Most conversations on boundaries discuss them in the context of social boundaries. Those conversations typically focus on the importance of limiting what behavior you’ll accept from others and how you’ll respond to create space away from them and those behaviors. While that’s important, it’s a very limiting view of boundaries that often leads to people not wanting to discuss boundaries; they see them as being about pushing people out or opening the door for them to be pushed away from other people.

We can take a more expansive view of boundaries, though. There are positive and negative boundaries, with positive boundaries creating space for something and negative boundaries creating space from something. The aforementioned social boundaries are negative boundaries. Think of social boundaries like the space around an antique rocking horse: if the horse rocks in the wrong direction it can be dangerous and if the horse falls over the rider will become injured. Create positive boundaries, not negative ones.

A positive social boundary would be the space we might create for our kids, partner, or friends. While it’s true that we often have to push something away to create space for something — that is, to create a positive boundary, we often have to simultaneously create a negative boundary — it’s the intention that matters here. Many people’s negative boundaries collapse because they aren’t clear what they’ve made that space for.

If you don’t set up boundaries for your best work and from the things that keep you from doing it, your best work will always be displaced by other things. Setting up and maintaining boundaries can be hard — it’s not just you. But like so many things in life, it’s worth it.