What rules do you live by? I’m not talking about those that govern what you eat or how you dress, but something more meaningful. What rules dictate your life? For example, many people establish rules for how their life should be or not be. When things don’t turn out as planned, they feel like things are falling apart. Have you experienced something like this before? Similarly, there are people that have rules about the person they should date or marry. We hear about this all the time where the person must have certain physical traits, earn a particular income or come from a specific demographic or ethnicity. However, rules don’t work all the time, and some of them should be ignored.
We can’t expect to live a purposeful life bound by rules. Some rules are set by loved ones from an early age, and we take them on into adulthood. Other rules are established by us in the face of adversity or hardship. Sometimes we establish rules to protect us from getting hurt regarding dating and relationships. We set boundaries on what we will accept or not accept in a person. But is this the way to live? Can we place boundaries and restrictions on ourselves and the way our life should develop?
While it’s normal to abide by values and beliefs, we must be careful to upgrade the rules we set for ourselves. As you know, life can change at the drop of a hat. This means who we were a decade ago is not the same person we are today. If we abide by the rules from that period, we are not living intentionally but following a script like a computer program.
When I was young, I had rules about the way my life should play out. How people should treat me, what type of work I would be doing, and my relationship status. And guess what? None of it worked out for me. Why? Because life interceded and showed me otherwise. Life proved repeatedly that my rules were insignificant in my life’s narrative. Moreover, as my consciousness expanded, my circumstances reflected this change. I liken it to white water rafting in a torrential river and determining how the journey will unfold before you set out. Suddenly, you are besieged with uncompromising conditions and you realize your rules did not take this into account.
This is what happens to many people when they establish rules. Life shows up and proves they don’t hold up. Now, you might get the impression that I am against having rules. This is not the case. What I am advocating is being mindful of whether our rules are working for us and changing them as we evolve. Rules, like beliefs, must change with our circumstances, otherwise they are no more useful than the money we play with in a Monopoly game. Unless you are five years old and believe that Monopoly money holds currency, rules have the same effect. They hold us back from living in alignment with our highest values and intentions. They restrict us from being engaged with life. Rules are as effective as the person who creates them. Behind every rule is a positive intention to move forward with joy and enthusiasm or succumb to fear and criticism. If we create rules from a place of fear, they will show up every time. So, if we have been hurt in earlier relationships and establish rules to protect us, we hold ourselves back from engaging in love and intimacy. We build barricades to protect us instead of healing and transforming our pain and disappointments. Are you with me so far? Are you beginning to see that while rules can be helpful, it is the intention you set that dictates whether your rules are serving you?
With this in mind, I’d like you to do a brief exercise. Write down at least five rules you live by. They can be related to any area of life, whether it be career, dating, finances, or health. Create two columns, and in the left-hand column, title the header: “Rules I Live By.” Write your rules below. In the right-hand column, title the header: “Is This Working For Me Or Against Me?” Examine your five rules and decide whether or not they are working in your favor. How will you know? Look at the quality of your life. For example, are you in a happy, loving relationship? If not, go back to the rule you created for relationships and examine whether it is serving you. Go through the other rules and take an honest inventory of whether they are helping you or holding you back from living purposefully. Be careful in your evaluation not to apply a confirmation bias to make yourself feel better.
Ultimately, when you let go of the rules, things not only get simpler but life will show you whether you’re living from a place of fear or a place of love.