Guiding Rules for the Life You Want to Live

Written by on August 11, 2014 in Accountability, Self-Awareness

Guiding Rules


Whether we’re consciously aware of it or not each of us has guiding rules we live by.

Largely based on your values and belief system, your rules contribute to your decision-making and problem-solving process and inevitably influence the way you respond to change and adversity.

Understandably few people take the time to define their life rules, let alone write them down. After all, this requires setting aside some quality “me” time and it’s tough enough to get to everything on the daily task list as it is.

But I’d like to encourage you to consider this exercise as an important step to increase your self-awareness because guiding rules, or principles if you prefer, give you a sense of direction and purpose.

Once you are clear about your values and life rules it becomes much easier to consciously choose behaviors to honor the person you are meant to be and create the life you desire to live.

Life is short, live it. Love is rare, grab it. Anger is bad, dump it. Fear is awful, face it. Memories are sweet, cherish them. ~Author Unknown

Of course like most rules, at times it can be awfully tempting to break them.

For example, it’s not easy to be kind to someone who’s been mean or forgive a betrayal. It’s so much easier to just ignore or eliminate them from your life entirely than to muster the courage to face a difficult conversation … especially if there’s even a remote possibility we might actually have been at fault in some way.

But what you’ll find is that the more aware you become of your values and guiding rules, the tougher it will be to break one without experiencing a response on a deep gut level.

Think of having an annoying little voice in your head reminding you each time that you allow another person or event to control your behavior and thus relinquish your self-control and responsibility. Ouch! 🙁

How to Begin Defining Your Guiding Rules

Guiding rules will naturally be different for each of us but if you haven’t already done so you can begin by giving some thought to identifying your core values. From there consider how those values translate into the ways in which you consistently respond to different people and situations.

Here are a few of my general life rules to give you some food for thought.

  • Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
  • Don’t wait to burn the scented candles, wear the fancy lingerie, and use the good dishes. Each day I am alive is a “special” day.
  • It’s okay to get angry with God. He can take it.
  • It’s okay to not have all the answers. Sometimes there really is no answer.
  • Smile often, hug more, laugh out loud, and choose happiness.
  • You teach people how to treat you by the way in which you treat yourself.
  • The greatest success is having the ability to live life your own way.
  • Every bump, bruise, and scar you have made me who you are today. You may not be perfect, but parts of you are pretty awesome.
  • Pick your battles.
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Hate is a waste of a good life.
  • Never be afraid to ask for what you want.
  • Trust yourself – you know more than you think you do.
  • Embrace all life’s challenges and opportunities, knowing that no matter what happens, YOU will be okay.
  • There are no mistakes only lessons.
  • Forget your age and live your life out loud.
  • Being fully committed means to accept no excuses, only results.
  • Forgiveness is important, but it doesn’t mean condoning bad behavior.
  • Take time each day to enjoy the little things.
  • If it’s going to be, it’s up to you.
  • Never stop pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone.
  • Question everything.
  • Have the courage to stand up for what you believe.
  • Help others without expecting anything in return.
  • Value the rules, but evaluate them from time to time to make sure they don’t turn into habits that no longer serve you.

Have you defined your guiding life rules? There’s no question that you have them so why not make time to clearly define them and begin to live your life consciously and with intention.

Related articles:
Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click “here.

Thank you for sharing!

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17 Reader Comments

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  1. Brenda

    Thanks Marty. I’ll be back for some more of your great posts. Off to have a celebration now 🙂
    Brenda recently posted…BEACH TIME ……… or is it MEDITATION TIME?My Profile

  2. martyherald says:

    You are so funny Leslie! Listen, to be honest I am not a fan of Limbaugh’s but that skit you shared does sound like a real gem. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughtful insights with us, always appreciate! 🙂

  3. martyherald says:

    Welcome Brenda and thank you for sharing your experience with rules. Sounds like you are a woman after my own heart and I couldn’t agree more with your point about celebrating wins – big or small. 🙂

  4. Leslie Denning

    Hi Marty. I’ve always pretty much lived life by my rules, but sometimes they were really crappy rules and I had to rethink and make up new rules!

    Living by your own rules, as long as it doesn’t harm someone else’s life, is a sign that you are taking charge of your life.

    I love some of the satirical radio commercials on The Rush Limbaugh Show. One involves a guy who gets on an elevator. When the elevator operator asks which floor, the guy wants to know what floor other people are getting off on. When the operator doesn’t give a satisfactory answer, the guy asks what is the most popular floor, the operator says the first floor. The guy says, “Well, I guess I’ll just stay here then.”

    If you don’t have some kind of rules in your life, you end up just staying ‘here’. This is such a great post. Sending to Buffer.

    All the best,
    Leslie Denning recently posted…Building Backlinks the Easy WayMy Profile

  5. Brenda

    A wonderful post. I couldn’t agree more with our thoughts. My husband and I spend time each year clarifying and fine tuning our “rules”. What worked for us 10 years ago, would not be relevant now, so this clarification for us is worthwhile and rewarding.
    One of our most important rules which has remained through the years is to celebrate our wins….no matter how small as these things turn out to be the big things.
    Brenda recently posted…BEACH TIME ……… or is it MEDITATION TIME?My Profile

  6. martyherald says:

    Welcome back Alan! So glad you enjoyed the article. As to your question, I really think how often we evaluate our rules is up to the individual. For example someone who is busy building a family and career will inevitably be faced with many challenges and changes and therefore may benefit from reviewing their values and rules more regularly than say someone who’s heading into retirement or starting a career later in life. Personally, my values and rules are under the microscope on an ongoing basis. I read a lot of research studies and then look for the best way to translate that information into meaningful, user friendly content so it’s natural to compare my own feelings and attitudes to the studies. Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

  7. Alan Jenkin

    Excellent rules to live by, Marquita. Several really resonated with me, and the one that had the most effect was that the way ou treat yourself is the way you will be treated. We have all known people who exemplify both extremes of this behavior – people who are charismatic because they see themselves that way and people who are nonentities because that is how they treat themselves.

    You have given me a lot of food for thought in this article. How often do you find it best to review your rules and reevaluate how well you are living up to them, or is it a continuous process?

    Alan Jenkin recently posted…100% Commissions From Facebook!My Profile

  8. Sebastian Aiden Daniels

    You are right that it is so important to define your values and rules. How can you know if you are acting in accordance with what will bring you long lasting happiness if you never took the time find out those values. I think all of the ways to go about it are great. My favorite one is ask questions. Always be curious and ask questions! Thanks for the reminders.
    Sebastian Aiden Daniels recently posted…A Letter to Robin WilliamsMy Profile

  9. martyherald says:

    Welcome Di and thank you for taking the time to introduce yourself and contributing to the conversation! I hope you enjoy your time here and look forward to getting to know you. 🙂
    martyherald recently posted…Defining Rules for the Life You Want to LiveMy Profile

  10. Di

    Hi Marquita,
    I have met you through Donna’s blog and “got” from your comment on Donnas last post that I may have things in common with you. I had to love that you like peanut butter cookies….. and my little doggie Chilli is my favourite companion, even though I have my human soul mate in Rob.
    Anyway… on track to replying to your blog which I love. Our kids ( 27 and 33 years old) are now thanking me for having our family meetings and setting up our rules for our family.
    The rules we set up in our businesses over the years have been life savers at times and still have staff tell us that it makes a huge difference to have clear boundaries for people to work to.
    Great blog Marquita and I look forward to reading more
    Trust your week is a good one
    Di recently posted…internet livingMy Profile

  11. donna merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    What a lovely post! We have to define the rules of life we want to live. Believe me, I worked on this so much and it never ends because life always changes.

    I love all that you mentioned especially Mark Twain’s quote! My other favorite is There are no mistakes only lessons.

    I also like: Success is having the ability to live life your own way. This is why I always feel successful. It is not measured by amounts of money, but rather living the life I choose.

    You always uplift me!

    When we think we are making a mistake, we tend to beat ourselves up, but with change of mindset, we can embrace it as a lesson.
    donna merrill recently posted…Stick To Your Niche?My Profile

  12. Mark

    Wow Marquita!

    Where do I begin!LOL! This is a totally awesome post! You offer so many sound and extremely practical insights!

    I really enjoyed reading it! (I actually read it twice!LOL!)

    But just to name a few of my favorites! First where you mention and advise that there are no mistakes only lessons! Awesome!

    Or where you advise not to wait to burn the scented candles, every day is indeed special!

    Or how guiding rules or principles offer meaning and directions to our lives!

    And so many more! I really enjoyed your post and how one concept just seemed to weave right into the next! Thank so much for sharing this!

    I will definitely share this one!
    Mark recently posted…Three Simple Business Lessons I Discovered While Playing Basketball On The Weekend!My Profile

  13. Chery Schmidt

    OH MY Marty I love this post No I have never written down my life rules before and Love Your List.. Perhaps I could just copy and paste,, They all seem like rules to guide my life LOL

    One of my very favorites “Smile often, hug more, laugh out loud, and choose happiness.”

    Yes I Do.. Thanks for sharing Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…5 Main Components To Your FaceBook Marketing StrategyMy Profile

  14. martyherald says:

    No thank YOU for always leaving such inspiring and insightful comments Dave! I think you’re right about how it helps to have a guide and prompts to get you thinking and headed in the right direction. I’m working on a similar exercise for ERL and reading your comment it occurred to me that it might be fun to offer readers a free webinar on how to create a personal manifesto. Hum …

  15. martyherald says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the article Heather! Thanks for taking the time to contribute to the conversation. 🙂
    martyherald recently posted…Defining Rules for the Life You Want to LiveMy Profile

  16. Dave

    So, Marty, once again you have really piqued my interest. Call it a blast from the past. About six years ago (I know this because my document is dated 2008), I read a book by Hyrum Smith called “What Matters Most”.

    It called for some of this very deep thinking and writing (well before I found my written voice). At the time, I had come up with seven governing principles of my own, the ones with highest priority listed first. Each one had a clarifying statement as follows:

    integrity: I hold these governing values in the highest regard. I recognize that there is a moment of choice between stimulus and response. I act in accordance with these values in the moment of choice so that I may live my life in accordance with what matters most to me. I make promises carefully and remain true to those promises at all times.

    inspiration: I read inspiring literature. I listen to inspiring music. I appreciate the beauty of the natural environment. I take the time to renew my creative side and rejuvenate my spirit so that I may more effectively operate in all the roles of my daily life. I search for inspiration to reach new personal heights. I enthusiastically pass that inspiration along to other’s lives that I have the opportunity to touch so that they may reach their fullest potential.

    exploration: I strive to discover new things everyday. I read from diverse subject areas. I remain cognizant of the knowledge and inspiration presented as a part of my everyday experiences in order to create new aspirations. I try new things that help me to better understand and provide service to the world around me.

    ambition: I feel a surge of excitement when reaching out in new directions and stretching my mental, physical, and emotional capacity in order to better myself and the world around me. I view any obstacles in my path to success as opportunities to learn and grow as an individual. I remain steadfast and focused on everything I wish to accomplish and exercise integrity in the moment of choice without fear of failure or success.

    accomplishment: I proactively embrace all opportunities presented to me in order to attain a worthy end. I value the knowledge and inner peace ascertained from the achievement of an objective. I use my introspective qualities to continuously seek out new goals and exercise integrity and determination in order to transform dreams into reality.

    wisdom: I listen with empathy so that I may genuinely understand the views of others. I accept other’s inputs as a valuable building block for my understanding of the world and how I can better give back to it in a purposeful manner. I rely on profound and enduring literature to guide me in my daily actions so that I may live in accordance with true north principles.

    service: I serve as a beacon of light and a pillar of strength to others in my life. I willingly give of my talents, abilities, and admirable qualities in order to provide a nurturing environment for the people, places, and ideals that are important to me.

    After defining each of these governing values, I was asked to define a short one sentence mission statement that could serve as my mantra. Here is what I came up with, six years ago:

    I nurture the spirit of inspiration in all the lives I touch through creative, meaningful, and passionate self-expression.

    Six years ago I wrote this and it now makes perfect sense why the things that light a fire inside of me do just that. They are aligned with my governing principles. That is the awesome thing about principles. They don’t change. They are steady. They are who you are at your core. I am not one to toot my own horn (trust me, I really am not), but this whole process of going back and reading something from years ago gave me goose bumps. It helped me realize that I have changed in so many ways, and yet in the most important ways, I haven’t changed at all.

    I really need to go back and focus on these words more closely, and choose to live them on a daily basis. Thank you SO much for bringing this back to front and center for me. You always seem to find a way to do that with the really important stuff in our lives 😉

    It was and is a lot of work, but the benefits are so incredibly worth it. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for sharing this incredibly awesome article and for allowing me to ramble on for who knows how long sharing my experience 🙂
    Dave recently posted…Blind dateMy Profile

  17. Heather

    I absolutely LOVE this post. I have pinned it on my Personal Growth board. Your life rules are so on point. Thank you.
    Heather recently posted…Where has the time gone?My Profile

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