The Generosity in Setting Boundaries


What if this moment in time was your defining career moment? 

How would you show up?

Would you want to present the best of who you are to patients, colleagues, family, friends?

Often, in order to show up as the best version of ourselves, we need to do what is counterintuitive.

We need to show up for ourselves first so that we can then show up for others.

One of the best ways to do this, is to set boundaries for ourselves so that we are able to prioritize our own physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

In times of crisis or stress it’s normal to resist setting boundaries. 

Boundaries represent structure and in the midst of an “all hands on deck” situation, whether it’s a global pandemic or a smaller crisis, often our structure is the first thing to go. 

But here’s the thing: structure and boundaries create freedom and help us generate energy. 

So why do we resist setting boundaries for ourselves in crisis? 

  • Because for some of us, society, experiences and the stories we tell ourselves have led us to believe we should feel guilty for taking care of ourselves when others need us
  • Because we use words like selfish when it comes to taking care of ourselves. 
  • Because we fear judgement from others
  • Because we tell ourselves, “there’s no time, I’ll do it later”. 

The truth is: Later is too late.

“Later” means depleted. “Later” means overwhelmed. 

“Later” means your critical self talk about feeling like a failure or not good enough is louder than your confident and grounded voice of reason. 

What if…the most generous thing you could do for others is to set boundaries for yourself?

What boundaries would you put in place right now if you believed that statement was fact?

I recently did a TEDx talk on the power of choice  and how we have more control than we think we do in defining our own experience within adversity.  

Today, I want to challenge you to think about your power of choice when it comes to boundaries. 

What choices can you make in setting boundaries to support your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing?

In other words, you get to choose what you are available for when it comes to distractions taking you away from your wellbeing.  

And here are a few prompts to get you thinking about those choices and boundaries. 

First, think about your one goal right now for your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Make it just one thing for now.

Your one thing might be to limit social media because you see people ignoring facts and science which is driving you into a rage.

Your one thing might be to add more movement by taking a brisk walk 5 days a week or to stretch after a long day on your feet. 

Or maybe you would like to find 10 minutes a day for quiet, contemplative time.

Next, think about the distractions that are preventing you from your goal.

Do team members feel safe with you and because of that, you find yourself inundated with people coming to you to vent, gossip or complain, filling your world with negativity? 

Do you get notifications on your phone every time a friend posts a story to Facebook or Instagram?

Finally, brainstorm boundaries you need in place to mitigate those distractions. 

Define one boundary you can put in place right now, so that in the long term you can continue to serve others and give them the best of you.

For example, maybe you need 30 minutes of alone time from 6am-6:30am to set your intention and ground yourself for the day. 

Maybe between the hours of noon and 2pm you will not be available for interruptions? 

Maybe you have a rule that when a colleague comes to you to vent, you can only be available for 3 minutes. 

What is the most important boundary you can set for yourself right now? 

Define it and set it.

If you would like to see me explain the importance of boundaries in my free video series, please click here to view Video #2 in the free Wellbeing Video Series

As givers, we must recognize the power of receiving and asking for what you need. 

For those of you who might have a negative impression of boundaries, try framing them as simply a way to ask for what you need and a way to give yourself permission to prioritize what is most important. Your wellbeing. 

Remember, boundaries are not selfish, they are the most generous thing you could do for others because they allow you to give others the BEST of who you are!


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Carrie Koh is a TEDx speaker, consultant, executive coach and healthcare executive with a passion for enhancing the way we communicate with one another to ensure efficient and innovative results with greater fulfillment along the way. She is the leading authority on cultivating resiliency and teaching high performing leaders to overcome obstacles to lead teams to new heights. She would love to connect at