personal

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.

WHY SHOULD YOU BREAK RULES?

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.

 

 

How to Gauge Readiness for Change

when-the-winds-of-change-blow

  Whether you're talking about dating, coaching or some other business involving someone's level of readiness for change, you may find this helpful.

Change is my primary motivator. I thrive in the chaos of transformation--it's what keeps me happy and makes me feel alive. When I feel stagnant, something feels wrong.

Not everyone loves change. Some people abhor it, in fact. Gauging someone's readiness and propensity toward change is crucial if you want to be successful in any kind of relationship: personal or professional (or otherwise). 

I know the awe-inspiring duality of the sheer terror and profound bliss of choosing change--I think it's where we are most free. I want more people to know this experience as intimately as I have come to know it.

After being ineffective more times than I can count, I transformed my own misdirected efforts to change other people and environments into my own intentional, self-directed personal transformation. I've changed everything from my eating habits to my career (multiple times) to my gender identity. Now, I send out endless invitations for others to join me on their respective paths. When people resist, I know it isn't a reflection on me or the way I live my life--it's me meeting their limitations face-to-face.

I have a gift for seeing through what IS to what IS POSSIBLE, in myself and others, but if the gift isn't chosen it ceases to be a gift.

It's been a game-changer for me to learn how to gauge someone's readiness so I can spend more of my time and energy on those who share my passion and commitment for transformation because when out-of-the-box thinkers actualize their potential, great things happen.

 

Here's how to gauge readiness for change:

1) THEY TALK ABOUT WHO THEY WANT TO BECOME

If someone constantly talks about who they desire to be, what they desire to do and HAVE, they are committed to change. They aren't happy with status quo or being merely "ok". They want more and are willing to do anything to accomplish that. Listen for the person to identity their habits, successes and areas of growth. They are in the process of self-awareness and self-acceptance which is crucial to moving through pain and toward healing and wholeness. When someone speaks to who they want to become and take steps toward achieving it, they are seeing themselves not as static creatures but dynamic, changing beings capable of anything.

 

2) THEY MAKE & HONOR COMMITMENTS

A commitment made is a promise to ourselves and another person. It's an act of courage to step up and into a new way of being. People who earnestly take on and honor their commitments don't fear failure but fear the pain of avoidance and denial. Making a commitment like setting a date on a calendar and keeping it without excuses, is a demonstration of character and integrity. People who are ready to change can't stand the stagnancy of ambivalence and choose action over indecision. Their commitments are a reflection of their values, so take notice of what and who they prioritize in their lives.

 

3) THEY MAKE FRIENDS WITH FEAR

Someone who is ready to change speaks openly and honestly about fear. When someone can name his/her fear, it holds less and less power over that person.  When people make excuses, they are stalling so they don't have to act. We create stories and justifications, ranging from individual to collective beliefs, to make our stalling make sense. When people feel afraid to change, they surround themselves with others who share the fears as an identity. We can experience something without being defined by it and the person who is ready to change knows that overcoming fear is crucial to that process.

 

4) THEY SEEK HELP VIA POSITIVE CHANGE AGENTS

We don't do this alone. We all need help. There are many kinds of change agents--some positive, some negative. Some people claim to be change agents but really contribute more to patterns of abuse, negativity and stagnancy than real change. People so focused on changing others' behaviors often don't have time to address their own issues. I spent a long time doing this. Positive change agents gently address themselves first and foremost and then deftly inspire change in others.

 

5) THEY SEE EVERYTHING AS HAPPENING FOR THEM, NOT TO THEM

Listen for people who constantly call up experiences they have as blessings in disguise. If they are talking about the same things time after time and not making connections or seeing patterns, they aren't ready to change. When you hear someone naming experiences and identifying a bigger reason or Purpose or a grander plan involving their transformation, buckle your seatbelt. They are ready to rock.

 

If you're a change agent and work with people who love it like you do, run through this checklist and see how you're doing. Consider your clients, colleagues and the other relationships in your life. 

What do you see? What did you learn? How will you use it moving forward?