Whenever we choose discomfort over resentment, we are simply saying no to things that could hurt us either in the short/long run rather than accepting everything we have access to or thrown at us.

As counterintuitive as this might sound, boundaries sometimes mean freedom, and as such my wish for everyone this year. Can anyone believe we are already in the second week of 2023, meaning we have just 50 weeks left of the year? To enjoy life, work, and well-being at the speed the earth is currently rotating around the sun, we all need to invest in our relationships before the earth fully circles the sun again.

Improving both personal and professional relationships must be on the front burner this year as it is critical to being better and ensuring we always have great people around us too. Interestingly, one of the ways to do this is by setting boundaries. Then you may wonder, how can you set boundaries in a bid to be a better person and be surrounded by great people? At this point, I would like to share a case-controlled study of some primary school pupils who proved this to be somewhat true.

Case Study #1: Pupils were allowed to stay on a playground without a fence. They were free to go anywhere they wanted to play different games like foursquare, tetherballs, jungle gyms, and even hopscotch grids; some marked-out rectangles on the ground used to play a game that is popularly known in Nigeria as suwe.

Case Study #2: The pupils were allowed to play on the same playground but now with a fence around the playground perimeter.

Findings: It was observed that pupils clustered in the middle of the playground in case #1 while they took maximum advantage of the whole play area and the games there on in case #2.

The outcome of this exercise reminded me of a quote by Brene Brown that says, “Choose discomfort over resentment”. Naturally, one would have expected the pupils to be happy and courageous enough to explore the length and breadth of the unfenced playground by playing all available games, but they chose to be more comfortable with the boundaries set by the fence.

Arguably, January is the month people feel guilty the most having overindulged a couple of months leading to it by over-spending, over-eating, and now struggling to eat healthy, exercise, or participate in the religious beginning-of-the-year fast. What is important to note is that health and wellness boundaries are not there to make us miserable but rather to ensure we have lesser things to worry about.

Whenever we choose discomfort over resentment, we are simply saying no to things that could hurt us either in the short/long run rather than accepting everything we have access to or thrown at us. As quite daunting as it may be, it should be a great way of quieting the noise within and without. Not limiting this to an internal or individualistic way of practicing self-control, the braving elements to building trust, enjoying good relationships, and living optimally are applicable at home and workplaces starting with creating alliances.

Designing an alliance is important in managing expectations in relationships. For example, in a workplace, one can consider issues like mutual respect, openness, promptness, effective communication, professionalism, trust, constructive criticism/feedback, and teamwork et al while bearing in mind possible failed relationship scenarios when there are little or no common grounds due to conflicting values. In such failed relationship scenarios, considering the seven factors of trust building is required to transform critical relationships.

Starting with setting boundaries, even though this may not necessarily be discussed with other party or parties, identifying when and if their asks demand your time, energy, and money to honestly respond in a way that is mutually respectful to both parties is required. For example, spending a whole day attending to someone else’s deliverables when you have time-bound deliverables of yours shows a lack of boundary. The lack of courage to decline such an ask would manifest in resentment especially when your workload suffers. Aside from finding such balance, setting boundaries would help you teach others around you how to co-exist peaceably while enforcing your boundaries would make you become more reliable as people get to know them.

This brings us to reliability, the next element of trust building. Being reliable simply means doing whatever you promise to do on time without excuses i.e., your word is your bond. It is reflective of your ability to manage your time and commitments by balancing your priorities without overcommitting through boundary enforcement.

With being reliable comes accountability, the third element. We build trust in relationships by becoming accountable for our actions, inactions, mistakes, gaffs, or shortcomings. Taking ownership, apologizing, learning from mistakes, and moving on help improve both personal and professional relationships. As a human being, you will make mistakes and so will others; finding a solution or correcting a mistake is far more important in accountability than wallowing in self-pity or playing the blame game. For you to be accountable, you need to have little or zero tolerance for anger, offense, hurt, excuse, blame, or exploitation through self-pity, punishment, self-righteousness, or emotions. So, when you begin to see your fault and that of others as human error, then you will appreciate the vault which is the fourth factor.

The vault simply says, “if it is not your story, it is not yours to share’. This is the golden rule against gossip. Also, as you try not to talk about other people when they are not present, stop others from opening people’s vaults around you. Therefore, developing integrity is expected having worked with the four elements above. With integrity being the fifth element, one can easily see how interconnected they are.

Integrity, simply put, is choosing courage over comfort. It’s your willingness and ability to do what is right instead of what is fun, fast, or easy. This is proven when we practice our values rather than pay them lip service.

Being non-judgmental, the sixth factor shows how fearless we will become knowing fully well that judging is often founded on fear and preconceived opinions that may be untrue. Being judgmental can manifest in varied ways including comparing ourselves to others to boost our self-worth and judging others is a very wrong way to build trust this year. Interestingly, positivity i.e., being non-judgmental can encourage you to ask for help without fear of condemnation, an act of courage, strength, and self-awareness can also make others reciprocate especially with value alliance in place.

The last trust factor is generosity, and this doesn’t always mean giving materially, hence why generosity can be practiced every day. In building trust in personal or work relationships, generosity may include giving compliments, rewarding excellence, acknowledging efforts, and encouraging participation. When we practice generosity by being kind or respectful to ourselves and others especially when we make mistakes, we reduce the chances of repeating such mistakes again according to research. This means when we show kindness, empathy, and magnanimity to others and ourselves, we are more likely to be liberated than dwell in negative self-talk that can easily lead to repeating the same error.

Incorporating these elements into our lives this year can incredibly improve our relationships with close friends, family members, colleagues, and even acquaintances. However, it is noteworthy to state that, these trust-building factors are not to limit you in any way but relieve you of unnecessary burdens. It may not be humanly possible to do them all at once. Since we all know that trust is built in very small moments, incorporating these elements into our lives might take small moments too. The bottom line is to act on them.

Olayinka Opaleye, a well-being specialist, writes from Lagos. Tel: +234 8100371304