Imagine an invisible fence set around yourself, with a single gate that is shut and locked, with only you in possession of the key. How does that make you feel?

When we have good personal boundaries, then we’ve set a space around us that we control. We tell those around us they can go only so far, and no further. Not that we’re alone, but it’s up to us to open the gate, and we get to decide who comes in.

The problem is, the world has a way of pushing against that fence. There will always be people who want more of your time, more of your energy. More of you. Thankfully there are things you can do to guard those boundaries and keep them strong.

1. Identify your limits. It’s impossible to guard what you haven’t even defined. The trick here is to define those limits clearly and succinctly. For example, you might want to protect some time with your family. But a boundary too vague is impossible to protect. But by clarifying the goal down to “Saturday’s are family time” then you know what you’re protecting (time with your family). So, with things that do come up on Saturday which do not involve the family, it’s suddenly not so difficult to say no. 

2. Be straightforward. Never let someone push your boundaries without your permission. And when it does happen, take direct and clear action immediately. Anytime your boundaries are threatened, it’s time to open a dialogue with the violator. That gives you the opportunity to verbally reset the boundary in a way that makes it clear to the other person that the boundary is there. 

3. Pay attention to your feelings. If you’re feeling like someone is violating your boundaries, ask yourself why. Go with your gut instinct here as you analyze your emotions. It’s very likely that what you’re sensing is a boundary violation that you need to address.

4. Speak up. When you feel like your boundaries are being violated, you need to say something. After all, the best guard challenges all intruders. Being assertive now will save you a lot of heartache and problems down the road later.

5. Remind yourself that you have a right to set boundaries. Sometimes our boundaries have grown weak because we don’t feel like we have a right to set them in the first place. Permitting yourself to set the boundary will immediately strengthen it again.

Guarding your boundaries is an important part of living a life that’s not only healthy and happy but meaningful. Self-confident, strong people have solid boundaries that they protect. Protecting your boundaries is probably one of the most effective tools you have toward realizing a happy and productive life.