As leaders in the 24×7 culture of the 21st century, we all must set boundaries. And they are different for each of us. Some of us like to stay at the office until the work for the day is completed and separate work time from family or play time. Some of us like to be connected all the time, handling things as they come up. These folks prefer a more integrated life rather than a separation. Still, others want to be home in the early evening and choose to “catch up” later on when everyone in their family has gone to bed.
There is no right or wrong; some of it is generational, some of it is just personal preference. And, what I have noticed, in the years I have been coaching executives, is that regardless of preference, setting boundaries is something many people struggle with. And people with young children struggle the most. People with families often agree to boundaries, rather than set boundaries between work and family; and they often forget to set aside time for themselves or agree to boundaries imposed upon them.
This is not a new subject; it is talked about and written about a lot. What I don’t hear discussed, as much, is the consequences of setting boundaries. For the sake of our loved ones, our health, or emotional health, we all must set boundaries that meet our needs. And, what I have come to realize is with very few exceptions, these boundaries have consequences. Sometimes the work doesn’t get done, sometimes our families are hurt or disappointed and sometimes the cost is economic, the customer goes elsewhere or we must leave our position and take one that allows us to live the boundaries we want, perhaps with lower compensation.
The question is, can we be intentional about choosing, so that we knowingly pay a cost we are willing to pay, rather than suffer a cost that we were neither expecting nor prepared to pay?