The power of boundaries

Finding fluidity and freedom through rigidity

This ONE by Yolanda Yu

This ONE idea and its manifestations in life and career

Happy This ONE Friday!

This ONE Idea

In a recent coaching session, a client shared a profound insight at his “ah-ha” moment:

In this case (setting boundary), rigidity helps to have more fluidity.

At first, this seems paradoxical. After all, rigidity is often the enemy of fluidity. As a coach, a significant part of my job is to shake up the rigidity to allow fluidity in my client's system, so they feel lighter and let creativity blossom.

However, the principle observed by my client is reflected in many aspects of life, including physics.

The River and the Dam

A massive effort to restore the meandering course of central Florida’s Kissimmee River and allow seasonal rains and natural flooding to once again (Source:

Think of a river flowing around a dam. The dam’s rigidity shapes and directs the water, making it flow predictably and efficiently. Without the dam, the water would spread chaotically. Similarly, firm boundaries in our lives allow us to navigate our tasks fluidly, enhancing creativity and productivity.

Time and space Boundaries

Setting time and space boundaries is essential in both effective leadership and personal life.

Many leaders struggle to allocate time and space for strategic planning. A structured approach creates a space for innovation and ensures focused efforts and better decision-making.

Similarly, clearly defining work hours and personal time helps maintain a healthy work-life balance. This separation allows us to fully engage in both areas without feeling overwhelmed, fostering better mental and emotional well-being, and leading to higher overall satisfaction.

Interpersonal Boundaries

"Good fences make good neighbors."

Robert Frost

Clearly distinguishing and communicating our personal boundaries—what we are comfortable with and what we are not—helps set expectations for ourselves and others. This clarity fosters healthier relationships, reduces misunderstandings, and aids in decision-making, ensuring that interactions are respectful and productive.

The Neuroscience of Boundaries

Boundaries do more than just organize our lives; they shape our brain's functionality. Here’s how:

- Neural Pathways: Imagine well-trodden paths in a forest. The more you use them, the clearer they become. Establishing routines and boundaries strengthens these pathways, making behaviors more automatic and reducing mental effort.

- Stress Response: Boundaries help manage stress by creating predictable environments. Our brain is constantly assessing for threats, and uncertainty can trigger stress. By setting clear boundaries, we reduce this constant assessment. For instance, not checking work messages during family dinner creates a predictable, stress-free environment, letting you enjoy the moment.

- Cognitive Space: Boundaries free up cognitive space, enabling better decision-making and creativity. With clear limits, your brain doesn't waste energy on constant decisions. For example, having a set morning routine frees your mind to focus on more complex and creative tasks later in the day.

Question For You

Reflect on your current boundaries. How might rigidity help you create more fluidity and freedom in your personal and professional life?

Schedule a coaching session to explore boundary-setting further and create a personalized plan for success.

Until next week,

Yolanda Yu
Coach and lifelong learner

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Every Friday, I share ONE idea and its manifestations and 1 question for you to ponder. Other ingredients you can expect will be book extracts, quotes, metaphors, tools, resources, and mini-exercises to keep growing your self-awareness.