself, “Why did I not confront him? Why did I not set boundaries?” I discovered I was intimidated by him (situations from my past), and I needed my job. So, it was my choice to leave a job that was toxic for me. The same way when we are in situations where we blame another person for being loud, abusive, controlling and manipulating — those are their behaviors that we do not have to own.

The good news, it is never too late to establish boundaries. We can only control what is within our boundaries. Included in our boundaries are our feelings, attitudes/beliefs, behaviors, desires, and choices. Also included are what we value and setting limits on others, which include our resources, thoughts, desires, and loves. We must own our attitudes and beliefs, which sometimes come from our own orientation toward something and anything we accept as true that is not always true.  We cannot hold other people responsible for our feelings, choices, and behaviors. Setting boundaries helps us to take responsibility for our choices and helps others understand there are consequences for their behaviors.

Boundary setting is not easy to do because it requires a personal assessment and retraining of how we operate. Some people may think you are mean when they recognize a different response. This can be a good thing if the people in your life want to grow in relationships and take responsibility for their actions. Setting boundaries allows us to take responsibility for our life. I am learning how to say no (like I should have to my old boss) and when to say yes.

This holiday season is a great gift to yourself to start setting boundaries. We have a choice to have a more peaceful and enjoyable holiday knowing we cannot change anyone’s behavior. We can only change how we choose to respond and react to their behaviors.

Happy Holidays!

Francine Pratt

Francine Micheline Pratt serves as director of Prosper Springfield, a community collective impact model charged with oversight of community goals to reduce the poverty rate and increase postsecondary educational attainment. She is president of Pratt Consultants LLC, which focuses on community engagement, business infrastructure development, conflict resolution, strategic planning, and diversity training. She also is a creative partner for the Queen City Soul Kitchen restaurant. Email: More by Francine Pratt