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Life Tips: The importance of boundaries

Not to wax too profound, but surviving cancer taught me a lot about myself. The life lessons I learned from it aren't so deep you'd need me to explain them to you. Quite the opposite. Nothing occurred to me that I couldn't have come up with on my own without cancer, but the reality of cancer and surviviing just made those lessons all more real and relevant. The first thing that really sank in was the importance of establishing boundaries in my life, to safeguard my personal time.

Prior to cancer I worked until 7, 8, 9pm routinely. Not because I wanted to, but because I was expected to. Most of us feel like that, I think. Most of my friends from those days did as well. Some still do. But after I recovered from radiation, I started taking my personal time much more seriously. The idea that I may not have an endless supply of it really knocked me on the head. After that, how I managed my professional life took a big turn.

This is what I said to the first person who interviewed me for a job after my recovery. When he asked what I was expecting, my response was unplanned, but very direct - "I want $XXXXXX per year, non-negotiable. I don't work past 5pm, or on weekends. Ever. No matter why I'm being asked, the answer will be no. If I choose to come in, fine, I'll decide, but those are my conditions, and they're firm. From 9am to 5pm, you'll get 120%, but at 5:01pm, I'm officially on my time." I got that job. I interviewed the same way for the next job as well. I got that too. I didn't get the jobs bacuase I made those conditions, but I got them because I was sincere about them, and I did everything I said I would. Both my employers from those days respected me for it. THAT was the most important lesson of all.

I was willing to walk away from either of those jobs if they didn't meet my conditions. That was obvious in my attitude as well. They could see it in my eyes. For me, the reality of life's preciousness changed the way I behaved. I didn't become selfish, but self-aware. I chose to work late plenty of times, because I didn't want to watch someone else suffer if a little effort on my part made a huge difference. But, it was on my terms. So, this lesson isn't about your job or how you should interview for one. It's not about working late or not either. It's just about taking your personal time seriously. You only have one shot - you can't get your time back (according to physics, but who knows what the future holds). Make sure you spend your time, the way that you want, on your terms.

October 25, 2017

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