Updated: Nov 4, 2021
When is a rule, not a rule?
When it no longer serves us.
Great leaders – unstoppable leaders – are flexible and dynamic like water. They know that rules can form the channel that leads to their end goals – and they also know that when challenges and obstacles stand in their way, it is time to redefine those channel boundaries in order to grow. This is a trait of leadership. It is a trait of our humanity. It’s about being the most innovative and creative visionary possible.
We grow up thinking many things are set in stone – like “the earth is flat” – until one day it wasn’t. There are rules and beliefs like these all around us that we must outgrow. Some for dietary health – remember when we thought we ought to eat a low-fat, high-carb diet. Some to protect our privacy and security – look at how fast technology is redefining these rules! Some rules are to keep things the way they’ve always been. (That last one is on everyone’s mind right now.)
These unconscious biases and unspoken beliefs are a common thread in societal norms. A societal norm is a way people behave, which has become so familiar people think of them as rules when in truth, they are not. Some are about safety and power – and some are about individuality and freedom.
While there might be a time and place for staying in line, it can do more harm than good for our personal growth and fulfillment, especially when it comes to your mental health and emotional well-being.
How do you know which societal rules you must break to be true to yourself? Think about these things:
This is the Way It’s Always Been Done
It seems no matter what you’re talking about, trying to convince someone (and usually that someone is yourself) they should do something different is always an uphill battle. After all, it’s always easier to keep things exactly as they are. Change requires effort. Except you can’t move forward at all if you’re always doing the same thing over and over.
What assumptions are you making about doing it the way you have been told to do it, rather than boldly experimenting with something that feels more authentic?
Everyone has expectations. Our parents might put certain educational expectations on us. Our friends expect us to do what they’re doing. Even our significant other expects us to behave in ways that feel right for them. The problem? When we live to other’s expectations, we forget to stay true to ourselves. Maybe we don’t want college or kids. Maybe expressing our true wants or identity feels like risking rejection. Or our picture of success is entirely different from someone else’s.
What expectations others have are blocking your pursuit of your true desires?
We should all be exactly alike. Right? Sometimes it seems this way. We tend to avoid and invalidate people who act and think and believe differently than we do, or are not adopting what we call “the norm”.
When have you wanted to do something a little ‘different’ from everyone else, and were you courageous enough to do it?
It’s What You See
We love movies, tv and the internet…we also love to listen to what these media tells us about absolutely everything. We make celebrities our role models and take for gospel truth information from the sketchiest of sources sometimes. Isn’t it better to think for yourself and decide what’s right and wrong?
But how can we be sure whether we actually are thinking for ourselves, instead of blindly following inaccurate or imbalanced information?
Breaking norms and rules are never about doing something that could cause harm to others. It is always about being more authentically and powerfully yourself. If you are feeling frustrated, stuck, overwhelmed or even depressed right now, it may be time to look at what you want, independent of society’s norms and rules, and then do something outrageous – be true to yourself.