Breaking rules is good for you.

I've never been very good at following rules. In fact, I've broken more than I've followed.

It's not surprising that my life has turned out the way it has. 

Before I became an entrepreneur and a health coach, and subsequently saw my health and happiness expand before my very eyes, I tried really, really hard to follow rules. But it never came easy to me, especially when I saw something happening in systems or in relationships where things just didn't work. If someone told me there was one way or a "right way" to do something, I would instantly challenge it.

For many years, I took this as some kind of sign that something was wrong with me. I broke the rules often and, for a while there, I worried that I was a path toward self-destruction or at least a life less ordinary and perhaps unnecessarily difficult. Other people seemed to get along fine, so what was wrong with me? Why wasn't I just "normal" like everyone else?

It turns out, I was doing something very, very right--at least according to the terms of the life I want to live.

It began in grade school when I shot my hand up in the air and asked why so-and-so was doing something. The teacher promptly replied, "it's none of your business". She was probably right, but it tipped me off that I was born to question everything: norms, rules, boundaries--pretty much everything. 

When I became a vegetarian, I was casting off the way I'd been raised to eat and it threw my family into a fine frenzy.

When I quit my teaching career just shy of tenure at the age of 24, people thought I was crazy to walk away from job security.

When I challenged the politics at my former job, I was subsequently asked to leave.

When I changed my gender identity, people thought I was brave. I just wanted to be more "me".

Granted, sometimes my quest for authenticity, transparency and change was/is often misguided and grossly ineffective. My own internal struggle sometimes manifests as trying to change systems or people that don't want to be changed. This continues to be a growing edge for me.

But I still think breaking rules is good for you. It's even better when you know how, why and to what ends you're breaking them. When you break societal rules (the ones that don't harm you or another person, of course) you learn a lot about people. You learn that rules are largely arbitrary and nonsense. When you break rules around food, time, relationships and your own identities, you learn to make your own rules based on the life you want to live.

Recently, I was reminded of this while interacting with administrative personnel. For the most part, the past six years of my business have been free of red tape and drama. I set my terms/rules and clients or customers either agree or don't. Or we negotiate and compromise. It works really well. When I had to work within a system again, with the complex (and often toxic) interpersonal and institutional dynamics that exists in most systems and institutions, it reminded me WHY I'm an excellent entrepreneur: I don't follow rules very well. I am creative and flexible and see everything as a possibility. The sky's the limit and everything is adaptable and relative according to each person. This isn't how many people function, individually or within groups.


You'll lose your false sense of security. People may like rules because they can create the illusion of control. When you abandon the idea that things have to be, look or go a certain way, you open yourself up to how things "could" be. 

You'll surrender your need for power. People may like rules if they benefit from power in some way. When you break rules, you surrender your need to dominate or control other people, including yourself. Sometimes rules you have for yourself around time, energy, money, etc. may limit you in some way and limit what you can give/receive from others.

You'll eliminate your ego. People may use rules (around procedures or communication or policies) to leverage control just for the ego-trip or to perpetuate identities, behaviors or patterns, even if they prove grossly ineffective. They consider there is a right way or familiar way to do things instead of many ways. They are sometimes rigid, inflexible and, as a result, often limit their growth, effectiveness and productivity. When you break rules, you basically abandon the need to be right, perfect or static as you have been and more open to what or who you could be.

Contrary to popular belief, some rule-breakers aren't "problems"--they are often problem-solvers. They are people who may see things differently, sometimes from an extremely helpful perspective. They are people who LIKE to rethink how they are doing things. They see something isn't working and they trouble-shoot in innovative ways instead of "the way they've always done things". They take in data or feedback to be more effective and productive. They want to become bigger, better and stronger.


BREAKING RULES allows for options

BREAKING RULES allows for diversity.

BREAKING RULES allows for change.

BREAKING RULES allows for growth and expansion.


Consider which rules you're currently following, where you learned them, and how they are serving you.

And which one you want to break, starting right now.