Oh, the rules we make up!
Not for sport. That would be silly, right?
But we all carry around a bunch of shoulds, shouldn’ts, musts, and mustn’ts. And most of them are accompanied by a belief that failure to obey will:
- make me a bad person,
- stand in the way of my success, or
- lead to any number of other dire consequences
These rules get so deeply embedded they feel like truthful facts instead of made-up rules.
Which is why it’s startling to unexpectedly see one of your truthful facts in a new light and realize you’ve been living with a self-imposed rule!
I didn’t learn this in a book. I’ve lived it. :-)
And recently I watched my friend Marie meet up with one her rules.
Marie recently launched a coaching and consulting practice after 25 years as a successful sales executive. She’s off to a great start, which doesn’t surprise me since she totally has her “stuff” together.
A few weeks ago we were chatting about our businesses, and Marie commented, “I know you shouldn’t call clients; it’s important that they initiate the phone call for the coaching sessions.”
Bam!! Marie had just slammed into a self-imposed rule.
She didn’t pull that rule out of thin air. Everyone’s rules come from somewhere.
Marie had heard the “who calls whom” rule from teachers in her coach training program. I heard the same information fifteen years ago.
It’s the way the early coaching pioneers worked, and the process was passed down until it became canonized as the way telephone coaching is done.
When I asked, “Really? Always?”, Marie burst out laughing.
She realized she’d created a black and white rule that made no sense from a service perspective. And what made it so funny (in both an ironic and amusing way) is that her sales career had been built on relationships, client care, and delivering excellent service.
As a sales executive, she’d never have had a blanket rule about who should call whom. As a coach, she’d gotten stuck in a made-up rule.
We all have our own made-up rules that we’ve collected along the path of life.
And they get in the way of happiness and success.
Adherence to those rules won’t help you thrive. Your personality and strengths won’t shine through that wall of rules. What makes you uniquely you won’t rise to the top.
Add all that up, and you’ve put a big, heavy lid on your happiness and true potential.
What self-imposed rules are keeping you from showing as your best?
Here’s just a teeny sampling of rules I’ve run across:
- Good leaders don’t close their office doors.
- If you’re not giving 150%, you’re not really committed.
- If you call attention to your accomplishments, you won’t be considered a team player.
- You should speak up in meetings … you should be quiet in meetings.
- Don’t talk publicly about energy, mindset, or anything that sounds woo-woo, or people will think you’re flaky.
The last item on the list was mine when I started my business almost 20 years ago. Yup, I made up a rule that I could only discuss those sorts of topics in private conversations, and even then ONLY if the client cracked open the door.
The first time I broke my “woo-woo” rule I was terrified. Much to my surprise, my business didn’t immediately fall apart. And once I got over my fear of being seen as a flake, letting go of that rule made life so much easier.
It takes a lot of energy to obey made-up rules.
It’s time to break some rules!
Write down all the rules you’ve made up.
Carry the list with you for a few days, and every time you notice you’re in must, should, can’t, have to mode, check out whether or not it’s an actual RULE. Remember as a kid when you’d say, “Says who?” Now is the perfect time to ask that question!
Pick one rule to break this week. (Big, deep breaths help.)
Next week pick another.
Keep breaking rules until you’ve given yourself full permission to be you … to play to your strengths … to let your personality shine through … to choose to live unstuck.
“How would your life be different if…You decided to give freely, love fully, and play feverously? Let today be the day…You free yourself from the conditioned rules that limit your happiness and dilute the beautiful life experience. Have fun. Give – Love – Play!” ~ Steve Maraboli
“Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish.
If you are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself – if you are not capable of taking care of yourself, of nourishing yourself, of protecting yourself – it is very difficult to take care of another person.
To love oneself is the foundation of the love of other people.
Love is a practice. Love is truly a practice.”
~Thich Nhat Han
Making people happy is part of what makes us human. It’s what we do. It makes us feel good.
Exceed your customer’s expectations – excellent service.
Rearrange your calendar when your boss has a last-minute crisis – responsive and supportive.
Gather up your coffee mug and water bottles when you know it makes your partner crazy to find them all over the house – thoughtful. (Confession: I work hard at this one!)
But when good service turns into I have to do whatever my customer wants no matter what, you’ve caught the disease of pleasing-itis.
When supportive and responsive are really about making sure your boss, partner, [fill in the blank] doesn’t get upset, you’ve got pleasing-itis.
When thoughtful turns into accommodating everyone else and never yourself, you’ve got a bad case of pleasing-itis.
So, what’s the problem?
When you try to please everyone – your boss, partner, friends, family members, customers, prospects, and on down your list of those who must be kept happy – chances are you won’t make anyone happy. Not them, and certainly not yourself.
Like my client Brenda, who’s a successful sales rep. She’s kind, caring, and wanted to make everyone happy. That included a micro-managing, paranoid boss and a nit-picking, nothing-is-ever-good-enough, not-even-particularly-profitable customer.
No matter that 99% of her customers adore her and the President of the company let her know how highly she was valued. She was bound and determined to please the unpleasable people in her world.
And the harder she tried (all in the name of good service and teamwork), the worse she felt.
People-pleasing doesn’t come cheap.
It’s stressful. Your confidence erodes and your values are compromised. You fade into the background when you’re working so hard to keep the peace. You water down your ideas as you accommodate everyone else’s point of view or feedback.
You give yourself away.
And you can only sustain that for so long.
By the time Brenda hit that point, she was a wreck. She loved her work, but she was so busy trying to accomplish the impossible that she wasn’t spending time on what was most important.
As we worked together, she agreed to set some boundaries – and braced herself to lose her customer. She worried what her boss would do.
Surprisingly to her (though not to me!), they both backed off.
Amazing things happen when you reclaim your personal power.
We infect ourselves with pleasing-itis for all sorts of reasons: to avoid risk or failure; to be liked; to feel safe.
It does none of those things.
You will always be your most successful and – more importantly – happiest when you are authentic, unique, and living your values.
Everyone loses when you do otherwise. And that’s a shame.
“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” ~ Bill Cosby
What do you need to change to create more of what you want in your life?
That’s a question I frequently ask myself and my clients.
But early in my career … not so much. At least, not until a six-foot-two-inch, ramrod-back, crew-cut, retired Marine stood at the front of the room and asked everyone there … what do you need to change to create more of what you want in your life?
I was still in the CPA phase of my life, working in the Los Angeles office of Coopers & Lybrand, one of the largest CPA firms in the world. That day, I was in a firm-sponsored one-day personal-growth seminar.
Gigantic CPA firm + retired Marine would not have led one to expect a seminar on happiness and personal change back then. Not even in LA!
I still wonder if the firm knew what they were signing up for. In the years I worked there, this was the only program even remotely like this. But whether intentional or not, I’m forever grateful.
Because that day was my first experience with how the questions you ask yourself can change your world.
With a jolt (literally), the light bulb came on. I only control me: my choices, my mindset, my goals, my reactions, my experiences. I could spend my energy hoping other people would change and the universe would magically make my life perfect (hah!), or I could work on myself.
All these years later, the memory of that seismic shift is still crystal clear.
The questions you ask make the difference between:
- Reaching your goals … or not.
- Creating the experience you want … or not.
- Living your intention … or not.
- Changing a habit, behavior, mindset … or not.
- Being successful in ways that make you happy … or not.
- Living your day the way you want to live your life … or not.
Are you thinking, “Seriously, that much impact from a few questions?!”
The right questions have the effect of knock-knock-knocking on your brain and gut. They shake you out of ruts, wake you up, shine a light on your opportunities, and help you see things differently.
The right questions are potent.
Ask yourself these five questions on a daily basis and create more of what you want in your life.
- What am I working towards?
If this question just triggered a GAK, I DON’T KNOW! That’s why I’m stuck!! reaction, breathe. You don’t need a big vision or existential answer :-).
Running a 10-K, feeling less stressed, becoming a more effective leader, learning to be more present, deciding on your next professional step, cultivating more patience – these are all examples of working towards something.
If you don’t have an immediate answer, give yourself a few days to sit with the question. On the other hand, if multiple answers come up, choose one to start with. And then every day, remind yourself what you’re working towards by asking the question.
- Which of today’s choices aligned with what I’m working towards and which ones didn’t’?
Please don’t turn your out-of-alignment choices into a stick to beat yourself with!
The only reason for this question is to increase your awareness of what choices you’re making. Both sets of choices – the ones that aligned and the ones that didn’t – give you valuable information.
- What worked well that I can build on?
Keep doing what’s working! But before you can do that, you need to know what “that” is. Ergo, the question.
- What will I do differently tomorrow?
Remember those out-of-alignment choices from question #2? This is why they’re valuable: they give you the data you need to choose to do things differently tomorrow, the next day, and however many days of practice you need.
- How will I be kind to myself today?
Small daily acts of self-kindness make you feel good. And when you feel good, it’s much easier to make choices that align with where you want to go.
So ask your questions and listen to the answers. And then act on the information. It’s a powerful way to create more of what you want in your life.
“At the end of the day, the questions we ask of ourselves determine the type of people that we will become.” ~ Leo Babauta
Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.
~ Gilda Radner
Great ideas appear in the shower.
It happens all the time. Water’s flowing, you’re lathering up, and out of nowhere pops the perfect opener for your upcoming speech, a breakthrough idea for your current project, or clarity on how to deal with a sticky challenge that’s been dogging you for months.
Suddenly it’s obvious.
Even the greatest mathematician of antiquity, and possibly of all time, had a Eureka! moment in the bath. Legend has it that Archimedes figured out how to calculate the volume of an irregularly shaped object while bathing. With great excitement he leapt out of the tub and ran through the streets (sans clothing) shouting “Eureka!” (which is Greek for I have found it).
What’s up with the water moments?
The magic of silence.
Your brain relaxed. It’s quiet in the shower (and the bath).
The world’s so loud you can’t hear yourself think.
For better or worse, technology has connected us 24 hours a day.
It used to be that creative thinking happened on your daily commute. You mentally disconnected in the privacy of your car or as you tuned out your fellow train passengers. But now you can talk, text, check email, and surf the web the entire time you’re on the road.
The result of all this?
You rarely have the conditions needed to release your unconscious thought process. Which is unfortunate, since that’s where clarity, ideas, and insight come from.
Sometimes you unexpectedly get unstuck!
You know when you’re puzzling over a problem, and you finally give up and go to bed – and wake up realizing you “got it” while you were sleeping?
Your unconscious mind did the work for you. (Don’t you love when that happens?)
It’s not that you’ll never have another inspired thought if you don’t carve out opportunities for your mind to rest and your unconscious to play. But breakthroughs come when you give your brain a break.
No matter where you’re stuck, options and ideas come from creative thinking … and that starts in your unconscious. So the quickest path to getting those juices flowing is to allow space for more brain breaks in your life.
Keep it simple – fifteen minutes walking, sitting quietly in a chair, or lying on the floor with your eyes closed can all do the trick. Or turn your daily commute into a creative zone by turning off your cell-phone and listening to soothing background music – or nothing at all.
Since you’re likely to jump right back into go, go, go right after the break, keep a notebook or digital recorder close at hand so you can keep up with the flow of new thoughts that are sure to come.
And if all else fails, take more showers!
“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
~ Calvin Coolidge
When I sat down last week to write this article, Valentine’s Day wasn’t anywhere on my radar screen. Even if it had been, it wouldn’t have seemed relevant, because I’d already picked my topic: Don’t sell yourself short.
In the words of Tina Turner, what’s love got to do with it?
But then I started writing, and realized that love has everything to do with it.
In order to not sell yourself short, you have to take a stand for yourself. That’s not always easy. (An understatement, right?!) Taking a stand for yourself is an act of courage … and an act of love.
To confidently and authentically take a stand for yourself, you have to believe you deserve it. And that takes some serious self-love.
You’re up against powerful forces trying to get you to sell yourself short.
Those forces aren’t part of an evil empire. They’re the part of you that says:
- I can’t …
- I don’t dare …
- What if …
- Who am I to …
- What will they think if …
Powerful forces indeed!
My friend Courtney just vanquished those forces with love :-).
She took a bold, courageous stand for herself over a recent job offer.
Courtney’s early in her career and between full-time jobs. So this job offer was a big deal.
The position had the potential to be a great learning opportunity and resume-builder. But it also came with long hours, compensation that felt unfair to her, and some red flags about the company’s culture.
Bold courageous stand #1: she decided to counter-offer.
And that meant believing in – and loving – herself enough to step around, through, and over “I can’t or don’t dare ask, what if they get mad, who am I to ask for more, and what will they think?”
Yes, it was uncomfortable. And scary.
But saying “yes” to a job she felt was underpaid would be selling herself short. So she showered herself with love and asked for more money.
She was blown off with a terse reply of, “Take it or leave it.”
Hmmm, that’s an inviting reply! The red flags about corporate culture started looking a lot bigger.
Bold courageous stand #2: Courtney declined the offer.
Did I mention bold and courageous?!
She emailed me after she made the decision to turn down the job.
“I have your thought about not selling myself short ringing in my ears. I think I’d been molding the job in my mind to make it seem like a good fit, but I really don’t think it is. I feel quite confident that turning down the job is the right choice even though along the way I was full of doubt.”
Courtney is seriously committed to being successful and happy. She deserves both. And she chose to take a stand for herself.
Next time those powerful nay-saying forces show up and tempt you to sell yourself short, remember that you have something far more potent.
Here’s what the self-loving part of you knows, even in the midst of doubt:
- Yes, you can – because you have choices.
- Yes, you dare – because you have courage.
- The what-ifs probably won’t happen, but if they do, you’ll be fine – because you’re resilient.
- Who you are is worthy – because we are all worthy.
- And what they will think is … uh, wait a second. Who the heck are “they”?!
When you take a stand for yourself, you send a message to yourself AND to the universe that you are worth it.
And that’s a fabulous way to shower yourself with love.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
“If your definition of success has little or no love in it, get yourself a new definition.” ~ Dr. Robert Holden