Break the Rules! (some of them)
In a field, somewhere in the South of England someone has placed a little sign with a warning on it. On the face of it, it’s a reasonable warning, establishing a reasonable rule to adhere to. Road safety is important. Our personal safety is important. It’s something we’re taught from a young age – hold mummy’s hand – be careful. It’s usually a good rule to follow in life…
But, when a rule is applied under a different context, or in a different situation, like this sign in the middle of a field, then it can seem a little odd, out-of-place or at worse irrelevant.
Rules are by their nature limiting. They promote conformity and compliance. Rules inhibit freedom. Even though their purpose may be to keep us safe from harm, they require us to act in a certain way.
We follow rules to help make sense of life and to help protect us from harm. We follow written rules, unwritten rules, house rules, work rules – we’re surrounded by rules. We’re given rules by our teachers, our carers, our siblings, our friends, our role-models. Our parents present us with rules before we can even speak. And because these rules largely come from a place of good intention, because we believe they are there to serve us, and because our minds have been trained from birth to obey rules, we adhere to them constantly; consciously and subconsciously.
For the most part those rules do serve us well, they keep us safe, they allow us to fit in with and understand society. But sometimes, those same rules limit us. Sometimes the context for the rules we’ve blindly followed for a lifetime no longer apply to us; we simply outgrow their necessity.
‘Don’t talk to strangers.’ – isn’t much use to a forty year old car salesman.
‘Clear your plate, it’s rude to leave some.’ – isn’t the best advice for those of us trying to shed a few pounds.
‘Don’t cause a fuss!’ – What never? So there’s never a circumstance where causing a fuss, where speaking out, would be the best option? How about for someone in an unhealthy relationship? Or for someone being bullied at work/school?
The sad truth about rules is that we All follow them, every moment of every day, rules guiding our social interactions, our language, our desires, our fears, our individuality, our likes and dislikes, our habits, our appearance … And for the most part those rules serve us well, but sometimes we outgrow them without realizing.
Sometimes our actions, our responses, our feelings, and our thoughts are being automatically dictated by rules we no longer need – rules which are every bit as out-of-place as a ‘Beware of Traffic’ sign in a remote countryside field.
Sometimes we’ve been following the same rules for so long that we don’t even notice them limiting us. We blindly carry on adhering to a requirement that often cannot even name because it’s embedded so deeply in our subconscious minds that we forget there’s a choice.
But, there is a choice.
Any time you hear yourself saying “I shouldn’t / couldn’t / mustn’t do something…” ask yourself: Why not? Who told you that, and Why?
We can learn when rules are serving us or hindering us, and when they cause conflict. We can also learn to identify and replace those unhelpful, limiting rules we’re unknowingly clinging on to.
And if we learn to spend less time worrying about the Traffic, we’re going to have more time to enjoy the beauty in the landscape.
In case you’re wondering, the picture above has not been edited or manipulated in any way. Someone had genuinely taken the time to put that sign in the field, about ten paces away from a footpath, when there’s not even a road in sight. I wonder what rules were they following?
What’s the earliest rule you can remember following? Who set it and Why?
Is it still relevant? Do you still obey it?
Are you ready to break some of your own rules? Then let’s talk…