We know rules mainly from our childhood, when we associated them with restrictions. Bedtime, prohibitions and discussions with parents or adults were no fun.
As a teenager, but especially as an adult, you shed these restrictions and can – within reason – do what you want. No one can stop me from eating ice cream for breakfast or staying up late at night.
But you quickly realize that none of these freedoms are really fulfilling. What you imagined as a dream when you were a child is actually a nightmare. The stomach ache because of the ice cream or the tiredness after a sleepless night are real consequences of your own actions that you can't argue with.
One of the most important lessons I learned as a teenager is that rules exist for a reason.
Rules are an important tool with which you can shape your life and steer it in the right direction. They should not be unnecessarily restrictive, but create a foundation on which you can build your life based on your own values and standards.
Rules are not automatically bad just because they prohibit something. Some things should be forbidden because they get in the way of your development.
But there are two key differences from the rules we had to follow as children:
- We can make our own rules as adults.
- We understand the reason behind the rule and therefore consider it reasonable.
The linchpin in the perception of rules is therefore that you can choose them yourself and/or comprehend their meaning. It plays a subordinate role here how concrete the rules are.
Some rules are very concrete, for example that you have to go to the gym three times a week. Such rules are easy to follow because they set clear goals, but the understanding of the meaning of the rule must be strong to follow through.
Other rules are not so concrete, such as not worrying for more than five minutes about something that won't matter in five years. Such rules are more like norms and can be interpreted in different ways. They form an important cornerstone in your value system.
You can – and should – write down your rules so you can keep track of them and revise them regularly. I have even published my own life vows online.
Through these rules, I have a compass that shows me the right way in life. Of course, it needs to be adjusted to new situations and calibrated regularly, but that's part of the process.
Try it yourself – set some rules for yourself that will improve your life, and watch how you will automatically move forward in the right direction!