Defining Your Guiding Rules For Life

Guiding Rules for Life

Whether we’re aware of it or not each of us has a set of guiding rules that we live by. These rules are grounded in our values and belief system, but they are also strongly influenced by our experiences.

In a very real and practical way, our guiding rules are the product of the lessons we’ve learned over our 20, 40, or 50 plus years of living. 

Our rules give us direction.

The challenge is that they tend to be formed over time without conscious awareness, beginning with the rules we learn as children and later in response to the events and circumstances of our life.

Someone hurts or betrays us and that experience is immediately translated into a new rule about the actions we will take to avoid that pain in the future.

Once these rules are in place we rarely question whether or not they are based on truth or are serving our best interest.

This matters – a lot – because living a life that is meaningful and fulfilling to you requires making intentional choices about your thoughts, words, and actions.

Defining Your Guiding Rules

Run a quick online search for “rules for life” and you’ll be presented with roughly fifteen million pearls of wisdom on what your rules for life should be.

Typically they look something like this:

  • Be kind.
  • Don’t worry.
  • Live simply.
  • Expect little.
  • Give a lot.
  • Be positive.
  • Live with love.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with these rules other than they are broadly generic and, most importantly, they are someone else’s.

Other people’s rules can inspire and help you learn to identify your own, but your priorities and experiences are unique to you, so should your rules be if you desire to achieve results that will help you to flourish.  

The process doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult.

Let’s take the always touchy subject of forgiveness.

You may tell yourself you believe in forgiveness, but what matters is how you translate that belief into action on a day-to-day basis because that could reflect an entirely different perspective.

Maybe you forgive, but secretly hold a grudge, or you have a policy that once someone hurts you, no matter the circumstances, they’ll never get a second chance.

It could be you tend to forgive unconditionally, but then adopt the role of victim for the pain you’ve endured.

Once you’ve identified your most consistent behavior patterns you can then decide whether or not they are working for you, and how much effort you are willing to put into redefining your rules.

Put Your Rules in Writing

When you have a written list of guiding rules it becomes easier to make decisions and choices that are right for you.

That’s because crafting a rule requires becoming really clear about your priorities and values.

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

  • The only TRUE success is to be able to live life your OWN way.
  • Don’t wait to use the good stuff. Celebrate every day you are alive!
  • Accept that sometimes, there really is no answer.
  • Happiness is a choice.
  • You teach people how to treat you by the way you treat yourself.
  • The world will not end if you take time for yourself.
  • Do ONE thing that scares you every day.
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Never be afraid to ask for what you want.
  • No matter what happens, YOU will be okay.
  • TRUTH matters.
  • Don’t take yourself (or the world) too seriously.
  • Forget your age and live your life OUT LOUD. 
  • Make improvements, not excuses.
  • Question your assumptions at all times.
  • Help others without expecting anything in return.

Like most rules, it can be tempting to break them.

For example, it’s not easy to be kind to someone who takes advantage of your good nature or criticizes everything you do. 

It’s so much easier to try and avoid them than to face the possibility of an uncomfortable conversation or do the work to set and manage healthy personal boundaries.

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

Think of having an annoying little voice in your head raising an alarm each time that you allow another person or event to push your buttons or negatively influence your behavior.

My rules for living are pretty simple. 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. 

The Takeaway

Guiding rules help us to stay focused on what’s important even when the crowd and the pressure of daily living is pushing in a different direction.

They give us a foundation to stand on so we can say or do what matters in the long run rather than what will simply get us through the day.

In our quick-fix society, it’s tempting to avoid doing the time consuming inner work that is required to build self-awareness. I get it. Self-reflection seems like a luxury when you’re already facing a never-ending task list.

But as Lewis Carroll once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will do.” The same applies here.

The key to thriving is being conscious and intentional about who you want to be and the life you desire to create, and recognizing that it is your day to day actions that will move you toward achieving that vision.  

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 founder of 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 Start Here.

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