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How To Set Personal Boundaries in Life and Why They Matter

How To Set Personal Boundaries in Life and Why They Matter


Boundaries are statements of intent that you put in place to protect you from the conflicting demands of daily life. Ease the pressure, reduce the number of decisions you make every day, learn how to set personal boundaries in life and why they matter.


Boundaries are like an invisible force field that protect you from the choppy waters of life. They are a set of strategies or intentional decisions that you make about your life, what you let in and what you keep out.

If someone asks you to do something that you don’t feel comfortable with, with positive, helpful boundaries in place you’ll find a kind way to say no. You won’t feel forced to say yes against your better judgement and end up wishing you’d hadn’t agreed, wasting your time, getting upset, angry or frustrated with yourself because you could be spending that time doing something else.

There are lots of boundaries you could set and we’ll look at a few more later on (both big and small), but I’m sure many of us can relate to the example I’ve just given!


Personal boundaries are important because they stop you saying yes when you’d rather say no. They allow you to focus on the important things to you in your life and not get distracted by things that aren’t that important after all. Of course, we all have to do things we don’t want to do from time to time, that’s just life. But boundaries help you keep on track generally.

They take away some of the stress of decision-making. Instead of getting caught up in making micro-decisions throughout the day, having general boundaries in place will help you make broad decisions about what you do and don’t do.

For example, you might say that one of your boundaries is to only spend money intentionally and if you really need to. So, if you find yourself browsing your favourite internet shopping site, you might hop off it straightway if you have that boundary set because you know there’s nothing you REALLY need. 

Without that boundary, you might spend a while longer checking out the latest offers, only at the end to ask yourself do you really need to buy that item? Having broad boundaries about where and how you spend your money (not mindlessly scrolling shopping sites) will have saved you time and potentially money.

Boundaries set your expectations for yourself as much as what you expect from other people.

Setting personal boundaries is an important part of your own self care and can help you honour and respect your own emotional, psychological and physical needs.

“Boundaries protect the things that are of value to you. They keep you in alignment with what you have decided you want in life. That means the key to good boundaries is knowing what you want.”

Adelyn Birch
How to set boundaries in life and why they matter

Different ways work for different people but I find that keeping things simple is always best. It’s more likely you’ll remember them and put them into practice!

Perhaps think about the things in life that are most important to you. It might be family, home, leisure time, work, money, hobbies, personal development, and travel and so on.

Write down some broad boundaries for each of these areas.

Here’s an example related to my internet shopping above…

I want to spend money intentionally on things that I really need or love so that I can save more, get out of debt and spend what money I do have on experiences rather than more stuff.

I think boundaries should be specific, start with a positive statement of intent (I want, I will, I can…) and have some indication of the result.

In the above example I said that I wanted to save more, get out of debt and spend money on experiences. There has to be a point to the boundary otherwise you’re telling yourself to do or not do something without the why behind it.

  • Boundaries aren’t set in stone – They need to fit around you, your family and your lifestyle as it changes over time.
  • Boundaries should be flexible – They are broad statements of intent which save you time and energy in making lots of mini decisions about your daily life but, of course, they can be broken too! So, if you need to make an exception to the rule every now and then, go and do it! Boundaries should support you, not hinder you!
  • Boundaries are different for different people – There’s no one-size-fits-all and just because one person has a set of clearly defined boundaries for a particular area of their life, it doesn’t mean that you should too. Choose your own boundaries that reflect what you want out of life and what you consider most important.
  • Boundaries don’t have to be big – They can be broad statements of value or intent about your life, but smaller, specific boundaries can be just as effective. Keep reading for some examples of smaller boundaries you can try today! Don’t forget to download your worksheet too further down the post!
  • Boundaries shouldn’t make you feel guilty – Remember that they’re designed to protect you so there’s good reason to have them. Just because you say no to something now, it doesn’t mean no in the future. It just means not right now.
  • Boundaries take practice – It may take a while for your boundaries to be effective. The more you use and practice them, the better they’ll work for you.
How to set boundaries in life and why they matter

Here are some examples of personal boundaries which you might like to try and tips to help you put them in place.

1. Relationships

Healthy relationships are mutually supportive and both sides should feel the benefit. Of course we all go through some tough times when we need a little more support than normal from family and friends. Relationships that over the longer term are too needy or make us feel bad are unhealthy. Protect yourself from these relationships by putting in place boundaries. Decide to invest your time, love and energy into positive relationships that support you and find a way to remove yourself from unhealthy relationships that no longer work for you.

Examples of some simple boundaries you could put in place for your relationships:

  • Setting aside time for date night with your partner once a week/month
  • Deciding to prioritise and develop your friendships with a few close friends rather than surface friendships with lots of people you just happen to know

Read these tips on how to communicate boundaries in relationships.

2. Time

Time is the one thing that we can’t get back. Every time you say yes to one thing you’re saying no to another. Guard your time wisely by setting boundaries for what you choose (and choose not) to do with your time. Decide to prioritise free time and learn to say no to things which don’t feel right or you don’t want to do. Be firm that you’re not going to allow yourself to feel pulled in lots of different directions.

Examples of other smaller boundaries you could put in place to protect your time are:

  • Turning off non-essential notifications on your phone
  • Not answering your phone (unless in an emergency) after a certain time each evening
3. Self-care

Establish boundaries for looking after yourself by deciding what self-care looks like to you and how you’re going to find the time to make it happen. Boundaries will help you make sure that self-care doesn’t slip to the bottom of the priority list without you having to constantly think about how and why you’re going to squeeze it in amongst everything else.

Examples of self-care boundaries could be:

  • Signing up to a weekly yoga class and putting that first above other commitments (unless there’s an emergency!)
  • Changing your morning routine so that you have time to read a chapter of your book before you need to get showered and dressed
4. Money

Boundaries for how you manage your money can help you save more, invest wisely, stop spending unnecessarily and remove temptation! Decide, in broad terms, what you want from your money and these boundaries will help you set up systems to help you manage, spend and save it.

Examples of boundaries for your money might be:

  • Deciding not to use credit cards and instead spend only what you have already
  • Putting aside a percentage of your monthly income into your savings account as soon as you’re paid

I hope you found this article helpful. As you can see from the examples we looked at, boundaries can help you find balance between the outside world and the inner you.

Nedra Glover Tawwab defines them as follows…

“Boundaries are your needs, your expectations, things that will keep you safe and sane in your relationship with yourself and others. There are some pretty clear boundaries –– for instance, laws are boundaries. And there are some that are just for us and very unique.”

For more on this topic and another perspective on how to set and enforce boundaries, without feeling bad, I encourage you to check out the Good Life Project and Jonathan Field’s article on how to set boundaries.