New Year, New Rules, part one (#745)

Recently, I came across a list of the original rules to the game of “Basket Ball”, as made up (i.e. “created”) by James Naismith on the morning of the very first game:


1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands, but never with the fist.

3. A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man running at good speed.

4. The ball must be held by the hands. The arms or body must not be used for holding it.

5. No shouldering, holding, pushing, striking or tripping in any way of an opponent. The first infringement of this rule by any person shall count as a foul; the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game. No substitution shall be allowed.

6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violations of Rules 3 and 4 and such as described in Rule 5.

7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls it shall count as a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the meantime making a foul).

8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there, providing those defending the goal do no touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.

9. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field and played by the first person touching it. In case of dispute the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds. If he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on them.

10. The umpire shall be the judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify men according to Rule 5.

11. The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made and keep account of the goals, with any other duties that are usually performed by a referee.

12. The time shall be two fifteen-minute halves, with five minutes rest between.

13. The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winner.

There are a few things that are particularly interesting to me about these rules:

    • They haven’t changed that much in 109 years
    • Some of them have changed completely (dribbling, anyone?)
    • More than half of them are about enforcing the others
    • The “house rules” aren’t listed – that is, gravity, force, momentum, and other laws of physics without which the game itself could not be played.


When it comes to the game of life, one of the most confusing things is figuring out which rules are created (i.e.”made up”) and which are a part of the “house rules” – that is, they will be enforced whether anyone catches you breaking them or not.

As we come to the end of another year, I thought now would be a fun time to explore the difference between these two kinds of rules. Let’s begin today by concentrating on getting a better understanding of a few of the “house rules”; next week (next year!) we’ll pick up with a look at how we create many of our difficulties in life and how we can un-create them going forward.  We’ll also consider how instead of resolutely resolving to play better by the current rules of the game, we might want to make up some new rules instead…

House Rule number one:
What is, is; what isn’t, isn’t

I sometimes call this the “no suffering” rule, because breaking it almost always engenders suffering.  The moment I try to make the case that things shouldn’t be how they are (or should be how they aren’t), I begin to suffer.  As an interesting side note, the sooner I accept that things are the way they are, the easier it is for me to change them.

Here’s a corollary to the “no suffering” rule:

You control what you control; you don’t control what you don’t control

This week, I received an email from someone who’s understanding of this house rule is making a very concrete difference in her life…

Your philosophy has helped me greatly these last few months — my son was diagnosed with a brain tumor, has undergone 4 surgeries, and is now in the midst of chemo, to be followed by radiation.  And yes, of course I have my moments of hysteria, but the prognosis is very good, and I’m usually able to be calm and cheerful.  I concentrate on the things I can control, not those that I can’t.  So very Michael Neill of me, huh?


While most of us don’t have to deal with quite so much “real life” at any given time, you can probably find areas in your life where you are frustrating yourself by trying to control some aspect of life that isn’t up or down to you.  And if you can let go of wanting to change that, at least for now, you will find that frustration recedes into the background freeing you up to make the best of the task at hand.

House rule number two:
The world is what you think it is.

Here’s how I wrote about this “house rule” in Supercoach:


If source energy is the paint, thought is the paintbrush. Our life is the canvas, and our consciousness is what allows us to appreciate the painting. Because different thoughts come in and out of our heads throughout the day, our experience is continually changing. But because we tend to focus on the same limited range of thoughts throughout the day, there is a sense of cohesive reality to our experience.Of course, just because a thought pops into your head doesn’t mean it will immediately manifest in your life. (If it did, there would be more deaths by roller coasters going off their tracks, people falling from very high places, and heads exploding due to stress than any other cause.) That’s because in and of themselves, thoughts have no power.

It’s only when you invest your own energy and consciousness into them that they begin to become real. A thought without your personal investment is no more powerful than a tea bag without boiling water. It’s only after you add the water that the tea begins to infuse and create the flavor, and it’s only after you add your agreement and energy to a thought that it begins to impact your life.

I am convinced that a deeper understanding of thought not only leads to greater inner peace and tranquility, which I can vouch for from experience, but will ultimately lead to a more peaceful world, which is an experimental hypothesis I am actively engaged in testing on a weekly basis.  But because things are the way they are and I only control what I control, let me finish this tip (and this year) on a simpler note:

May you be blessed that your life may be a blessing,
and may the year ahead be filled with love, happiness, and prosperity –
for you, for me, and for all of life.
With love,



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