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“When you think this pain is all you deserve, you are right. You are the only one that can decide how long you will walk in hell.” – Shannon L. Alder

From time-to-time, I am prompted to write something. Today, I was prompted to write about self-imposed rules. Think about your life as it is. Are you living your life or someone else’s?

Are you in the job you want because you wanted it or because you felt that society expects you to do that work? Are you buying things because you really want them or are you making purchases mindlessly because it’s what will make you the “cool kid on the block”? Are you afraid to be yourself because of outside expectations of who you should be, what you should be, or how you should act? Are you failing to act because you are so afraid of failing that you do nothing instead? Do you automatically assume you cannot do something before you even start? These are all self-imposed rules.

We all impose rules on ourselves. We tell ourselves what we can do and what we can’t do. We tell ourselves we are good at this or bad at that. We tell ourselves we should wear this or wear that. If we violate these rules, we become uncomfortable. Something inside us says, “Whoa, what are you doing wearing that color?”

I’m currently reading a book called, “How to Be an Imperfectionist”, by Stephen Guise and it discusses a great many of these self-imposed rules. Some of us have so many self-imposed rules we are actually paralyzed. Rules that tells us:

“You can’t do that.”

“You aren’t strong enough to do that.”

“You aren’t smart enough to do that.”

“What if she says no?”

“What if I fail?”

These questions are derived from our personal set of self-imposed rules. Much of what we do is not derived from what we really want. Much of it is derived from what everyone else wants.

A few years ago, I found myself in a really dark place. A place where I envisioned myself walking off of a cliff—a place where I felt something chasing me, all the time. A place where I could feel a web of knots wrapping themselves around me, providing me a situation where I had fewer and fewer options.

The only option I had was to change. I had to change the way I was thinking. I had to change the way I was looking at the world. It is at these dark times that change really becomes our only option.

What happened to me was truly revolutionary. I realized that all of my self-imposed rules guaranteed my failure. They guaranteed my results. They guaranteed my misery.

I’d like you to picture something in your mind. Picture a new you without constraints, without limits, without any potential to fail. Picture yourself totally content with what you have—totally grateful for everything in your life. Picture yourself doing something you could only dream about before, not with any strings attached like “I want this or that because of this effort” but doing this thing for the very act of doing it. Doing something you know will benefit you whether you are a master at it or remain a neophyte forever. Liberating isn’t it?

If you can’t visualize this, practice it for a bit. Read some books for inspiration about what type of life you would like to live without any ability to fail. Just act “AS IF” anything you wanted was yours, act “AS IF” you had already arrived. Act “AS IF” anything you wanted to do, you could do.

Many will balk at this type of thinking, assuming it is just total BS, “pie in the sky” thinking. I get that. This is where self-imposed rules become detrimental. If you think something is the way it is—IT IS. Just try and visualize doing something you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t because of a self-imposed rule.

I do this exercise each time I am writing out my goals. Guess what? These goals change all of the time, particularly when you begin checking your older goals off of your list. Write down 100 things you would do right now without thinking of failure. Just write down all of the things you’d like to do before you die—Your bucket list. Once you’ve written down all of the things you’d like to do. Start working toward one of them.

Think about what it would take to cross the finish line. Then, start writing down all of the discreet action steps you would need to take to get there. Then, one by one, work on these action steps. If you find yourself resisting one of these steps it means it is still too big. Take that action step and minimize it even more. Then, get right back at it again tomorrow.

Get rid of any rules that limit you. Get rid of any constricting rules or influences that are imposing their will on you. Just begin executing and acting on your list. Start small. Take one step each day. You’ll get there—promise.

The rules we impose on ourselves are just that—rules we create. We can uncreate them. We can write new rules. If you’re stuck, if you’re afraid, if you’re in a place that allows you less and less freedom to act, the only way out is to change the way you are thinking and re-write the rules that have created the prison you built. Just, re-write the rules.

Until next time…