Have you been hesitant to break the rules? It's a normal response. We all crave belonging. We also desire self-expression. It can be an intricate dance to satisfy both of these inner longings. Self-reflection and a good dose of courage are essential for this adventure. It can be difficult to challenge the status quo but you can't create an authentic life without it.
These primal urges – to belong and express – can be compromised by your early environment. At home, it was well-meaning parents or elders. At school, you had teachers responsible for your learning a set curriculum. None of this early training was something that you chose. You were taught by those whom you trusted.
Is it any wonder that at some point you start questioning what you learned? If you were an independent thinker early on this might have created problems for you. Well-meaning grown-ups might have stifled your wonder and curiosity.
If that's the case, no worries. It's never too late to break the rules and claim your life. It wasn't long ago that I followed in the well-worn footsteps. Things change when you choose to change them.
Break the Rules (Especially If You're Good)!
I was a good girl. I never missed school, loved to study, and got good grades. Respecting my elders was a given and so were chores. I was considerate, kind and honest. I remember going to the corner store in the early morning for groceries. It was family owned and their elderly mother was often at the register. She often gave me too much change. I always gave it back. It felt good.
I followed the rules for a very long time. Life took its turns. I married, had children, got divorced. Decades and thousands of dollars on personal development later, I was still spinning my wheels.
Being good did not deliver the life I wanted. Following the rules and the prescribed path did not bring me happiness. This took decades to unfold. In my mid-forties, I finally chose to give up other people's version of my life for good.
There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.
Want to live a fulfilling life? Break the rules.
Break the Rules: Which Ones?
I'm not suggesting you do anything illegal. This is an invitation to look at the unwritten rules you follow. Questioning the rules is a very personal process. Only you know which ones serve and which limit your expression.
One rule immediately came to mind when I first considered rebelling against the rules:
Attend All Family Events. My mother and aunts enforced this rule. For most of these relatives, we only connected at baby showers, weddings, and funerals. Baby showers were my pet peeve. I whined about attending every time. The rituals were empty and meaningless. I'd put in a minimal appearance then dash out the door. It was excruciating. I decided to send a present and skip the event.
I was shaking in my shoes when I announced this choice to my family. It took courage initially. Once I made the decision a tremendous amount of energy became available. It takes a LOT of energy to do things that are not aligned. Make the choice to be true to yourself. It's the only way the creative forces within you can help you craft a life that's true.
Ready to break the rules? It's your turn.
Rearrange the rules to suit yourself.
It's Time to Break the Rules
Grab your journal, or a pad, and a pen and write down ALL the rules that diminish your creative essence. You don't have to break all the rules, just the ones that are sucking the life out of you. (smile)
I recommend that you do this exercise long-hand. Handwriting in your journal impacts your brain!
When you review your rules notice how you feel about them. Is there a sense of obligation or responsibility? Are you conforming because others follow the rules and you don't want to stand out? We are all social creatures and belonging is an innate need. The key is to remain authentic in your connection.
Break the Rules!
To get you started, I've listed some rules you may want to question:
- Tell the Truth. Do you really have to tell all the truth? There are some things that you might want to keep to yourself. No one is entitled to full disclosure unless you feel called to share.
- Get Along. If someone you are connected to is not in alignment with your values pretending just to get along is a huge energy drain. You can respect someone without agreeing with them.
- Don't Answer Back. There's a fine line between respect and honoring yourself. You need to speak your truth while honoring the truth in others. Anything less is a disservice.
- Fit In. If you have to work hard to fit in maybe you're in the wrong place. Find a community that gets you. Be yourself!
- Be Nice. A smooth veneer of nice isn't healthy if you're seething under the surface. Authentic is better than nice any day of the week. Don't tune down who you are to make someone else more comfortable. Human beings are complex creatures. Feel free to express your rainbow self!
How to Break the Rules
Here's a 3-step process that I've used to break the rules in a way that led to a new and improved me. It is simple and easy to use:
1. Question the Context. Identify the context that limits you and find the context that expands you. Remember how I felt about baby showers above? The problem was the context. Baby showers that lasted for hours for the sake of just giving presents and participating in customs-by-rote felt hollow to me. The context switch had to do with finding my meaning in baby showers.
2. Make Your Own Rules. Create an expression that aligns the context to your values. Years later my friend Joanna was planning a baby shower. Here was my opportunity to rewrite the script. I created a ritual for the baby shower.
3. Take Action. Implement the new rule. This is key! Nothing will change unless you flex your action muscle. Here's the ritual I created and relished in: (1) We sit in a circle, (2) Share how we met Joanna, and (3) a blessing for baby. It was a beautiful and sacred experience.
Rearrange the rules to suit yourself.
Break the Rules, Build YOUR Life!
Belonging is a primary need, encoded in your DNA. For a very long time it was essential for survival. Not anymore. Now you can create your own circle of belonging. One that aligns with who you are. Your creative essence is what is in hot demand today. The world needs your unique talents and perspective. The world must evolve and you play an important role in its evolution.
You go against the norm when you break the rules. It doesn't matter what rule you break: quitting the family business, opting out of marrying or deciding not to have children. It's not the easiest path.
When you break the rules it can be daunting. You risk disapproval from loved ones. Uncertainty and doubt are sure to show up. You are navigating a map with an internal compass. The right path is not always clear.
The only way out is through. It is the only way to craft a life that honors your creative essence. You will experience much more joy and authentic expression. It also inspires others to break the rules and create a meaningful life.
Is it time to break the rules for you? Which ones? Let me know in the comments below.