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Boundaries and Barriers

There’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be.

What's in the way?

How do you perceive at that gap?

Do you think of it as chasm – too far to leap across?

Or do you think of it more like a wall – too high to mount?

Your ability to overcome it will depend whether you see it as a “boundary” or a “barrier.”

The two are often conflated but they are fundamentally different and distinct:

Boundaries are protective. Barriers are preventative.

Setting healthy boundaries can mean letting others know our needs, expectations, capacity, and limits.

Turning off all devices and disappearing camping for a week, however, acts as a complete barrier to reaching you.

Boundaries establish conditions of mutual respect.

Barriers prevent engagement.

Boundaries Delineate. Barriers Block.

The plot of land between your home and that of your neighbor has a boundary.

The fence erected between the two is a barrier.

You can respect a boundary, but it is possible to overcome.

A barrier: less so.

Boundaries are set by you. Barriers are imposed Upon you.

If you prominently displaying a wedding ring, it creates a visual boundary of sorts toward potential suitors.

On the other hand, if you receive a restraining order that requires you to stay a minimum distance away from someone, that is a barrier.

You can request a boundary be respected.

You have little say about a barrier.

Boundaries can be transformed. Barriers are immutable.

Two people living across the world experience a physical barrier between them. Technically that barrier can be overcome with air travel - making it a boundary but the hurdle is significant.

Video conferencing, however, transforms the experience to virtually "being there."

When we view barriers as boundaries, we have access to transforming them.

When we view boundaries as barriers, we've lost the battle before we even start.

What boundaries have you turned into barriers?

Boundaries and barriers mostly exist in our heads - not "out there" somewhere.

Think back to that “gap” in your life we started with . . . . 

What story are you telling yourself that keeps that boundary a barrier?

“It’ll never happen.”

“It’s too hard.”

"I don't know how to."

“I don't deserve it.”

"I'm not ready."

"I don’t have time.”

"I'm afraid."

YOU are creating the barrier!

The first step in overcoming that gap is to properly view barriers as a boundaries.

Question the stories you have that keep barriers in place.

Instead of being victim to them, become your own agent of change: challenge those stories and identify the real issue keeping you stuck.

Then identify solutions to overcoming them.


Imagine that "gap" is finding a new apartment - you don't like the one you are in.

But finding a new place and moving seem like monumental tasks. You've made it a barrier and stay stuck where you are . . . for years!

Instead, imagine you roll up your sleeves and ask, “How big a project is this really?” 

You break it down into three main steps:

  1. Figure out the neighborhood you want to live in

  2. Find an apartment

  3. Move

You resist even getting started because of step 1: you feel overwhelmed and intimidated driving around alone "neighborhood shopping" in a big city.

How can you transform that boundary?

Solution 1: You could break it down to a series of neighborhood visits over a couple weekends.

Solution 2: You could ask a friend to join you.

Suddenly, it feels like step 1 can be overcome!

Now, imagine you have found the perfect neighborhood: onto step 2!

What's the next barrier you are erecting in your mind?

“I’m afraid I won’t like anything that I can afford.”

The idea of disappointment can be defeating before you even get started.

What's the truth of it?

Solution 1: Go find out - see some properties!

Solution 2: Reach out to your network and let them know you are looking for a unit in that area: let them be your eyes and ears for properties that haven't even come on the market yet.

OK, you get it.

Who DO you want to be?

There are two storytellers inside you:

One is the cynic, the critic, that wants to keep you stuck.

The other is the dreamer, creator, author of your life. 

Who are you going to listen to: the side that creates barriers or the one who transforms boundaries?

Habits of thought can be difficult to change. If you still feel stuck, then work with someone who can help: a friend, a therapist, a coach. I just may happen to know someone!

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments at the bottom.


As an executive coach, I work with leaders to transform their influence and impact on their organizations and the world. You can reach me at


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