As I write this week’s blog I’m sitting in a ‘dog friendly’ hotel coffee lounge with Ice Cool Confidence’s ‘Deputy Dawg’ who has taken it upon himself to protect the hotel – from staff, guests and any customers alike. He has set up some invisible boundaries in his doggy brain and anyone who crosses them gets a proper growly/barking earful. It’s not like him at all, On my thronebut then he is in unfamiliar surroundings. Oh and he thinks it’s his job to protect me.

He’s demonstrating a very important point about survival. One of the most useful skills you can have in life is the ability to set and stick to boundaries. They give us a framework within which to live at peace and with our individual values intact. When those boundaries are broken, even voluntarily, we place ourselves at risk.

In sports terms, our boundaries help us to maintain our ‘focus’. When you’re properly focused you can keep out the distractions and stay in your zone of excellence. But for compassionate and sensitive types this isn’t always easy. What if your best friend calls or messages you to say she’s just had a big row with her mum? What if that friend at a competition is falling apart, having a meltdown and you are feeling the need to cheer him or her up? What if you’re suddenly thrown into circumstances that bring back difficult memories when you need to be really focused? Training in front of an old coach with whom you parted on difficult terms, or trying to revise for an exam when everything around you seems to be going pear shaped?

Here are some steps to help you put some boundaries in place and keep them from being breached!

  1. The first thing you need to do is recognise the tricky situation for what it is and know that you need to ACT FAST to keep your boundaries ‘intact’.
  1. Next, you make a choice – if it’s someone else’s drama, can you truly help? Is it really your responsibility to solve that person’s problem? Will your actions or words make a significant impact NOW – or can it safely wait until you have finished your practice, or completed your competition event, test or exam?
  1. Weigh up the consequences of helping. If taking action will have a negative impact on you, look for an alternative person to help.  Maybe a parent, coach or a teacher would be able to resolve the situation more quickly and effectively. If you can, find someone else who can help.

Remember what they say when you fly? You have to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can help others with theirs. So make sure you protect your boundaries and keep them strong before helping others or you won’t be able to help more people in the future.

  1. If the situation is one where you are affected by someone else’s actions, or words aimed at you, then you need to keep the power. Don’t give someone else the power to affect your mood, your emotions and your performance. Take back the power. Leave them to their own game. If they are busy focusing on gossiping about you or envying your performance, then they will be harming their own ability to perform (and feeding their own gremlins!) That’s their problem, not yours. You need only to free yourself up from the negative thoughts which they are creating in your mind. Imagine ‘batting’ them away from your boundaries with a tennis racket or a cricket bat. Keep your mind clear of those negative thoughts and filled only with your focus on the performance you have to do. Don’t be tempted to retaliate – it will start sending stress chemicals round your body and you don’t need that right now!
  1. Think it through. When you recognise that a situation has a negative impact on you, decide what you can do to lessen that impact. Avoiding a place or person can work up to a point, but it’s probably better for you to learn to deal with them at any time and in any place. Whether it’s a situation where someone else’s drama is bringing you down, or one where you are the direct target of someone’s negativity, it’s their stuff, not yours, so let it go (cue Frozen music!) and focus all your thoughts on the performance ahead of you.
  1. When there’s a power cut, you’ll often find that an ‘emergency generator’ kicks in to provide power while whatever was broken is getting mended. Find your own emergency generator. Do you need to relax, meditate, de-stress or run or skip to calm down and clear your mind?

Take what you can from these steps to create your very own emergency generator strategy for keeping your boundaries intact. It’s incredibly important, not only for your performance in competition, but it’s a mentally healthy choice too.