Are you exactly the person you want to be, or dream of being? Just thinking about trying to become our best selves sometimes feels overwhelming. We already have many demands on our time. Creating real change is hard work. Finding the time and space to take big action is difficult and we all know how those lofty New Year’s resolutions turn out.
There is an easier way. I discovered it by accident. It is the practice of creating personal rules.
When I quit my job as a professor, I knew I wanted to start my own business. I was leaving my profession and entering into a new realm. I had no experience in creating a business, zero marketing knowledge and a vague understanding of the technology I would need to master. I also moved to a new city where I had no connections.
For about five minutes, I thought the plan for reinventing my life was an absurd task and it would be easier to just give up, sit home and spend my days watching Lifetime movies.
Then I came to my senses, and right then and there, created my first personal rule. I didn’t know it was a personal rule at the time, but I began to follow it unfailingly and later came to realize that it was a rule.
I don’t watch daytime television.
That’s it. I didn’t want to be the kind of person who spends her days watching TV. I stick to it religiously. I don’t allow myself the option to sit and passively observe others as my life passes me by.
I am a person who exercises.
My second rule came out of my goals and the necessity to improve my health. I don’t like to exercise. In the past, when I was stressed or short on time (which was most of the time), exercise was the first thing to go. Quite frankly, it was pretty easy for me to give it up.
Once I started swimming regularly, I started to feel better. My clothes started to get baggy. I liked it enough to not allow myself the option to not exercise. If I have the option of whether or not to go to the gym, I probably won’t go. I am proud that I have become a person who exercises. It is a personal rule now.
I lived with those two rules for a year before I added new ones. Changing your life isn’t about a bunch of quick fixes, it is about creating habits and patterns that you can sustain and that incrementally, will make a big difference.
Over the course of a year, I learned how to create a website, launched a writing career, and lost 30 pounds. Success fuels success, and I wasn’t done yet.
Allow yourself to do the things you love to do.
I love reading and learning. It is my number one strength, and the source of my energy and joy. Maybe for you it is baking, or yoga, or karaoke night. It doesn’t matter what you love to do, only that you get to do it. I read and learn something new every single day.
In my work obsessed, overscheduled former life, I denied myself pleasure. Not on purpose, but through my choices about time. I didn’t even enjoy weekends because I was so busy catching up on work and doing chores. My colleague used to ask me every Friday what I was doing fun that weekend. I hated that question because the reality is, I wasn’t doing anything fun.
Now I might sit on the porch and enjoy a glass of wine with my husband. I might drop my work and hold the cats for a few minutes. We go to Badger Basketball games. I look forward to family gatherings and local events. Yes, I could be working, but I chose to reward myself by doing something I enjoy.
I am slowly adding more personal rules, and I know with certainty that it is changing my life. I feel a sense of accomplishment and forward momentum. It is a work in progress, but I am progressing in all the right ways.
It doesn’t matter what personal rules you create. What matters is that they move you in a direction that you want to go. Creating personal rules means that you will repeat your thoughts over and over, and the more we repeat something, the more we remember it. Your beliefs about yourself and very powerful. Repeating your thoughts about yourself, whether positive or negative, makes them a reality.
A personal rule is something so important to you that you will do it. It should align with your values and goals. It shouldn’t be something you think you should do, or that other people think you should do. It is something you can commit to.
Create personal rules and bit by bit, you can change your life.
Do you have personal rules? I would love to hear about them.