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The horse has to drink on it’s own: Setting Boundaries

We all know the saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Many of us have led a “horse” to water (many times). Once the horse is at the water, though, it is the horse’s choice whether he drinks the water or not.


Is there someone who wants your help… Repeatedly… For the same issues?!

We all have people like this in our lives. It could be a child, a parent, student, neighbor, friend, or relative. They ask for help in a certain area, ie: finding a job, managing their finances, passing their classes, finding an apartment (and the list goes on). You spend time with this person, helping them set up a plan to reach their goal. They’re all psyched to get things done, they go off to conquer the world, or at least their goal. You don’t hear from them, so you figure they’re doing well. Then they call you and ask you for help.


You meet with them, again. What have they accomplished since the last time you met? Nothing? Okay, you sit down and go over things with them again. Together, you change the plan a little, making the goals more easily attainable. Off they go again, ready to reach their goal!


Another phone call. They have deviated from the plan and have gotten themselves into a bit of a bind. They are asking for your help but then they are not taking your advice or following through with the plans they set up. Alright, let’s meet with them, get them out of their bind and set them on the path to the watering hole, again.


You continue getting phone calls for assistance. You have led this horse to the water, numerous times, but it is NOT drinking the water. Actually, this horse has turned around and is pooping in the water! Yup, that’s what I told one person “I’m tired of leading the horse to the water and having him poop in the pond.”


As much as you may want to help this person succeed, there really is a time to stop helping them.

If they are not heeding your advice, or helping themselves, and things are not getting any better, it’s time to cut the cord. I hate to say it, and it isn’t easy, but at some point this person needs to become responsible for their own goals. If it has become, painfully, obvious that they are not going to help themselves, then you need to take a giant step back. This person may be one of those that just needs to learn the hard way, by experience. You hate to see it happen, but the fact is, there are people like that. The school of hard knocks is where they live, and until they are ready to take responsibility for their actions, there is really no reason to lead that horse to the water any more.


My suggestion would be to, graciously, tell this person that you cannot assist them at the current time. If they make some progress in the future, and would like some guidance, you are more than willing to sit down with them.


They must be thirsty enough to drink the water.

When they are ready to make a commitment, they will move positively forward.

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