Setting Boundaries and Saying “No”

Learning to set boundaries to protect yourself and saying “no” is a very important life skill. Some people have miserable lives because they don’t set the appropriate boundaries and let other people control and manipulate them. I am re-reading one of the best books on this subject – “Boundaries” – by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. The following excerpts are some great advice when dealing with angry people who like to control other people with their anger.

Excerpts from “Boundaries” p.241-242:
“The first thing you need to learn is that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the person with the problem. If you do not realize this, you may think you have a problem.” (p.241)

“Second, you must view anger realistically. Anger is only a feeling inside the other person. It cannot jump across the room and hurt you. It cannot “get inside” you unless you allow it. Staying separate from another’s anger is vitally important. Let the anger be in the other person.” (p.242)

“Third, do not let anger be a cue for you to do something. People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves. There is great power in inactivity. Do not let an out-of-control person be the cue for you to change your course. Just allow him to be angry and decide for yourself what you need to do.” (p.242)

“Fourth, make sure you have your support system in place. If you are going to set some limits with the person who has control it with anger, talk to the people in your support system first and make a plan.” (p.242)

“Fifth, do not allow the angry person to get you angry. Keep loving status while ‘speaking the truth in love.’ ” (p.242)

“Sixth, be prepared to use physical distance and other limits that enforce consequences. One woman’s life was changed when she realized that she could say, ‘I will not allow myself to be yelled at. I will go into the other room until you decide you can talk about this without attacking me. When you can do that, I will talk to you.’ ” (p.242)

Calvin’s Relaxation Strategies

Exams begin tomorrow, and for many students it’s stress at its highest level. Last week I talked about some exam strategies. Today, let’s talk about relaxation strategies to get through exams. 

1) Deep breathing

The advantage of this strategy is it can be used both while you’re studying and also when you’re in the exam room. Breath in deeply through your nose, and let your belly expand like a balloon. Hold your breath for 5 seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth. While you’re holding your breath, tense up the muscles in your body. When you exhale, relax your muscles and imagine the tension leaving your body. 

When people are stressed, they breathe shallow and through their chest. Breathing deeply and through your belly will help you relax and calm your nerves and stress. 

2) Setting Priorities

Setting limits on certain activities can help a person spend their time more wisely and do things much more efficiently. 

Set imaginary deadlines before the actual deadline, because the human nature tendency is to procrastinate until the deadline. Doing things ahead of schedule helps to reduce stress around the actual deadline. Many people ask me how come I have so much time to do so many things. One reason is I am extremely disciplined and efficient in getting things done early and in a timely manner. 

Use this strategy on the exam. Set imaginary time limits on the questions and prioritize your time wisely. 

3) If you are Introverted, spend more time alone; If you are Extroverted, spend time with people

Monitor your energy levels. If you are introverted, make sure you schedule adequate alone time to rejuvenate your energy. If you are extroverted, try to make time in your busy schedule to spend with people as that is your natural energy-restoring process. 

4a) Sleep

Getting regular, consistent sleep is important to reducing stress. During sleep, the body repairs itself, stores short-term memory into long-term memory (good for exams!), and rests the mind and soul. 

4b) Exercise

For me, this entire term I’ve maintained going to the gym 2-4 times a week no matter how busy I am. Exercise is very high on my priority list because it affects my concentration level, stress level, and health. 

Exercise releases many good chemicals, including endorphins which makes a person happy and relaxed. Exercise and sweating helps remove toxic chemicals in the body, and helps refresh both the mind and the soul. The benefits of exercise are numerous that I could write an entire post on it. Our bodies weren’t designed for long hours of sitting in front of a computer which is the norm in the 21st century. One key benefit of exercising is many shoulder and back pains get better when a person starts exercising and taking care of his or her body. 

Good luck on your exams!!

Calvin’s Exam Strategies

With exams starting next week, I want to share some exam writing strategies. I’ve written many exams in my life. In order to become a CA, I had to write 51 hours of professional exams: 5-hour exams for each of Modules 1-5, a 13-hour exam for Module 6, and a 13-hour exam for the Uniform Final Exam. My U.S. CPA exam was 5 hours, and the GMAT was 3.5 hours. 

1) You don’t have to start with the first question. 

I once had a 1.5 hour midterm exam that had 3 questions. It was a time pressure exam. Question 1 (30 marks) was hard and long and had many parts. Question 2 (25 marks) was shorter. Question 3 (25 marks) was shorter still, and the easiest. I did the exam in this order 3, 2, 1. Question 3 was worth nearly the same as Question 1, and it was much easier! No one ever said you have to do a paper exam in order. Starting with a question that you are good at will boost your confidence and help you tackle the harder and longer questions. It’s good to have easy marks in your bank. 

2) Time management is key. Budget your time!

With a 1.5 hour exam with 3 questions of almost equal weighting, I’d spend 30 minutes on each question, 35 minutes max. Even if I don’t finish a question after my time budget I’d move on because otherwise I risk not finishing the exam and leaving easy marks on the table. 

For example, the GMAT exam was designed as a time pressure test that if a candidate didn’t finish the exam, they are heavily penalized. The same could happen on a midterm or final exam. Spending an extra 5 minutes on a question you’ve already spent 30 minutes on may not be worth as much as spending the 5 minutes starting on the next question. Budget your time wisely, and stick to it!

3) Prioritize your time

This was one of the best lessons I’ve learned writing so many CA exams. Not all issues are equally important. Some issues are VERY IMPORTANT. Some issues are not important but take up a lot of time. Think which issues MUST be dealt with. I’ve learned to prioritize the most important parts of the exam and spend most of my time doing the most important tasks first. After I deal with the most important issues on the exam, if I have time *then* I’ll work on the not so important parts. One of the worst situations to be in is spending too much time on something not important and running out of time for things that actually matter. 

Good luck on your exams!!