by Michael Holland    

How far can a bungee cord stretch before it will break?  I squinted at the 4th bungee cord I was using to hold down my son’s modified couch for Young Life’s recent couch race (a story for later). As I stretched and stretched it, I held my breath, hoping it wouldn’t snap. My mind wandered, and I thought about those brave souls who attach a braided bungee rope to their legs: they must hope the stretching power of the bungee will hold to excite (and save!) them for their ride.

I’m curious: are the boundaries you set for your work life more like stone walls or bungee cords?

Again and again I work with leaders whose lives are out of balance because what they articulate as their priorities don’t align with their actual concerns.  They stretch each day by a minute or 2 in an attempt to get more done.  Each year reveals a trend line of more and more time devoted to work.  A decade goes by and they wonder where their life has gone. As they look into the eyes of their 18-year-old daughter getting ready to leave for college, they can fully see the impact of stretching those boundaries a bit too far for a bit too long.

Each year reveals a trend line of more and more time devoted to work.  A decade goes by and they wonder where their life has gone.

We want our wives/husbands/significant others, kids, and friends to be fully flexible with us as we stretch the bungee boundary of our relationships for our job, career, business, project, blah, blah, blah.  Many secretly hope that someone – their boss, the CEO, the cop who stopped them for speeding on the way home – will know they need better boundaries in life and give them permission to set them in stone.  They and we ache as we feel totally overloaded at work and totally underperforming at home.

Wake up!  You are the best person to set your own boundaries.  Sure, there needs to be a little bungee stretch to allow for life to happen at work and at home, but you need to set your own course.  Things will be left undone and projects will fall behind.  You may even get fired at some point.  But you will own your life and better balance the barter of work with the company who sends you a paycheck.

Once you have a handle on your boundaries, go check on your peers, boss, and employees. Evangelize to them the benefits of getting control of their lives.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Do you know someone who’s stretched the work boundaries too far into their personal life? Or someone whose boundaries are more like a brick wall? Where would you place yourself?
  • Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve had to make a choice whether to stretch a particular work/home boundary or not? What did you do? Take a moment to reflect on that decision. What you would do if you were given that opportunity again? Why?
  • “Wake up! You are the best person to set your own boundaries.” What standards to you use to set your boundaries in life?