I once had a friend who claimed to absolutely adore everything about me…except for “my rules.” That was a deal breaker!
He thought I was so strict with myself and I should “live a little.” If we weren’t compatible back then, I imagine just how different we are now, because my rules have increased, not lessened.
“You don’t drink coffee or alcohol, you don’t watch TV, you don’t eat meat or dairy, and you don’t ever allow yourself to swear!” He would shake his head in disbelief.
Having a defined personal philosophy makes life so simple. I remember one of the reasons I was inspired to go all the way vegan was because Elyssa was never on the fence – she had decided to only consume plant based food and that was such an easier choice than mine, deciding whether I was going to be vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or a meat eater that day…
I don’t have to worry about moderation with wine because I never drink it, and caffeine doesn’t dictate my mood or energy level. Baked goods are not tempting to me because I just decided I like being healthy and guilt-free way more than the way something tastes, especially when the taste is actually hit or miss, and can turn out to be disappointing.
I still love this friend, though we’re not that close anymore now that we have both moved on to different stages in our lives, but I never really understood why my rules seem to bother him so much, when his “lack of rules” didn’t affect me at all.
In fact, I’ll tell you what, my friend Heather recently asked on Facebook: Why do we give people a hard time because they choose NOT to do something? The discussion on her post included people saying they “don’t trust people who don’t drink,” which I hear at least once when I’m out at a gathering or event. It feels weird because I trust many people who drink and I don’t remember ever asking anyone why they choose to have coffee or wine or why they prefer to add meat to their meal.
When my friend took me to my first Unleash the Power Within seminar with Anthony Robbins, I understood where he was coming from with personal rules. Tony Robbins talked about how there are rules we create to judge the world around us and the people in it that can indeed be absolutely damaging. He was referring to personal rules are based on beliefs and personal values, from the perception of “right” and “wrong”, “good” and “bad,” we adopted as we turned into socialized adults.
If you love me you would
If you love me you wouldn’t
All ___ are
Some of these rules create more stress than peace, more suffering than joy, and more separation than connection. They might have worked for us at one time, but they no longer serve us, so it is important to constantly re-think them and question our beliefs so we can find emotional freedom.
But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that rules are not necessarily restrictive, in fact, they can be liberating and provide fulfillment, joy, and personal freedom. Show me someone who is satisfied with her results, and I’ll show you someone that established a set of rules to get there – and followed them consistently. If she’s fit and healthy, you know they hold themselves to certain nutrition and movement standards; if she’s financially successful, she’s mastered the laws to keep and maintain wealth. She’s discarded what she doesn’t want and they’ve traded what she wants now for what she wants most. She’s living like no one else so she can live like no one else.
I think it may be because I’ve been so close to death so many times that I am very stubborn (to say the least) about not “winging it” and having clear, nonnegotiable guiding principles to live by. I want to be intentional about life, like Henry David Thoreau would say, I wish “to live deliberately,” and to “not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Some will call me obsessive and even extreme, but I don’t want to “live a little,” I want to live A LOT… I want to live in freedom, on my own terms. I’d rather experience some pain to achieve the success I yearn for than to experience the pain of regret.
So, if you are like me and you make the rules and play by them, you’ll get a kick off my list. Sticking to these patterns can add joy and purpose to each day we are blessed to live!
- Smile when you wake up in the morning
- Embrace the YOU in the mirror by doing The Mirror Exercise practice each night
- Make it a point to discover the bright side of everything
- Say your pleasantries to everyone you meet – “please” and “thank you” are really the magic words!
- Count your blessings because gratitude is the birthplace of joy!
- Connect to your Higher Power
- Say the truth
- Find something nice about people – and pay them a genuine compliment.
- Use The Work to forgive yourself and others
- Treat your body like your temple – and learn to love doing it. Self-care is NOT selfish!
- Let go and let God
- Commit to taking quick little actions to increase your happiness
- Say “I love you” as often as you can – in the person’s love language!
- Say “I love me.” You are lovable and deserving.
- Listen to learn, rather than just “wait for your turn to talk.” Listen more, talk less.
- Express yourself and your emotions – even the negative ones
- Pay your bills and return everything you borrow
- Don’t beat yourself up
- Don’t dwell on the past
- Distance yourself from toxic people, frenemies, and friends that trigger you. Make positive friends and spend time with them.
- Be on time.
- Catch yourself judging and replace your critical thoughts with a wave of love and acceptance.
- Design your dream life, and decide to live it with passion.
- Stop trying to be a supermom
- Listen to music (and when possible, sing out loud)
- Ban disempowering words from your vocabulary (like should)
- Cry when you feel like crying and don’t apologize about it
- Say NO and stick to your boundaries without feeling guilty
- Be kind: be kind to yourself, be kind to people, be kind to unkind people.
- Follow the four agreements (Be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personal, don’t make assumptions, always do your best.)
- Don’t compare yourself or feel jealousy or envy over another mom. Strive to impress ONLY yourself
- Decide to have lessons, not regrets
- Focus your thoughts on that which is “honest, just, pure, lovely, praiseworthy, and of good report.” Philippians 4:8
- Pursue what you LOVE
- Avoid gossip and negative media (CNN is known in the personal growth community as “constant negative news”).
- Embrace your brokenness
- Have an intentional calendar and schedule your priorities!
- Ask God to grant you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
- Trust your instincts and harness your intuition
- Reverse your buts
- Take responsibility for everything and stop blaming others and making excuses
- Make decisions based on your core values
- Get organized. Purge, declutter, and focus on simplicity
- Admit when you’re wrong or make a mistake, and apologize sincerely
- Postpone and procrastinate your worry
- Recover from perfectionism. Strive for progress, instead of perfection.
- Do more of what makes you happy
- Stop people pleasing!
- Be THE “good Samaritan,” and give to give, not to receive.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh – and laugh at yourself and your own jokes.
Having your own code of conduct can be an empowering way to live because it can provide clarity, focus, and the will to stay on course. Use the rules above and choose the ones that fit you or use these to inspire your own. Once you create a list of your personal rules, make sure you keep it handy and as visible as possible.
My friend doesn’t want rules because he fears losing his freedom. You may feel the same way because it’s painful to conform to other people’s rules. But when you set rules for yourself, that is freedom. You decide to live on your own terms and get rid of what doesn’t work for you, what sabotages what you desire, what you love. It’s not a constraint, it’s a standard that brings awareness, wisdom, and power to your decisions, especially when there’s pressure.
The truth is that every one of us have rules we live by, whether we realize it or not, and it is helpful to contemplate and write down the principles we want to dictate and determine our decisions and guide everything we are, say, and do. Determining our own philosophy will avoid unnecessary stress, guilt and regret, and emotional burden and help create the results you strive to create in your life.