The Most Important Rule — there are no rules. When it comes to choosing what to do with your life, there are no “universals.” There’s just what works, and what doesn’t.
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We’ve finally come to the end of our list of Universal Rules… now we need to remember that there are no rules.
What we’ve been looking at these past weeks are ideas or concepts to be considered. Each is nothing more than a suggestion — something to be played with, tested out, evaluated.
We’d like to think that there are simple, easy, universal behaviours that always get great results. The joke is, the list we propose consists of things we’re already doing. We’ll say, “This is the way it is,” even when it isn’t.
We tend to miss our own self‐serving behaviours, and get ticked off when people won’t go along with us. We say, “It’s in ________’s best interest,” when we mean, “It’s in my best interest.”
It takes a great deal of maturity to see the games we are playing, day in, day out. It takes no effort at all to notice the games others are playing. This is why it’s so important to learn to listen to yourself; to hear yourself as you express yourself.
And then to ask the key question: “What is my goal here? What do I really want?”
Recently, a parent asked her daughter, “If you don’t work out your life, what will people think of you?” It was a part of a “Here’s what you ought to be doing…” lecture. The parent is over‐involved, and also self‐involved.
The real question she was asking? “If you don’t work out your life, what will people think of ME (as a parent, as a person, etc.)?” Now, that’s an entirely different kettle…
She has a “rule” that the world should look up to her (read, obey her) and it’s predicated upon people doing what she wants them to. Here’s the kicker: nothing wrong with that!
Provided that you also understand that no one cares, and most people are just going to laugh and ignore you.
You would think that by now she would have figured this out: but she hasn’t, because she thinks what she wants should be important to others. As in, that they should do it her way. When most don’t, she blames them!
A far better approach would be to listen to herself, catch herself, and stop expecting others to obey her. Because her stuff is her stuff.
She could have said, “I’m noticing that I’m making myself uncomfortable that you are not making the kinds of decisions about your future that I think you should make. My ego is all tied up in who and how my children are; I’m trying to manipulate you so I can feel better about myself. So, I’m taking a breath, dropping the lectures and guilt trips, and I’m here if you want to talk things through.”
I trust you can see the difference. The latter statement is self‐responsible communication, and it owns what is going on for the speaker. Not games, not blame, not “parenting” (badly.) And it offers and ear, not a lecture.
There ought to be a “rule” that all parents communicate this way, eh? 😉
Anyway, that’s one example, but this kind of self‐reflection (and reporting to others) is actually how one shifts what doesn’t work to what does.
Have a look back on your favourites from the prior articles, then have another look at the ones you hated and rejected out of hand. (Likely, those are the ones you need to work on first.) See if you can come up with the reasons you are stuck (the story that underlies the excuses — in the above example, the …what will people think of ME… part.)
In other words, tell yourself the truth.
Then, ask yourself what you really want. (Say, an adult relationship with ______________.) Now, be honest. Is the stuff you are doing leading to a better relationship, or keeping you stuck?
Rather than defend what isn’t working (and demand others to go along with it), come up with another approach, an honest approach, and give it a try. If it gets you the results you want, do it again.
If it doesn’t, try something else.