"Each human being has been granted a virtue: The capacity to choose. For he who does not use his virtue, it becomes a curse – and others will always choose for him."
– Paulo Coelho
Personal boundaries define your personal preferences; they outline what is acceptable to you and what is not, based on your values, your beliefs and personal philosophy. They define how you allow others to treat you.
Your capacity and freedom to choose allows you to define healthy personal boundaries.
The main purpose of setting boundaries is to protect, respect and take care of yourself. Unless you are able to recognize and honestly communicate your personal boundaries, you’ll never be able to respect and truly love yourself and get in touch with who you really are.
Establishing boundaries in your personal and professional life is an important step in taking full responsibility for yourself and taking ownership of your daily choices. Without a clear understanding of who you are and what makes you unique, it is difficult to create healthy emotional boundaries. Healthy boundaries come from a good sense of self-worth, which promotes high self esteem and self confidence.
When your sense of self-worth is dependent on your relationships, your work or career, you’re giving away your personal power. You’re setting yourself up to be a victim of circumstances over which you have little or no control. You’ll become reactive to negative events in your life and you feel as if you have no choice in the matter.
When you are not clear about your personal boundaries, or you have established weak boundaries, you invite others to take control of your choices, and thus your life.
Have you ever felt trapped in a relationship, a career or a job? Did you feel resentful, frustrated, angry or perhaps victimized? Did you blame your boss, your spouse, or perhaps the state of the economy?
When you feel that you don’t have a choice, you’ll find yourself doing things you don’t want to, or doing things that you feel you should or must do.
Next time you hear yourself saying words like "I have to", "I must", or "I need to", remember that you always had and have a choice. Change the words "I must" or "I have to" and replace them with "I choose to", and notice your reaction and emotional response.
Recognizing and accepting that you do have choices is the first step to consciously setting healthy boundaries. This process takes time, genuine intention and courage.
Your heightened awareness will empower you to choose in every situation. You will choose to say YES to those things in your life that make you feel more alive, and say NO to those things and people that continue to drain your energy. The choice is yours.
Dieter Pauwels is a professional certified life and career coach based in St. Louis, MO. As a coach, speaker and author, he facilitates personal and organizational transformation. He works with both individuals and teams to create new possibilities, manage change and maximize their productivity and personal effectiveness.
You can visit his life and business coaching website at or read his comments and thoughts on the impact of coaching on life and business on this blog.