Time to Break Some Rules

Oh, the rules we make up!

Not for sport. That would be silly, right?

But we all carry around a bunch of shoulds, shouldn’ts, musts, and mustn’ts. And most of them are accompanied by a belief that failure to obey will:

  • make me a bad person,
  • stand in the way of my success, or
  • lead to any number of other dire consequences

These rules get so deeply embedded they feel like truthful facts instead of made-up rules.

Which is why it’s startling to unexpectedly see one of your truthful facts in a new light and realize you’ve been living with a self-imposed rule!

I didn’t learn this in a book. I’ve lived it. 🙂

And recently I watched my friend Marie meet up with one her rules.

Marie recently launched a coaching and consulting practice after 25 years as a successful sales executive. She’s off to a great start, which doesn’t surprise me since she totally has her “stuff” together.

A few weeks ago we were chatting about our businesses, and Marie commented, “I know you shouldn’t call clients; it’s important that they initiate the phone call for the coaching sessions.”

Bam!! Marie had just slammed into a self-imposed rule.

She didn’t pull that rule out of thin air. Everyone’s rules come from somewhere.

Marie had heard the “who calls whom” rule from teachers in her coach training program. I heard the same information fifteen years ago.

It’s the way the early coaching pioneers worked, and the process was passed down until it became canonized as the way telephone coaching is done.

When I asked, “Really? Always?”, Marie burst out laughing.

She realized she’d created a black and white rule that made no sense from a service perspective. And what made it so funny (in both an ironic and amusing way) is that her sales career had been built on relationships, client care, and delivering excellent service.

As a sales executive, she’d never have had a blanket rule about who should call whom. As a coach, she’d gotten stuck in a made-up rule.

We all have our own made-up rules that we’ve collected along the path of life.

And they get in the way of happiness and success.

Adherence to those rules won’t help you thrive. Your personality and strengths won’t shine through that wall of rules. What makes you uniquely you won’t rise to the top.

Add all that up, and you’ve put a big, heavy lid on your happiness and true potential.

What self-imposed rules are keeping you from showing as your best?

Here’s just a teeny sampling of rules I’ve run across:

  • Good leaders don’t close their office doors.
  • If you’re not giving 150%, you’re not really committed.
  • If you call attention to your accomplishments, you won’t be considered a team player.
  • You should speak up in meetings … you should be quiet in meetings.
  • Don’t talk publicly about energy, mindset, or anything that sounds woo-woo, or people will think you’re flaky.

The last item on the list was mine when I started my business almost 20 years ago. Yup, I made up a rule that I could only discuss those sorts of topics in private conversations, and even then ONLY if the client cracked open the door.

The first time I broke my “woo-woo” rule I was terrified. Much to my surprise, my business didn’t immediately fall apart. And once I got over my fear of being seen as a flake, letting go of that rule made life so much easier.

It takes a lot of energy to obey made-up rules.

It’s time to break some rules!

Write down all the rules you’ve made up.

Carry the list with you for a few days, and every time you notice you’re in must, should, can’t, have to mode, check out whether or not it’s an actual RULE. Remember as a kid when you’d say, “Says who?” Now is the perfect time to ask that question!

Pick one rule to break this week. (Big, deep breaths help.)

Next week pick another.

Keep breaking rules until you’ve given yourself full permission to be you … to play to your strengths … to let your personality shine through … to choose to live unstuck.

 “How would your life be different if…You decided to give freely, love fully, and play feverously? Let today be the day…You free yourself from the conditioned rules that limit your happiness and dilute the beautiful life experience. Have fun. Give – Love – Play!” ~ Steve Maraboli


Leave a Comment