Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

An Epidemic Of Assumptions

People simply assuming that you are free to help with a project or attend a meeting, without asking first. Folks dropping by your home or office to “chat” during work hours, not giving a thought to the fact that you might be busy. Your kids expecting to be chauffeured around all weekend, never once imagining that you might have other plans. And technology has made it even worse — quick, drop everything and deal with each request as it comes in, lest you make the other person wait even 30 seconds for a response! But what about your time? Isn't it just as important?

There is one hard truth out there that most people don't want to face — you are responsible for the fact that other people either respect or don't respect your time. There is no one else to blame but yourself. You have to be the one to set some boundaries about what is acceptable and what is not. The only reason that folks take advantage of you, expect too much from you, or don't allow you the room for personal free time is that you have let them behave that way in the past — and they've gotten used to it. But if you draw a different line in the sand — develop some “time management ground rules” and stick to them — you will be amazed at the change not only in yourself, but in the people around you.

Set Aside Time For You

When we talk about “me time,” most people think of lounging in the bathtub, a lazy Saturday with a good book, or a week-long retreat in which you re-discover your inner child. But “me time” is any time spent doing the things that keep you sane. That might mean exercise or meditation, a hobby or lunch with a neighbor. You could choose to organize your closet, paint the kitchen, or finish up an important professional project. The only rule is that “me” time should move you closer to feeling balanced, caught-up, calm, and in control of your life. For my own personal sanity, I need to have one day a week in which I take care of “administrative work.” I might return phone calls, answer e-mails, pay bills, buy groceries, or clean house. Or I could choose to get my hair cut, attend a yoga class, have a massage, work on an art project, or call a long-distance friend I haven't talked to in weeks. I use my “admin time” to get caught up in all the different areas of my life.

The point is, whatever you enjoy doing with your “me time,” treat it like it is sacred. Once you commit to an admin day, mark it on your calendar and guard that time with your life! If you use a paper planner, physically draw a line through the entire day with the word “Occupied” written across the top — leaving no room for you to accidentally stick in any other appointments. On an electronic calendar, set an appointment called “Occupied” that fills the whole day — and assign it a pretty font or background color as a reminder that you're taking care of yourself during that time. Nothing short of a medical emergency (or a vacation!) should get you to give up your “me” time. I often have a client ask me if I can get together on a day I have planned for admin activities.  My answer is always, “No, I'm sorry but I'm not available that day.” I can't tell you how long it took for me to become comfortable saying that! How dare I turn down an appointment with another person when I don't have anything else in my schedule that day?! Ah, but I do. I have an appointment with myself. And that's the most important appointment of all! Approve

Balance Your Free, Focus, And Buffer Days

A number of years ago, I was introduced to a way of viewing time (developed by personal coach Dan Sullivan) that really resonated with me. It offers a very simple system for using your time in the most efficient way possible. He suggests that you break your schedule into three distinct segments:

1) “focus days” — days in which you do nothing but focus on your job, on those activities that bring home the bacon (seeing clients, making sales calls, writing, painting, crunching numbers, whatever earns you a living)

2) “free days” — you do no work at all (you take that entire day to simply rest, relax, have fun, and recharge the old batteries)

3) “buffer days” — for all of those little chores that have to be done, but don't really make you any money (administrative work, personal errands, dentist appointments, trips to the library, etc.)

A number of things attracted me to this philosophy. First of all, it becomes incredibly easy to draw clear boundaries around your time. You are simply going to focus on one type of activity all day long — no confusion and no waffling about what to do. If someone asks you to do work on a “free day” or do some mindless chore on a “focus day” — the answer is “no,” plain and simple. Second, it creates an automatic sense of balance between the many activities in your life, requiring you to spend some of your time at work and some at play. Third, you really do use your hours more efficiently when you settle into one mindset for the entire day. It's the mental (and physical) switching of gears that slows us down, eats up so much of our time, and distracts us from really enjoying what we are doing at that moment.

Best of all, it's not a rigid system. You can label as many days in a week as “free” or “focus” or “buffer” as you need to, and you have the freedom to change a day's activities around at will. I've even broken it down further, counting my time before lunch as a “focus” period, and the time after lunch (when I'm sort of brain dead) as a “buffer” zone. Although you may not have total control over your schedule — especially when you work a 9 to 5 job — you can still apply these principles to your life, making weekdays “focus” days, setting aside one day a week for “buffer” activities, and saving at least one weekend day as “free.”

Healthy Boundaries

Most folks have no clue how to draw the line with people who ask too much of them — unfortunately, it's not something you really learn in school (why don't they offer a class called “Boundaries 101”?) In fact, parents and teachers often instill the exact opposite values in kids — expecting them to cram more and more and more into their schedules, teaching them to automatically say “yes” to any request under the guise of being ambitious and accommodating (and we wonder why they turn into overwhelmed adults!)

We're always so afraid of offending another person by saying “no” — even if acquiescing is going to stress us out or keep us from being able to take care of other more important tasks on our list. But you need to learn how to tactfully dodge a request if you ever want to regain control over your time. The best way to do this is to offer another alternative.

If you can't participate right now because you are too busy, but you would really like to help at a later time, say so. “I'm sorry, I can't do it just this minute — but I'll be free Friday afternoon, if you still need some help.” Or you might suggest another, more appropriate resource. “I'm too busy, but I have a friend who has been wanting to get involved. Let me give you her number.” And finally, if you are asked to do a job that really doesn't interest you or is outside your area of expertise, offer to assist with a different task. “That's really not my strong suit — but I would be happy to help out with ________.” You will assuage your guilt and feel as though you are still making a contribution, when you follow that “no” with a suggestion for getting the job done another way.

Healthy boundaries also mean letting go of the idea that you can (or even should) do it all yourself. We like to imagine ourselves as indispensable — falling prey to the “no-one-else-can-do-it-as-well-as-I-can” syndrome. We become unwilling to delegate jobs to other people, to ask for help, or to simply say, “I'm not going do that.” That leads to frustration and resentment — we blame other people for heaping too many responsibilities onto our plates, even though we're the ones who said, “pile 'em on!” Just understand one thing — as far as everyone else in the world is concerned, you are replaceable. I don't mean as a human being — of course you are a unique individual and we would all miss you if you were gone. Wink I'm talking about the tasks you complete, the responsibilities you take on, the favors you do for other people. It's amazing how often we think, “If I don't do it, it won't get done.” Not true — if you can't do it, they'll find someone else.

Stick To Your Guns

It's not going to be easy to change people's behavior, especially if they've grown accustomed to your being at their beck and call. But this battle is well worth fighting — if you want to survive in a crazy world with out-of-whack priorities about how we use our time. You'll hear comments like, “You were always available to babysit at the last minute before” — or, “You never had a problem working weekends in the past.” So what? You don't have to explain yourself or justify your decisions to anyone — it's your time, apportion it as you see fit! It's unfortunate, but most folks out there believe that feeling stressed, pressured, overloaded, and trapped is simply the status quo. You will have to convince them otherwise by your good example.

So if other people don't understand at first, they will when they begin to see the positive changes in your life. Suddenly, people will be asking, “How is it that you can have time for a hobby (or reading for pleasure or travel or spending a day at the park with your kids)? Can you tell me your secret?” And that's an amazing day — because you get to help one more person regain control over his or her life. You are spreading the gospel of “setting boundaries” — you touch one person and he or she touches one person and soon we have a society that's regained a sense of perspective about its priorities. Hallelujah!

Your Schedule

Take a look at your calendar and your “to-do” list — how much of what you have written down is critical to your survival on this planet? Very little, I'm sure. How many of your appointments involve something that you dearly love to do. A great deal, I hope — but if you're like most people, probably not. What eats up most of your time during the day?

Unfortunately, most folks' schedules are filled with external obligations — things that you have promised other people. “I have to pick up my kids from soccer practice.” “I have to attend committee meeting.” “I have to clean the house.” “I have to, I have to, I have to.” Guess what — you don't have to! If you don't want to do it, say “no.”

I'm not suggesting that you turn completely selfish — compromise is an important part of maintaining civil relations with those around you! I'm merely suggesting that you be very judicious about what you put in your schedule. Get rid of that knee-jerk reaction of saying “yes” everytime someone asks you to volunteer. It's all a matter of training the people around you not to automatically expect you to participate.

Your Finances

Didn't realize you could have clutter in your finances, did you? Take a look at your spending patterns — do you see any money leaks? These are places where your hard-earned dollars simply slip away without you even realizing it. Your danger zones could be buying snacks at work — or late fees and interest charges that accumulate when you forget to pay your bills — or groceries that go bad before you get a chance to eat them. But you need to be especially aware of these types of “unconscious” spending (asking you to be aware of something unconscious — a bit of a contradiction, I know!)

Try keeping track of every penny you spend for the next month — that includes personal items, business expenses, magazines, coffee, whatever. This may sound hard, but it's not bad if you get into the habit of carrying a small notebook with you. Every time you pull out your wallet or credit card or checkbook, make a note (even if you're only paying a quarter for a stick of gum!) At the end of the month, take a look at your expenses — you'll be surprised to see where your money goes. Once you say, “My gosh, I had no idea I spent so much on ______!” you know how to curb your money leaks.

Your Relationships

People feel trapped in relationships that are “less than fulfilling” for many reasons — low self-esteem, fear of change, habit, obligation, or because it's easier than leaving. But most folks tolerate difficult people for one simple reason — because they never stopped to think that they had another choice. Of course this includes seriously dysfunctional relationships, but also that friend who does nothing but complain every time you're together, or the family member who borrows money and never pays you back. You're not getting a positive return out of the arrangement and something has to change.

Let's sort your relationships the way we would any other clutter. “Keep's” are those near and dear to you. “Get Rid Of's” might be a harder — but you need to learn when to call it quits. If you can't think of anything good about the relationship, ask yourself why you really need that person in your life. The “Not Sure's” are mixed — some things are good and some are bad. Your job is to present your concerns to the other person, set some rules (this certain thing has to happen more/less often for the relationship to work), and see if you can reach a mutually satisfying agreement. If not, toss 'em out!

Your Job

Employment has become an institutionalized form of slavery. How many folks do you know that feel trapped by their jobs? If you are  putting up with a crappy work situation because you're are afraid of losing that steady paycheck, it's time to regain control over your environment, responsibilities, and schedule! What would you like to do differently at your job? Cut down on unnecessary meetings? Go home on time each day and refuse to work evenings or weekends? Hand a few menial duties off to an administrative assistant? What would happen if you approached your employer with a list of ideas (in a pleasant and professional way, of course?) Would you get fired — or would he consider your needs? Honestly, if your boss would can you for making a suggestion, maybe you don't need that job! It's worth a try, anyway. And if you're self-employed, you have no excuse for not drawing some boundaries. Would you look at your job duties any differently if you worked for someone else? Why don't you treat yourself at least as well as you would treat an employee?

Your Own Head

We saved the most challenging area for last! How much “junk” do you have floating around in your head, littering your thoughts? People don't think about emotions as clutter, because they aren't tangible — but guilt, jealousy, anger, and unreasonable expectations of what we can accomplish in a day eat up as much of our time and energy.

Think about the last time you had something heavy on your mind — did you get much work done that day? I'll bet that every time you set out to accomplish a task, you were distracted by your thoughts. It's like a gang of incredibly annoying adolescents, making noise and causing a ruckus in your cerebellum. Too bad you can't just slap them! The only way to make these bad boys go away is to become conscious of them. Pay attention when your mind strays to some unproductive and negative emotion — and make a concerted effort to let it go. This will take some practice — awareness of your mental state doesn't happen in a day — but it will pay off in the end.

Why Didn't I Think Of That Sooner?

This guy is always late getting her his financial records, his books are a mess, and he blames her for mistakes he makes. He's apparently a generally unpleasant person to be around — never a good word, always whining about something, and he makes her life a living hell. She dreads going to see him because she knows he's going to put her into a foul mood and send her whole day into a tailspin.

As we were talking, she said, “God, I wish I just didn't have to work with him anymore.” I said, “Well, that's the nice thing about being self-employed isn't it — you can choose who to work with. Fire him if he makes you that unhappy.” She said, “Oh, I couldn't do that!”

I asked why not. She said, “Well, I live off of referrals — and if I dump him, he wouldn't refer any of his friends to me.” I asked if he had referred any clients to her before — she said no. I suggested that anyone who could tolerate this guy was probably just like him — negative, annoying, and hard to deal with — and did she really want a whole gaggle of clients like that? She said no. I asked if she had any other CPA friends she could refer him off to — just tell him she was trimming down her client load and give him a few names of other people he could work with. She said yes. Then she just sat there for a few minutes, letting the idea sink in — she didn't have to work with this client any more.

Sometimes It's Easier To Stay Stuck

You see, most of us put up with a lot of annoyances in life — things that drain our energy, make us angry, or frustrate us. But the real irony is that, in many instances, we actually have the power to choose whether or not we continue to tolerate that situation. We have more control than we imagine. Life isn't just some cosmic pinball game (although God sure plays a mean pinball), where we get bounced around with no say over where we go. To continue with a really dorky metaphor, we put in the quarters, we're in charge of the flipper buttons — and if we get tired of playing the same old game with someone, we can just let the damned ball go in the hole and walk away!

The reason we get caught in the trap of tolerations is that we never stop to question our situation and what can be done about it — we just assume that this is the way things are and we have no choice. But I've got news for you. You can change absolutely anything about your life if you don't like it. This transition might not be pleasant, and you may have to go through a lot of pain to get to the other side — but it is SO worth it in the long run.

Unfortunately, though, change is scary — and most people just want to be comfortable (even if it means being not very happy most of the time). It's often easier to put up with a “known evil” it is than to break out and do something new and challenging to change your life for the better. You can spot “tolerators” from a mile away. They may be listless, angry, bitter, whiny, sick all the time, or seemingly rude and insensitive to others — but it's just a manifestation of how unhappy they are with their own lives.

If you haven't seen the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” go rent it. The film looks at how hard it can be to step outside of the life you were programmed to live, in search of something more fulfilling (as well as the fact that blood relatives are determined to embarrass you from the day you're born!) Initially, you may have to fight with your family, buck the cultural expectations you've grown up with, and force people to see you with a different set of eyes. Growing pains are never easy. But in the end, everyone benefits when you are happier, more satisfied, and a hell of a lot more pleasant to be around!

Take A Look At Your Own Life

What do you need to do differently in your life?  What would you like to stop tolerating? Whatever it is, you can have it — you just have to be willing to make a change. My clients' most common complaints are usually work-related. Don't like your job anymore? You can go back to school, get a different degree, and switch to a brand new career. Or start your own company and go into business for yourself. It's never too late — but you'll need to work hard, you may have to go into debt for a period of time, and you aren't guaranteed success. Just ask yourself how unhappy you are in your current situation and whether years of continuing down that path would be any worse than jumping the track.

I also hear a lot of grumbling about unsatisfying relationships. Maybe you're fed up with a friend, spouse, or family member. You've tried everything to fix the problem, but it's clear that this is a toxic relationship. So leave. You're not bound to anyone in perpetuity — especially if you don't get anything positive from your interactions. Telling someone that you won't allow them to treat you badly anymore is not easy. There will be hurt feelings. You'll have to find new people with whom to spend your time. But isn't it worth it in the end to remove that thorn from your side?

I'm not suggesting that you run away whenever you have a problem in life — but you should know when to call it quits if something isn't working for you. Only an idiot complains about how unhappy he is, keeps doing the same things over and over again, and then wonders why his life isn't getting any better. You have to take action. You have to draw the line. You have to say, “No, I'm just not going to put up with this anymore.” No one else is going to do that for you.

Your Homework

So back to my friend and her client. Needless to say, she rushed off Monday AM and called the client to end their business relationship. The good news is that she is free of him — the better news is that it ended quite amicably. Because she followed her heart and did what she had to do to be happy —  while treating him with respect and giving him another option to get his needs met — he was very receptive. He told her he had enjoyed working with her, and even said he would refer others to her in the future (a mixed blessing, at best!) I know my friend will be a lot more inclined to draw a healthy boundary sooner in the future (especially when this guy's friends start calling to hire her!)

What are you tolerating in your life? For each annoyance, think about what you could do differently to make that frustration go away (or at least keep it from bothering you so badly). It could be as small a change as leaving the house 30 minutes earlier for work so you miss rush hour — to moving across the country because you hate the weather where you live — to selling everything you own and hitting the road in an Airstream (like we've done!) Just remember, you may not have control over the world around you, but you do have control over how you react to it. And you have control over the kinds of situations you allow yourself to be put in. You just have to figure out where your line is and start drawing it.

Learn How To Say “No”

Have you ever been asked to do something you really didn't want to do for your job — work late, take on a new project when your plate was already full, or attend a completely pointless meeting? You probably felt it would be disrespectful to say no — so you agreed, even though doing so caused you tremendous stress. Why are we so afraid of the word “no”?

“No” means that you understand and accept your own limits, and don't want to do a shoddy job by taking on too much. It's an indication that you recognize where your talents lie and want to put them to the best use. “No” is actually a good word! The trick is to say “no” without feeling guilty or making the other person think that you are unwilling to help out. Instead of seeing a situation in which you are being forced to disappoint another person, turn this into an opportunity to be of service. The best way to tactfully dodge a request while still making a contribution is to offer an alternative solution:

  • offer to help later — “I'm sorry, I don't have time right now. But I'll be free Friday afternoon, if you still need me.”
  • offer another resource — “I'm busy, but I have a colleague who has been wanting to get involved. Let me call her for you.”
  • offer to take on a different task — “That's not my strong suit. But I would be happy to help out with (drawing posters, setting up the meeting room, working out a budget, etc.)”

Stop Carrying The World On Your Shoulders

So much work-related stress is caused by the thought, “If I don't do it, it won't get done.” Yes it will, if it's really important. Somehow, somewhere, the company will find someone to take care of it. I promise that, no matter how fabulous you are at your job, you're not completely indispensable!

Ask yourself, “If I got hit in the head with a tree tomorrow, how would this job get done?” When the answer is, “So-and-so would help out,” you can  feel more comfortable asking “so-and-so” to help out now (before you end up in the hospital!) If the answer is, “It wouldn't get done — it's not that important,” then ask yourself if that task is worth your time in the first place. A life and death situation (imagined or real) sure gives you a sense of perspective! You just have to keep in mind that there are different degree degrees of “no,” and you should be able to find one that lets you maintain control over your time while still assisting the other person.

It's going to be hard for you to set these kinds of boundaries in your work life — especially if you've been accustomed to letting other people dictate how you use your time. As you reclaim your schedule, you will hear comments like, “You never had a problem working weekends before.” Your answer is simply, “My situation has changed. Sorry, but I can't do it this time.”

Two Kinds Of Policies

At this establishment, no one has decided what business hours will be, so customers are never sure when the shop is open — it could be 10-2 one day and 6-6 another day. No one has determined what the store should sell, so customers don't know if they will get flowers or salami when they walk in the front door. And the owner has never bothered to set a policy about the type of payment the store accepts, so a customer who used a credit card on Monday might be told “cash only” on Tuesday. People have to guess how this shop is going to function from day to day, and no one ever knows what to expect. It won't take long for both employees and customers to get pretty frustrated and irritated at the situation.

It's the same way with your personal life — if you don't tell people how you operate, they won't be able to interact with you in a way that you both find mutually satisfying. Too often, we expect other people to read our minds, to automatically know how we need them to behave during every minute of the day. And when they act differently than what we had hoped, we get angry — when what we really should do is communicate our needs a little better. Unfortunately, we don't always exactly know what we need — we just know what we don't like, don't want, and are fed up with. But that's a great start!

What Are You Tired Of Tolerating?

Think about all of the times in your life when you've interacted with another person and felt invaded, violated, or disrespected by the experience. Maybe you thought that you were being insulted or taken advantage of. Perhaps you wished that you had stood up for yourself a bit more aggressively — demanded respect from someone who seemed to be belittling you. Or the other person might have unknowingly offended you, and you simply regretted not bringing it to their attention at the time.

Those incidents were uncomfortable and frustrating because you allowed someone to cross a very important line with you. Each of us has developed a set of unconscious rules about how we want to be treated — how we want our time, space, belongings, and personal qualities to be respected by others. And when you fail to defend your boundaries, your psyche lets you know — with feelings of guilt, anger, or sadness.

The problem is that on a conscious level, we are unwilling to assert these demands. And this happens for many reasons — we don't want to cause an imposition for someone else, we've convinced ourselves that we are wrong, we've fallen into a habit of disregarding our feelings, or we think that this is just how life is supposed to work. So we continue to tolerate unacceptable behavior — usually because it just seems like too much work to try and change things. Take a few minutes to make a list of all the situations and circumstances that you are tired of tolerating. The following are some examples from my clients' lists. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • I'm tired of my kids leaving their stuff all over the house, expecting me to pick it up.
  • I'm tired of my boss throwing an “urgent” project on my desk at 5 PM on Friday.
  • I'm tired of my mother always criticizing the way that I keep my house.
  • I'm tired of feeling like I'll lose my clients if I'm not at their beck and call 24 hours a day.
  • I'm tired of spending all day Saturday running errands for everyone else in my family.
  • I'm tired of never seeing my kids because I have to work all weekend.
  • I'm tired of husband scheduling a social engagement for us and not telling me until the last minute.
  • I'm tired of my co-workers interrupting me while I'm trying to get some work done.
  • I'm tired of staying at the office late every night while everyone else goes home on time.

It All Starts With You

If you will look closely at each of these complaints, they all have to do with the way that one person allows another person to treat him or her. Notice that I didn't say “it has to do with how other people treat you.” It's your responsibility to let people know exactly what you expect from them — what is considered acceptable behavior and what is not. When someone crosses a line the first time, it's their fault. When it happens again, it's your fault. And while you can't change other people's behavior, you absolutely can change what you are willing to put up with!

A quick warning before you start laying down ground rules — you have to back them up with action. If you decide not to work past 5 PM anymore and the big cheese insists that you stay late, can you stand up to your boss and be true to your convictions? If it becomes a chronic problem, are you willing to look for another job? If your hubby doesn't put his clothes in the laundry basket like you agreed upon, will you let him walk around in dirty underwear? How committed are you to your own needs and desires? This is not an exercise for the faint-hearted!

Laying Down The Ground Rules

Once you decide that you are really ready to dig in, the first step is to think about the kinds of rules you would need to set up to keep each of those “tolerations” from ever happening to you again. Go ahead and write them down — they will seem more concrete and easier to implement if they are on paper. Your list can also serve as a daily reminder of your boundaries (lest you forget where you drew that line!)

For example, if you are tired of having to put your own plans aside at the last minute because someone in your family neglected to tell you that they had a ballgame or a party or a field trip, you might decide to lay down the following rules:

  • We will have a family meeting once a week on Sunday evenings.
  • During that meeting, each family member will discuss any upcoming plans they have for the week.
  • We will write each member's activities on a centralized family calendar.
  • If you need a ride, supplies, or anything else for an activity, bring it up at the meeting.
  • If you don't mention it and then need something at the last minute, it's your responsibility.

This might sound harsh and rigid and fascist, but if you look at the chaotic way that some people operate, a little fascism might be in order! You don't have to be incredibly hard-nosed with your rules, but it's important for people to know what you are willing to do and what you are not willing to do — up front.  That way, when little Johnny decides that he needs cupcakes for the school party at 10:00 the night before, you can explain to him why you aren't going to make them. And the next time, he'll be motivated to plan ahead a little better. You are actually helping the people around you to learn valuable time management skills — while you create a touch more sanity in your own life.

My Own Story

When I first started my Professional Organizing business, I most assuredly did not practice what I preached! I felt like I had to give every spare minute of my time to my clients, or I wouldn't be successful. So I worked weekends and evenings — I essentially allowed my clients to dictate my schedule. I finally decided that if I wanted to have a healthy life and a healthy business, I needed to set some policies and procedures around how I used my time. I thought about what I wanted and what I didn't want. I didn't want to work more than 8 hours a day — including travel time to and from clients. So I decided that divided my day into two blocks — a three-hour organizing session in the morning and another in the afternoon. I would no longer schedule appointments for evenings and weekends — but I lined up a number of other organizers who could take those clients that I wasn't able to service (for a small referral fee, of course!) I would be happy to run extra errands for clients (shop for supplies, take their discards for donation, etc.) but I increased my hourly rate to cover the extra time I would spend. And I would leave one day free EVERY week for administrative work.

I put sticky notes on my desk to remind me of the rules I set for myself. I blocked off my admin days in my calendar, and I even highlighted the times of day that I had committed for client sessions (so that I wouldn't accidentally mis-schedule someone). I stopped asking clients, “When do you want to get together?” and started saying, “I'm free Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings — which of those is best for you?” I regained control over my schedule. My clients were happy to work within whatever framework I offered them, and I never got one complaint about these new policies. In fact, people respected my choice to have a life again, and asked me to help them do the same thing. Over time, these “policies” became second-nature to me. And all it took was making up my mind that I didn't want to live that way anymore. Imagine that! I can do it, you can too!”