Seems like everyone has a suggestion about how you should go about living your life. There are literally thousands of books on Amazon telling you the rules for living a happy/positive/good life. Social media is flooded with memes spouting someone’s advice about how you should conduct yourself. Commencement speeches that go viral are almost always some famous person telling the next generation what they need to do to be success.
This is not a new thing.
Years ago my mother sent me a newspaper clipping with these “Rules for Living”:
If you open it, close it.
If you turn it on, turn it off.
If you unlock it, lock it up.
If you break it, admit it.
If you can’t fix it, call someone who can.
If you borrow it, return it.
If you value it, take care of it.
If you make a mess, clean it up.
If you move it, put it back.
If it belongs to someone else, get permission to use it.
If you don’t know how to use it, leave it alone.
If it’s none of your business, don’t ask questions.
Yup those seem like pretty good rules – mostly common sense but that is probably what makes them stand the test of time.
At least 100 rules for living
A quick Google search tells you that there at least a hundred rules you could follow to live a good life.
- Be comfortable in your own skin
- Practice the art of acceptance
- Keep your promises
- Wake up smiling
- Everything in moderation
- Do what you love
- Be kind
And on and on.
Seems to me that a hundred is a whole lot of rules. Pretty sure I couldn’t keep all of them in mind as I go about my day even if I was really motivated to successfully live a happy/positive/good life.
I kind of like this much simpler version I found, courtesy of Schlock Mercenary, a webcomic written and drawn by Howard Tayler:
Rule one: don’t taunt elephants.
Rule two: don’t stand next to anybody who taunts elephants.
Again common sense and I’m pretty sure the “elephant” could be a metaphor for a lot of things.
I think of rules for living as guiding principles. Basically, they are your personal code of conduct – your rules of engagement with life so to speak.
I also think they are darn important for a couple of reasons.When you have a written list of guiding principles it is easier to make values-based decisions and choices. Click To Tweet
When you have a written list of guiding principles it is easier to make values-based decisions and choices. That’s because in order to make your list of principles you need to have given it some careful thought. You need to be clear about what your values are in order to craft a rule.
The other reason is that in today’s world there are endless distractions that can pull you away from what is most important to you. Other people’s priorities are always clamouring for you to pay attention to them rather than your own.
To top it off herd mentality is a real thing where we become influenced to adopt the behaviours of the crowd. In some ways that’s what social media is all about. Someone does or says something and people line up on both sides of the issue. If our usual group has a contrary opinion to ours, we tend to stay quiet so as not to engage the wrath of the herd if we speak up. In doing so we fudge our own rules to keep in the peace.
Guiding principles help us stay focused on what’s important and keep in alignment with our values even when the herd is pushing a different way. They give us a foundation to stand on so we can say or do what in the moment might be unpopular.
I bet if you read the long, long list of rules for living that you could adopt, you’d find you are pretty much in agreement with all of them. Who can argue with “wake up smiling” or “keep your promises”? The problem is for most people, trying to adhere to too many principles creates a lack of focus that results in none of the principles being honored well.
With that in mind, here are some rules about rules:
Not too many
It’s not uncommon when I start working with clients and I ask what their guiding principles are, they stumble a bit in naming them. That’s because guiding principles are based in one’s core values and many people only have a superficial answer to the question:
What is most important to you?
I get it. This kind of personal reflection seems like a luxury when you already have a never-ending to do list.
The truth is, if you aren’t sure, then any old rule will do. The key to your happy/positive/good life is being conscious and intentional about your thoughts, words and actions. You need to know your rules and then enforce them with yourself. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Here are some questions to help you get started:
What’s the one rule the whole world needs to follow?
What’s the one guiding principle you want your kids to learn?
If you could make only one meme to post on social media, what would it say?
So take a moment right now, post a comment and share one of your rules. No worries about getting it perfect. Just toss something into the conversation.
Oh…and if you are interested in having a little help getting clearer about your core values and guiding principles, send me an email.