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Wondering Wednesday: What are your rules?

Yesterday morning I was chatting with my nearest and dearest about the insane number of rules I have in my life.  Now and then I catch myself living unconsciously, 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.  So today’s Wondering Wednesday question is what are your rules?  What rules do you have that ‘guide your life’?  These rules can be rigid to free flowing, simple to complex.  They appear unconsciously, and they guide your life.

Yesterday I made it a point to listen to how many rules play in my head throughout the day.   When I heard one, I would say it out loud.  Fortunately, my nearest and dearest is a wonderful, patient man who listened each time I would discover a new rule.  Throughout the day I asked various friends, family, even clients what rules they made up for themselves and without much of a pause, they listed off 2 or 3 various rules.  The fascinating thing about these rules is that for some people the rule might be: good people get up early while others might have the complete opposite rule: good people sleep until they are well rested.  THAT is the infallibility of these rules–they are illogical ‘rules,’ messages we received years ago that we have swallowed hook line and sinker and now we believe them without even thinking about it.

As I started saying my rules out loud, I realized that I was setting myself up to lose because I never celebrated once I hit one of the rules–I only beat myself up if I didn’t,  So there was no winning in my rule game–only losing.  What fun is that??  A game you can never win– exhausting.    I believe unconsciously we create these rules in some strange way to help guide us through the grayness of life. As humans we want to know right and wrong, black and white–and one of the great human struggles is, in reality, there are no absolute, there is just a lot of gray.  So we create these rules to help make sense of the gray.  I believe on some level we are trying to help ourselves deal with the stress of life with these rules, which is why the more stressed we are, the more rules seem to appear.  Based on childhoods, personality types and life experience some of us are worse rule creators than others.  I confess it is a problem that I continually work on.

I am amazed how frequently clients come in and are stuck on a certain career or refuse to choose a certain career–simply based on their rules.  They have a rule that going back to school at 40 is a failure, changing careers is wrong, or they want to be a nurse, but all nurses are mean because they had a nurse once who was mean.  Regardless of WHY the rules are there, they have rules that limit their lives. Much of my work is bringing these rules to light and helping clients build awareness around them.

So today we are bringing our rules our into the open–the only way to defeat them is to start noticing them.  To start announcing them out loud whether to your nearest and dearest, or to yourself in the car.  We have to start announcing our rules so we can begin to see the absurdity of this black and white thinking. I guarantee the more people that share, the more people will have different rules about the same thing.  Because here is the kicker–life doesn’t really have a right way and a wrong way–it doesn’t matter if you get up early, or sleep in until noon–we are all doing the best we can with what we have, trying to live happier more fulfilling lives. So give yourself a break and remember you are good, no matter what!!

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