CloOnel 08-12-167

The One-Life Solution

Reclaim Your Personal Life While Achieving Greater Professional Success


Dr. Henry Cloud

Collins Business, 2008, 239 pp., ISBN 978-0-06-146642-7



Henry Cloud is a consultant and clinical psychologist with a leadership consulting practice.  He is the coauthor of Boundaries, Integrity, and 9 Things You Simply Must Do.  Has your work life overtaken your personal life?  Are you over worked, over stressed and unhappy?  Set boundaries! (Flyleaf)


The focus of the book is to develop a set of abilities deriving from a strong sense of identity, abilities to

n     "Experience oneself as separate and differentiated from others,

n     Contain destruction and keep it from spreading,

n     Define oneself and know who you are,

n     Set limits when needed,

n     Possess and live out values, and

n     Have self-control and thereby be free and autonomous." (223-24)


Part One - Foundations

1.  Identifying the Problem--and the Solution

There is a gap between the training seminar and the practice of what is taught.  People sometimes they do not seem to be able to do what the training tells them to do because of something inside.  Many of these difficulties are centered on "boundaries."  "Boundaries provide the structure to your character that will make everything else work." (9)  They affect the emotional, relational, and performance aspects of our work. (9) 


To be able to do your work well and enjoy it you must be emotionally, relationally, and performance healthy.  It is all about who you are, not your situation.  (13)  You need to develop the internal structure that provides an architecture for your character, that helps you be in control of yourself. (14) 


"Today life has become so fragmented that people find it difficult to bring it all together."  (15) The boundaries of time that contained work are gone.  "Work has chased you home." "And if we are not working, we are still in front of a screen."  "We are living a 'structureless' life."  The solution is to develop boundaries.  "We need to have only one life, instead of feeling fragmented between work and life."  We need a balance of work and the rest of life, an integrated life, or an integration of the person, one core from which we do all that we do.  (18) 


2.  Your Vision and Your Boundaries

The goal is to gain control.  And the only thing you can control is yourself. 


A boundary is a property line.  It defines where you end and someone else begins, or where you end and something else begins.  It is a structure that preserves order…."  "People with good boundaries feel as if their lives belong to them, and no one else." (25)  "You can control only your own property, not someone else's." (26)  "This self-control of your own property gives rise to the concept of freedom." (27)  "Ownership, control, and freedom all come with responsibility, accountability, and consequences.  You can do what you want to do, but you also will reap the consequences of what you choose to do, good or bad." (28)  "It is up to you to take control and to set the limits of what you will and will not allow." (28)  "You can keep the good things inside your property and the bad things out." (29) 


3.  Structure and Boundaries

"Your boundaries are the structure of your personality…."  (32) "Structure performs six key functions: differentiation and separateness; containment; definition; limits; values; self-control, freedom, and autonomy." (35) 


Differentiation defines where you end and someone else begins.  It is the foundation of personal identity, who you are. (35) 


"Ultimately a leader who cannot relish strong and differentiated team members loses the benefit of having them around in the first place, and instead develops a team that is merely an extension of himself and subject to all the diseases and foibles that exist in his own head." (37)


Containment means to keep out or limit things that are destructive or harmful. 


Definition is your identity, which comes from elements such as your feelings, attitudes, behaviors, choices, limits, thoughts, talents, desires, values, and loves.  (41)  Definition is knowing what you feel and think; communicating those aspects of yourself to others; and acting on them. (42)


Limits are the property lines of you as a person.  Where do you draw the line?  Where do you say, "No, I will not do that?" (42-3) "'We do not do that' is one of the most important things a company can say." (44)


Values are what we stand for, fight for, and enforce.  "Your values shape your behavior, focus, and direction.  What you value, in a sense, you will ultimately become.  It will be your true north…." (45)


Self-control, freedom, and autonomy are related.  When we are in control of ourselves, as opposed to being under the control of others, we experience freedom.  When we say 'yes,' instead of 'no' because of outside pressures and impulses, we lose our self-control and freedom because of fear or needs. (46-7)


Part Two - Rebuilding Boundaries

4.  Reclaiming Your Power

When we are controlled by others, for example, when our fear of disappointing someone makes us say 'yes,' then we are rendered powerless.  (55)  This erodes our functioning in all areas.  It is a soft spot in the character, a vulnerability, a fault in the foundation of an integrated life.  (56) You must be free to determine when you are going to help and when you are not rather than having the decision made for you by someone else. (57)


Question: Where, with whom, and under what circumstances do you lose your power?  What are the chinks in your armor?  Where are the holes in your fences?" (58)


"To the degree that you can be honest about that question you will be able to get on the road to integrating your life and keeping your boundaries."  (58)


"A person can lie to others and get away with it at times.  But the moment he begins to lie to himself, he is in trouble.  It is the beginning of the end.  When you deceive yourself, you are in trouble and don't even know it." (58)


Some possible holes in your fences:

n     Need for security

n     Need to be perfect

n     Need to have others see you as ideal

n     Need to over identify with other people's problems, pain, or hurt

n     Need to rescue

n     Fear of being alone or isolated

n     Fear of conflict or need for harmony

n     Fear of disagreement or differing opinions

n     Fear of feeling inferior

n     Fear of someone's position or power

n     Inability to say no

n     Inability to hear 'no' or accept limits

n     Inability to tolerate the imperfection, incompetence, nonperformance, or failure of others

n     Idealization and hero worship

n     Lack of internal structure

n     Dependency

n     Vulnerability to bad conditions or outcomes  (58-64)


5.  The Audit

"Your time is your life.  Period.  How you spend it ends up being what your life is."  (66) 


Audit how you spend your time.  Note the relationships between your values and your time, and personal issues that contribute to any problem you find.  (69)  Don't trust your subjectivity.  Examining how you spend your time will show you what really moves you to action. (74) 


Identify your vision, your mission, and your goals.  Tally your time in 30-minute increments.  Identify the disconnects with your vision, mission and goals.  What is driving you?  What fears?  What needs?  Come up with some rules and steps to correct the disconnects.  (79-81)


6.  The Laws of Boundaries

  1. Consequences.  Make sure the right person is getting the consequence. 
  2. Responsibility.  You are responsible for yourself and to others.  The other person must be responsible for himself.
  3. Power.  The loss of power comes from you.  You have the power to control yourself and nothing else.
  4. Respect.  Respect the boundaries of other people's responsibility.  Respect their limits.
  5. Motivation.  Get to the essence of why you do something and own it.
  6. Evaluation of pain.  Hurting someone is not like harming someone.  Discomfort can be a good thing.
  7. Proactivity.  Be the cause instead of the result.  Anticipate what is needed and do it.
  8. Envy.  Envy defines good as what we don't have.  Don't look at what others have, but take ownership of your real desires.
  9. Activity.  Realize that nothing happens if you do not do something.
  10. Exposure.  Make your boundaries visible, out in the open.


7.  You and Your Words

We have relationships with words.  Sometimes we find a pattern of not saying what we want or what we think, putting us in unwanted situations.  These unhealthy patterns were developed in relationships.  Are there words that elude you at important times?  Like, "I think…," or "I won't…," or "I want…," or I was wrong…"?


When you lose the ability to say these things, you lose yourself. (123) 


8.  Make the "No-Choice" Choices First

Figure out what are the most important rocks (things) in your life and put them on the calendar first.


9.  Follow the Misery and Make a Rule

What are your rules for yourself, your personal policies that limit negative outcomes?  You need some rules to protect you legally and morally and to avoid a lot of misery. (146-47)  Though a rule limits you in some ways, it empowers you in others.  You need rules when something happens repeatedly that you do not want to happen and some sort of misery results. (150)  "Find the misery and set the rule." (151) 


Consider your energy and time as your greatest resources.  What activities require your best energy?  Schedule these activities when your energy level is high.  What and whom are your energy drains.  Avoid scheduling these when your energy level is low. 


Don't maintain habits that are not helpful.  One husband-wife relationship was changed by one simple rule the husband made: no email at home. (159) 


Part III. Boundaries on the Job

10.  Time, Space, and E-Mail

Email gives people a lot of control over your time.  Who is in charge of your agenda, you or your inbox?  Close your office door when you need high energy time for an important task.  Turn off the phone ringer.  Take charge of your time. 


11.  Getting Your Balance Sheet in Order

"Strength and security precede the ability to be free."  "If there is some situation in your life in which you are out of control in a way that is disintegrating your life, heart, soul, or mind, what deficit is allowing that to continue, and what assets do you need to gain first in order to deal effectively with that situation?"  "The weakness, or lack of security, keeps the gravitational force pulling you downward, no matter what you wish you could do otherwise." (187)


"Admit that you need to get stronger, and focus on that first.  Admit to yourself that you have been stuck because you have omitted some form of personal, spiritual, financial, relational, emotional, or vocational growth in your life that has kept you in a place where you do not want to be.  Then, get to work.  And that probably means getting the help and support you need to get there." (187) 


12.  End Some Things Now

"In life, you will get what you tolerate. Period."  "So, at times, to make it all work, you will have to end some things.  And not all of the things you need to end are bad.  Now and then you will have to end some good things that are taking up space in your life."  (191)


"You are probably involved in and attached to activities that are good, in and of themselves, but that are keeping you from having time and energy for activities that would be the best for you." (191)


End two kinds of things: negative things that aren't fixable (this does not mean difficult but important relationships) and positive things that keep you from things you care about the most.  (192) 


13.  Communicating Your Boundaries

If confrontation is difficult, it is worth it to get better at it.  If it is too easy, then you may need to care a little more about other people and their reactions. (200) 


There is a difference between negative information and negative communication.  "The goal of problem solving is to deliver negative information through positive communication so that there is a good outcome…." (203)


Problematic responses can be triggered by anger in your voice, aggression in your stance, condescending words or attitude, guilt-inducing expressions, shame-inducing implications, or cold and indifferent demeanor. (203) 


Instead, affirm the person, the relationship, or the desired outcome.  Be specific about the issue.  Get agreement on what is being said.  Balance care and the whole truth.  Do not lose your perspective by over identifying with the other person's problems.  Don't get sidetracked by their excuses: empathize and return to the problem.  Set limits and remember, you get what you tolerate.  If needed, take others with you.  If needed, plan, practice, and role play an upcoming difficult conversation. 


Conclusion - The Path Ahead

"Our lives, in the long run, reflect more about us than the circumstances in which we lived them."  "Character is destiny.  Where we end up has a lot to do with who we are."  (223)


It is our relational experiences that build our identities and boundaries.  Holes in fences came from formative relationships.  Look back at where your patterns originated.  And learn new skills, to do things you have never done before.  (225)


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