We’re all obeying rules all of the time.
Some of the rules we follow are explicit, in the sense they are written down or prescribed, such as the laws of the country, or the highway code. These are rules that are imposed on us for the greater good of society, and we follow them (usually) because we know that to break them would cause chaos.
I’m not being overly dramatic with the word chaos either, I mean it. Breaking rules causes mayhem. Just think of a fairly minor infraction such as running a red light in your car. There’s a very good chance you’re going to cause an accident, either with a pedestrian or another vehicle, potentially make the road impassable for a time, causing traffic jams, and suddenly you are the person everyone in the city is cursing when they are late for work.
Other rules are implicit, they are not written down anywhere, but we all know what they are and chaos still ensues when these rules are broken. Just think about when someone jumps a queue, sometimes the chaos is understated, we are British after all, but the tutting, glaring, and rage inside your head is chaos none the less.
There is a final set of rules that we live by, and they differ for all of us. Our un-stated rules. We tend not to share these with others, often we don’t even know what they are ourselves, but man do we know when someone breaks them. If a partner, friend, colleague or random stranger inadvertently breaks one of these rules emotional turmoil is sure to follow. We don’t always know why we feel that way, but it is sure to be because one of our rules has been broken.
Perhaps it would be helpful if we knew what our personal rules were. Make them explicit to ourselves and recognise that usually others do not intentionally break our rules. This gives us the chance to note the internal chaos for what it is, and then take the opportunity to explain the appropriate rule to whomever has just “wronged” us, for them to hopefully learn from. Other people are not mind readers, we cannot expect them to know our rules.
If you’re not sure where to start with creating your rules, I’d like to share the rules that Jordan Peterson created in his best seller, 12 rules for life: an antidote to chaos. If you haven’t read the book I would highly recommend it, or you could get a taste for it by watching his talk about it on YouTube.
1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back
2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
3. Make friends with people who want the best for you
4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not who someone else is today
5. Don’t let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world
7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
8. Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie
9. Assume the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
10. Be precise in your speech
11. Don’t bother children when they are skateboarding
12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street
I think these rules are an interesting starting off point, take what you like, ditch what doesn’t suit, and add anything that is true for you.
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