Joanne Guidoccio
Many positive traits have been associated with Sir Winton Churchill, among them the ability to set effective boundaries. Whenever I struggle with this essential life skill, I recall the following anecdote:

Sir Winston hired a young aide to be his gatekeeper. On the young man’s first day, Sir Winston said: “Occasionally, I like to take a brief nap to rejuvenate myself. It’s never more than fifteen or twenty minutes. While I am napping, I am not to be disturbed unless there is a crisis.”

Eager to please, the young man nodded. “Very good, sir.”

Sir Winston persisted. “No, not very good. Everyone who comes to you will say they have a potential crisis and I must be awakened. To avoid any confusion, I will tell you what I consider to be a crisis. It is an armed invasion of the British Isles. Anything less than that can wait.”

No other particulars were given, but I’m certain that Sir Winston enjoyed many undisturbed naps.

Several years ago, I witnessed another example of effective boundary setting, this one much closer to home.

On a cold, blustery January evening, I dawdled and took my time, hoping for a cancelation. The roads were treacherous and ten more centimeters of snow were expected before midnight. The cancelation didn’t arrive, so I ventured out. I drove slowly and arrived at the same time as Sarah, another executive member. While struggling to find parking spots, we grumbled about the weather conditions.

Once inside, we found the meeting in full swing. The other members were drinking tea while listening to a lengthy report. We took our places and sat through a poorly organized meeting that accomplished nothing. As for the teapot, it was nowhere in sight. Seething inwardly, I decided to resign at the end of my term—five months away.

When the Chairperson asked if there was any further business, Sarah put up her hand and said: “In the interest of self-care, I have decided to resign my position. I’m giving two weeks’ notice.”

The chairperson nodded and thanked Sarah for all her contributions.

I alternated between admiration and envy. While I admired Sarah for her forthrightness, I wished that I had been able to resign so elegantly. Her example inspired me and I ended up leaving six weeks later, instead of waiting out the five-month term.

Lessons learned…

Be Clear and Concise

There is no need for long, drawn-out explanations. When Sarah said “In the interest of self-care,” everyone in the room knew exactly what she was talking about. As a stay-at-home mother who was home-schooling four children and trying to launch a new business, she could not afford any energy drains. As for Sir Winston, I can’t imagine any visitor coming up with a counter-excuse to “an invasion of the British Isles.”

Trust Your Instincts

Certain people and situations can be toxic to our health and well-being. We cannot and should not ignore that persistent headache, nausea, or feeling of discomfort that seems to come out of nowhere. Our bodies are attuned to all vibrations and will send messages if there are any perceived threats. When discomfort or resentment arises, someone is either taking advantage or not appreciating us. Since Sarah and I were volunteering our time, it was much easier to resign from our roles. In some cases, it may be necessary to take distance while slowly disengaging.

Be Calm

There is nothing more powerful than a definitive No delivered in a calm manner. In full control of her emotions, Sarah did not shake or tremble when resigning her position. And I’m certain that Sir Winston did not shout when stating any of his concerns.


Where to find Joanne…


PinterestGoodreadsTSRA BLOG


Barnes & NobleKOBO




24 thoughts on “THE ART OF SETTING BOUNDARIES (Guest Post)…

  1. Great pot, Joanne. Anything that opens with a story about Sir Winston would grab my interest, but this one has great advice. Setting boundaries is something I struggle with, mightily. My husband told me he was going to buy me a T shirt that said , “Just say no!”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Setting boundaries can be difficult for women. As an editor, I sometimes run across customers who show up on my virtual doorstep with many red flags that I have to acknowledge—no matter how good the money might be in editing their book. Occasionally those people don’t want to take “no” for an answer (another big red flag in itself)! I actually had to tell one person via email, “You’re not listening to me. I said no.” That finally got his attention. :/

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dealing with people who ignore boundaries is definitely a challenge. I’m non-confrontational by nature and don’t like being put in a position where I have to raise my voice (virtually and/or IRL) to be heard. Thanks for dropping by, Susan 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Excellent advice, Joanne. And sometimes we have to say “No” to our self-imposed commitments. I’ve been considering taking a break from social media later this year in order to write. But after reading your post, I just might make it sooner. Shared this on my social media pages 🙂

    Liked by 3 people


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.