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Now and then I catch myself, reverting to the old habit of beating myself up for all the rules I am not following. Most of my rules start out like this: Good people…. So I might say good people get up before 8 pm, good people always read the paper, good people write their blogs first thing in the morning, good people respond to e-mails right away. These rules can keep us stuck in a cycle of beating ourselves up and unnecessary suffering. So in today’s podcast, I ask…what are your rules? What rules do you have that ‘guide your life’?
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Hi, and welcome. You are listening to the Happiness Hacks podcast. I’m your host, Nancy Jane Smith. I’m a licensed professional counselor, and in this podcast, I share my stories, lessons, and hacks I’ve learned, and I continue to learn on my quest to live happier. This is Episode 58, What Are Your Rules?
This is one of my favorite topics, What Are Your Rules because I feel like our mongers and that little voice that chomps in our head tends to have a lot of rules. What I mean by rules, they can range from anything, and sometimes these rules are so embedded, it takes us a while to figure out that they’re there.
What I have found is I like my rules. So when I realize that I am being overwhelmed by rules, I’ll just go through the day, and every time I hear a rule playing in my head, I’ll just say it out loud, like, “Oh, there’s another rule. Oh, there’s another rule.”
When I say rules, you might be like, “What do you mean by rules?” I’m talking about the absolutes that we say in our life. Like a good person always gets up before 8:00, or a good person always reads the paper. A good person always has dinner prepared for their kids. A good person responds to emails right away, as soon as they get one. A good person is always on top of things, always knows the answer, always makes coffee first.
We can have a thousand little rules that we say; a good person never lets the gas tank go below a quarter of a tank. A good person always has a clean car. A good person’s yard is always mowed right away. I mean I could go on and on and on and on and on with these rules. I think that’s enough examples, but that gives you the idea of what are we telling ourselves?
The funny thing about these rules is they vary for all of us. They’re different. So you may have the rule that you can’t waste any food. A good person does not waste food. And so that is something you get hung up on, and you beat yourself up for when you go to the grocery store, and you buy strawberries, and you don’t eat them.
And another person, such as myself, that isn’t one of their rules. That is not one of my rules. I don’t care if we put food in the compost pile. I know it’s not awesome, but it’s something I beat myself up for. So that’s not something that plays heavily on my monger’s radar.
The funny thing about these rules is that they vary so that somebody else may have a strict rule of you can never drive the car beneath a quarter of a tank. My dad used to have that very strict rule. And he would beat himself up when it got below a quarter of a tank because it would panic him. I don’t have that rule. I go until the light comes on and I’m still kind of pushing it a little bit. It isn’t one of the things that drive me.
So when you can start realizing wait a minute, this is just my internal rule. There is no book of rules out there that’s written. We got the 10 Commandments, but no bad things will happen to you if you don’t do these rules. That doesn’t exist. But in our brains with our mongers telling us, it does. My challenge to you is to kind of go through the next week and just really bring awareness to these rules. Notice how often you tell yourself, Oh, a good person does this.
When I catch myself, I have a rule in the morning when I get up; I have to do everything in a certain order. And a good person gets all my morning chores done in half an hour. And if I don’t get it done in a half an hour, if I don’t get it done in a neat, tidy way, quickly as possible, then I’m a bad person. What’s that about? Who cares how long it takes me in the morning? If I only have a half an hour that’s a problem, but if I have the time, who cares how long my morning chores take me?
That efficiency is a big message of my monger. So paying attention throughout the next week, what are the rules that are driving you and just bringing awareness to those. Then, as I always say, bringing lots of compassion to yourself. To be like, oh, wow. This is tough to be constantly living enjoying your mornings, but having to be super efficient. What’s that about? Bringing some compassion to, oh, sweetheart, it doesn’t matter if you are the most efficient coffee maker in the world or not. It doesn’t matter if the car goes below a quarter of a tank. It doesn’t matter if we put strawberries on the compost pile. Life moves on. We will be okay.
Paying attention to what the rules are in your life, how often they spin around in your head and then giving yourself lots of compassion around that. We spend a lot of time suffering because of these rules. These rules keep us stuck. They keep us trapped. They keep us feeling crappy about ourselves, to be honest. Because we think that I can’t do such and such because of some made up rule we have in our head.
When you figure out what these rules are for yourself, then I challenge you, after you’ve done the compassion piece, to see where I can add some wiggle room? I will literally in the morning because that tends to be one that I get hooked on, the idea of my morning has to be super efficient, is to repeat to myself “there is no right way to do your morning.” There’s a lot of ways we could do this in a lot of different orders. We could take our time. One thing I have is designed my schedule to have my mornings fairly flexible, so I have time in the morning, so give myself a break.
And also to recognize if you have a rule, if I have to cook a meal every night for my family, then to flip that around and be like where could I add some wiggle room for that? What’s important to me about my family and cooking? What’s important to me is my family feels loved. Or what’s important to me is that my family gets a nutritious meal. It doesn’t matter the source of that nutritious meal. It just is that that nutritious meal has to be on the table. That could come from eating out or bringing in. That could come from my husband cooking the meal. That could come from one of the kids stepping up and cooking the meal. There’s a variety of ways to get that need met.
Paying attention to is this a legit need that I would like to get met, or is this just a way I’m trying to create order in my life? What I mean by that is that if you think about these rules that we have of a good person does that, a good person does that, I kind of think it’s our brain’s way of making sense of the world.
Because in all honesty, the world is grey. There is no black and white. There is no absolute. There is no right and wrong. There’s things we shouldn’t do, but there’s no it has to be done this way. So that’s a little stressful for those of us that like to know the rules. We like to know what’s happening. We like to know the black and white. And so we’ll make up rules.
We’ll make up rules around eating, we’ll make up rules around what to wear, we’ll make up rules about what we should look like. Those rules kind of give us some guidance and some ways to live our lives. The rules are helpful in that way. They kind of relax us and let us know like this is the proper way to do things. That’s great. Perfect. That works really well.
The problem is when we use those rules, and we take them to the extreme point where we’re beating ourselves up for them. When our mongers take over the rules, that’s when we get in trouble. Because our mongers tell us we’re bad people if we don’t follow the rules. When really the rules are just guidelines. They’re just ways for us to make sense of the world. They’re not hard and fast, we’re not going to get punished, we’re not good or bad based on the rule that we’re living.
So to kind of pay attention to how much are these rules keeping you stuck? How much are these rules kind of holding you back from doing something you really want to do? Even if it’s something tiny, like I really want to relax in the morning, but I’m so stressed out on making sure I get just everything done right. I really want to enjoy my evenings, but I’m so obsessed with cooking dinner for my family, that I kind of have a hard time enjoying my evenings. And most of the day for that matter because I’m stressed out about cooking the meal.
They also can hold us back in big ways. Like saying, I’m too old to go back to school because I should have had this figured out, and a good person has their life figured out in their twenties. I can’t take two weeks vacation because a good person always reports to work for the full amount of time. I can’t change my job because a good person stays in their job for at least two years. I can’t write a book because I don’t have a degree in English. I can’t paint because I’ve never taken a creative painting class. Whatever the rule is. They can keep you stuck in big ways and little ways.
So really this week I challenge you to pay attention to what those rules are, kind of just bringing awareness to them. And then the second step is kind of bringing a lot of compassion to yourself and recognizing oh, sweetheart, or babydoll, this is tough but this is how you’re choosing to live. And then thirdly see where you can add some wiggle room. See where you can add a little grey into that rule and kind of just use it as a guideline as opposed to a hard and fast must be thing.
So that’s the show. Thanks for listening. The Happiness Hacks podcast comes out every week, hopefully on Mondays. That’s my goal, to have it coming out on Mondays. And if you have any questions, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org like I said, you can always follow me on Instagram at nancyjane_livehappier, and until next time, here’s to living happier.
Weekly Ritual Segment:
One thing that has really helped me Live Happier is adding regular ritual practices to my daily life so each week I am going to be sharing a ritual with you and challenge you to complete it
5 Little Things You Appreciate
I have seen this one suggested a few places so I am using it for our weekly ritual challenge. Each day this week write down 5 little things you appreciate/enjoyed throughout the day. The key here is LITTLE. This ritual allows you to pause and
This week I am back on Instagram (YAY!), and I will be sharing my daily practice of the weekly ritual. It is a helpful way for both of us to stay accountable to the practice.
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