As you are wrapping up 2003, no doubt you’re also beginning to contemplate some business goals for 2004. But before you get too far into your business or career planning, take a step back and reassess your own professional foundation — those personal habits and behaviors that can either make you a success or sabotage your best efforts in business.

Do you have good boundaries in place? A boundary is the drawing of your line in the sand; it is how you protect yourself by deciding firmly what others can and cannot do to you. For example, you no doubt have a boundary that you won’t allow anyone to hit you. Or scream in your face. Or verbally abuse you.

But there are more subtle boundaries that you need to set to keep yourself functioning maximally and to keep from having your physical or mental energy drained. Perhaps you hate cigarette smoke but have one friend you still allow to smoke in your home because you’ve been afraid to alienate her by asking her to smoke outside. Maybe you don’t want any phone calls after 9 p.m. but still get — and take — regular calls from your mother at 10. Perhaps you prefer that dinner time be a time for conversation, yet you still eat dinner with the television turned on or let your kids (or yourself) take cell phone calls at the table. Maybe you allow others to intrude into your personal time and control your schedule because you haven’t learned how to say that all-important-yet-respectful “no.”

What else are you tolerating in your life that you don’t have to — you know, those little things that can be so aggravating? Maybe it’s a toaster that burns the toast, a crooked miniblind in your living room, a door handle that rattles in your car. Perhaps it’s a mouse pad stained with coffee spills, a picture of your kids on your desk that has a crack in the glass, a stain on the carpet in your master bedroom that requires your buying some special cleaner to eliminate it. Not to mention a messy desk, closet, garage, etc. If you make a list of these “tolerations” for the first time, don’t be surprised if you end up with 30 to 70 of them. The more you look, the more things you’ll see. Once you’ve made your list, you can decide to eliminate those pesky items one by one. The good news is that you don’t have to do them yourself unless you want to — you can get your significant other or kids to help or hire someone to do them. And the even better news — and the real reason to do this — is that every time you cross an item off your list, you’ll gain energy. For months after an item is eliminated, you’ll still be noticing it and thinking something like “Wow. That looks/feels so much better.” That’s when you’ll realize just how much all those supposedly minor things have really been energy-zappers that have been eating away.

What if something you’re “tolerating” involves a relationship issue? Now you’re back to needing to set boundaries. And what if that other person refuses to adhere to the boundary?

Assuming you’ve discussed your requests clearly and the other person just won’t change his/her behavior, you have three choices: continue the status quo, end the relationship or decide to accept (rather than tolerate) the other person’s behavior. Let’s say your significant other smokes and you hate it. You’ve tried getting him to change in every way you know how, but to no avail. You don’t want to end the relationship, and your constant nagging is futile. It’s time to move from “tolerating” to “accepting.” What’s the difference?

“Accepting” means that you stop putting any energy into trying to change the other person. In the case of your smoker, you quit cutting out articles on the hazards of cigarettes, you stop buying stop-smoking aids and placing them on his pillow, you refuse to make sarcastic remarks about how much nicer the house could smell — in other words, you drop all those subtle and not-so-subtle hints about wanting him to change his smoking behavior. It doesn’t mean that you like his behavior; it just means that you’ve decided to accept this behavior and opt out of ruining your relationship by constant nagging. You’ve moved his smoking off your list of “tolerations” and made the conscious decision to accept it instead.

Now what about YOU? Are you taking good care of yourself? Are you getting enough sleep, exercise and healthy food? Have you eliminated unhealthy habits?

In addition to those basics, are you making time for yourself to do the things that inherently nurture you? If you’re thinking “vacation,” that’s great; if you’re thinking of some weekly activity (lunch with a friend, getting your nails done, a weekly massage), that’s super. But you really need to include something on a daily basis, even for 10 to 30 minutes, that you do just for you. It may be petting your cat, taking a power nap, fiddling with plants, personal reading, a spiritual activity — anything that just makes you feel good and replenishes you.

What does this all have to do with your business goals? It’s simple: By setting good boundaries, eliminating things you’re putting up with that you don’t like, and taking time for moi, you’re creating the space necessary for those business goals to materialize.

Author: Judi Craig