New Year, New Rules (#746)

In part one of this tip (click here to read it now), we talked about two kinds of “rules for life” – the created rules, which we make up consciously or unconsciously and then live by as if they were real, and the house rules, which are physical or metaphysical in origin and you are subject to simply by being born onto this planet.

Since we already began exploring the house rules last week, this week let’s look at the created rules for our lives – and once again, it will be useful to make a distinction. Even amongst created rules, there are the ones that are written into the justice system of our particular culture (we’ll call them “laws”), and the ones that are written or unwritten into the justice programming of our mind (we’ll call them “shoulds”).

Break a law and you will pay a fine or go to jail; break a “should” and you will feel bad – a bit bad if it’s a small should and a lot bad if it’s a big should.  One of the reasons “shoulds” get confused with “house rules” is that both of them are enforced whether anyone catches you breaking them or not – that is, you have to be caught breaking a societal law to be punished for it, but if you try to break the law of gravity or to go against one of your own deep-seated rules for life, you’ll pay for it whether anyone else knows about it or not.

In order to begin to understand why this matters, let’s explore a specific context – the created rules you live by as you play the game we call “financial success”.  One question I will often ask course participants and clients is if they had to, how many days forward they could live without earning any money before they wound up homeless.  Answers range from “a couple of weeks” to “several lifetimes”, and there are two interesting things about that:

1. There is often little or no difference between how much financial fear the people at the extremes of that range are experiencing.

2. The answers change radically if they change the rules of the game.

For an example of this, consider your own answer to the question:

How many days forward could you live without earning any money before you wound up homeless?

When you have an answer, try this question instead:

How many days forward could you live without earning any money if you sold/moved out of your current home/neighborhood/city/country and moved into a different home/neighborhood/city/country instead?

There are no house rules that say that you have to live where you live, commute how you commute, and do what you do.  And even with today’s housing situation, most people find that they can add months or even years to their answer.  Now this is not to say that I am recommending you move home or take your kids out of private school or trade-in your car for a cheaper one or give up latte’s for the rest of your life – it’s simply about noticing one thing:

The next time you are feeling tight for cash, recognize that you are feeling tight for cash within the constraints (rules) of the financial game you are currently playing.  And while one fun way out is to create more cash, another is simply to change the rules of the game.

This turns out to be true in nearly every area of our lives.  When we find ourselves under pressure with our backs up against the walls, we can fight our way out or – and this is a big “or” – we can take a deeper look at the rules we have created which make the cellophane wall we are up against appear solid.

Here are a few of the most common created rules I’ve noticed that leave people feeling constricted in a world of freedom:

  • I mustn’t upset the people around me
  • I have to figure out the best thing to do before I do anything
  • I can’t run out of money.  Ever.  No matter what.

Which is a specific variant of:

  • The worst thing that could happen is…. (fill in blank), and I must avoid this at all costs.

Do any of these resonate with you?  Do they seem “real”?  Solid?  Common sense?

They all have to me at various times in my life.  But I couldn’t help noticing that there were always people who didn’t seem to be worried about them.  And while part of me thought that was because they were foolish at best or social deviants at worst, another part of me realized that it was because I was making up the world one way and they were making it up different.  And if I wanted to really enjoy and explore my life, I could make things up differently as well.

So here’s today’s experiment – or more likely, something you might want to explore throughout the year ahead:

1. Begin to notice the “rules for living” you’ve made up that are restricting your world and limiting your sense of possibility.  One of the easiest ways to notice this is to notice what you’re listening to in your head when you are feeling a sense of constriction or fear in your body.

2. When you come across a “rule”, jot it down and begin to look for exceptions – places or people where it doesn’t seem to be true (or as true)

3. Have fun and learn heaps!

With love (and best wishes for a happy new year),

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