Wayne C. Allen's "Works in Progress"
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Universal Rules: If it doesn't work, don't do it

 What's It All About?


Some years ago, I think probably connected to a paper version of my newsletter, I generated a list of 25 "Universal Rules" to live by. I was fishing through a drawer the other day, and came across the list. I thought, "Hmm. Not bad. Maybe this could be the basis of some Into the Centre articles." I'm not committing to 25 articles, although you never know. There's a lot of meat here, and that means having a "good look."

OK. So, you'll see in the "rules" the most common re-occurring theme in Into the Centre - personal responsibility. I so consider this to be a no-brainer that, as I meet with clients, I have to continually give my head a shake to remind myself how much resistance there is to this idea. Even long time clients will occasionally drop into the "if only my husband/wife was different, I could be happy" mode. Never mind that they've been seeking this transformation since T-Rex ruled the planet. Never mind that their contentment has been on hold forever. Never mind that the things they want and need for themselves never seem to arrive. They cling to the task of "getting others to see the light," as opposed to simply focusing on their walk, their path, their understandings.

It gets quite cute, as people sigh and look sad and then indicate how hard they are trying, and "those people" around them just won't co-operate. One woman, last week, indicated that she and her husband had been battling for 13 years over "who is right." We've visited and re-visited the idea that, rather than right, their views are simply "different." We talked alternatives, including leaving the relationship, or staying and accepting her husband as he is, while choosing to live her life as she wants to. She thought she'd give the latter a try for a month. Then she stopped, looked puzzled and said, "But doesn't that mean that my husband will win?" And around and around we go.

The first Universal Rule - If it doesn't work, don't do it - addresses this dilemma from the other side of the equation. We often pro-actively describe the self-responsibility process by using the Communication Model, or talking about letting go of finding the "guilty party" - the idea being, as above, that differences of opinion are just that. The opposite version of the same idea is, "If it doesn’t work, don't do it."

Once again, this seems obvious. I often use a business example of this, as somehow people sort of "get it" when money is involved. I say, "If you devised a policy at work that, every time you implemented it, you cost the company $50,000, how often would you do it?" And I get this quizzical, "What the hell is the matter with you??" look, and always, the same answer: "ONCE!!!" Occasionally, if the person is a little thick, she or he will follow with, "What's your point?"

My point is obvious. Many people treat people and situations at work with much more care and creativity than the way they operate at home.

People, as they relate to others they consider important, often lock into one mode of interaction, (some common ones: blame, the need to "fix," martyrdom) and that mode is best described as blatant manipulation. I just coined a term for it:

egoic "me-ism" - a position that implies (or states directly!) "me and my needs should come first for you!" Because we're not all that creative, whatever manipulative game we're playing is the only game we're playing, despite the fact that it doesn't work and we're getting crappy results.

On the other hand, doing something different is always an available choice. I talked with a mom of an 18-year-old last week, and her son had screwed up his second-last semester in High School. She and her husband has slapped on Draconian measures to force him to do better. I said, "Hmm. He's 7 months away from University. What are you and your husband going to do - move into his dorm room?" We devised a strategy which was basically "hands off, let him sink or swim."

This week, in mom, dad and son came. They had actually implemented the new plan, and everyone was on board. All of the fighting and tension had stopped, and the "kid" thanked me for my trust in his ability to be an adult. I basically replied, "Good. Don't screw up!" and we had a laugh.

If it doesn't work, don't do it.

Simple, eh?

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