I tried to think of any rules I always follow or would follow given various contexts. And I really could not think of one — not one rule.
Always stop at red lights, maybe? That seems like one everyone would follow. But what if you were taking someone to the emergency room?
Are there any rules you absolutely do not or would not question? Probably not… You may even claim you would question any rule before you would blindly follow it.
Yet, I bet you are consciously or unconsciously following rules you did not intentionally adopt.
And some of these rules likely come from all the noise around you —family, friends, community, colleagues, boss, clients, social media, books, the internet etc. — telling you what to do.
- be more social
- respond immediately to clients
- make 6 figures
- get skinny
- travel the world
- get to Inbox Zero
You get my point.
And, while you may not have explicitly adopted these rules or even follow them, they still weigh on you like a ton of bricks, reminding you of what you should be doing.
Ready to learn how to stop the noise and be more intentional so you don’t inadvertently follow the herd when they are not on the best path for you?
Following The Experts
How about the experts? Certainly they have the perfect solutions, right? They are the experts, after all.
I’m sure you’ve read or listened to many who are authorities in their respective fields and whose advice seems spot on. It may even seem like everyone else thinks the solutions they are offering to fix a particular problem are like manna from heaven.
It sure seems like the real deal. So, you think, “That is what I need to do! If I do that, things will definitely get better.”
Also, they probably make it sound so easy or, as in the quote below, they may even say it is easy.
“…everything I propose is easy to do. It involves no new skills at all. You already know how to focus, how write things down, how to decide on outcomes and actions, and how to review options and make choices.”
So, it can be really hard to say, “Thanks, but no thanks. That is not for me.”
But what if their advice, while simple, is not easy and does not work for you out of the box?
Obviously, when David Allen of Getting Things Done wrote the above, he was not thinking of Adults with ADHD. Because, while all of the skills he mentions are ones you can definitely develop, focusing and making decisions may not be easy for you right now.
So, even if everyone else is jumping on the bandwagon and adopting the advice of an expert, like David Allen, take time to:
- review the skills and resources needed.
- acknowledge whether you have the capacity – time, energy and skills – to utilize their advice right now.
- decide, if you want to use their advice, how you can make it work for you.
You don’t need to make the guidance rules to live your life by unless, of course, you think it may work for you.
Doing It Like Everybody Else
Aside from the experts, what about all the people around you? Have you ever uttered a variation of one of the phrases below?
- “But everyone else seems to be able to do it.”
- “I see everyone else doing it.”
- “It is easy for everyone else.”
I bet there are times you make assumptions based on outside appearances. Everyone does. You may not even be aware when you are making them.
- see people running or walking outside, and think, “Everyone can easily fit exercise into their day.”
- hear someone talking at a work meeting, and conclude, “It is so easy for everyone here to do their work.”
- Look at the sign-up sheet for volunteers, and decide, “Everyone can volunteer.”
Over time these assumptions might turn into rules you think you should follow because, well, everyone else does it.
Then, though you may not follow these rules or even be aware you made them up, the following may periodically go through your head:
- “I need to exercise 5 times a week.”
- “I’m going to get my work in on time 100% of the time.”
- “From now on I am going to volunteer for at least one thing.”
And when you don’t follow through on your rules you feel deflated.
If you are making assumptions based on what you see around you and creating rules for yourself because of what other people seem to be able to do, pause for a moment and ask yourself:
- “Who is everyone else?”
- “Do I really know this is true?”
- “What is right for me?”
- “What is the best process for me to achieve my intentions?”
Everyone else is not you. Again, you need to do it the way it works best for you.
So, don’t turn your assumptions about what you think other people can do into rules you need to live by.
Because, Well… I Should
Some of your rules are ones that have become so internalized they are just a part of you. You may not even know where they originated from. And you certainly don’t question them.
But these rules inform how you and others must behave.
Examples of these rules or should statements are:
- “People should never be late delivering work.”
- “People should not be trusted if they are late delivering work.”
- “People must always follow through on what they promise if they want to be trusted.”
- “To be considered a professional you must not make mistakes.”
Who could possibly live up to these rules? No one I know of!
Do you have any rigid rules or should statements similar to these?
If you direct them at yourself, you might feel guilty and frustrated when you do not live up to them all the time. And when you direct them at others, you might become angry, frustrated and resentful, as well.
Yet, you may use these rules because you think they will motivate you to do better…
They don’t, though, right? Instead they probably just leave you feeling rebellious. And so you may end up doing the opposite — shutting down.
But what if you replaced these thoughts with a variation of the following?
- “Stuff happens. And I and others will miss deadlines sometimes.”
- “I will create deadlines with the information I have at the time, and will do my best to give a trustworthy estimate.”
- “It is not a good practice to always follow though on the original promise, as sometimes there will be good reasons to change course.”
- “To excel in my profession I need to stretch or I will stagnate. This means I will make mistakes.”
What self-imposed rules are getting in your way? How can you tweak them to be more helpful?
March to The Beat of Your Own Drum
Not always easy with all the noise around you. I know.
So, find a quiet moment to make sure you are aware of the rules that are guiding your actions.
And, by all means keep the ones that work for you, but kick the others to the curb!