Change Your Rules to Change Your Life

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Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.

Dalai Lama

Sometimes being physically stuck at home can trigger feelings of stuckness in other areas of our lives. While feeling stuck can often be overwhelming and paralyzing, by the end of this article, you’ll know what rule(s) are holding you back and how to change your life and situation for the better.

What’s Stuckness?

“Stuck” is a state of being where:

  • We’re unhappy with where we are, yet can’t move forward
  • We want to try something new but we never start 
  • We begin something but don’t complete it
  • We’re paralyzed from taking any action 

Common areas where people feel stuck are:

  • Creative projects
  • New experiences
  • Relationships
  • Job/career 

Whatever it is, feeling stuck can be frustrating because it can seem like you’re on a road to nowhere with no alternative options. 

It can feel like you’re wasting time, and that alone can create anxiety.

So first off – if you believe you have no alternative options, you’ve bought into the lie you’ve sold yourself. You always have options.

Second – it’s not your fault.

Third – you’re going to show yourself how to get unstuck today (if that’s what you want).

Why Do You Get Stuck?

The reason why we get stuck is because the rules we’ve created have become too rigid.

Rigid rules do not bend with how life operates. 

Life requires us to be flexible because life is naturally and beautifully unpredictable.

When our rigidity clashes with our ever-evolving desires and infinite possibilities of life, we’re paralyzed into inaction, and hence feel stuck.

It’s not your truth if it’s not working for you. 

What Are Rules?

You might be wondering,” What rules? I don’t have any rules!”

Rules depict themselves in the stories we tell ourselves. We don’t do this just once in a blue moon. We tell ourselves stories all day, every day. 

These stories become beliefs that we believe to be true about the world, others, and ourselves. 

Over time, our beliefs become the “rules” that we use to run our lives. 

Let’s illustrate with a simple but real example.

I’ve worked with people who have felt stuck in their work. They were stuck because they knew it was destroying them on the inside, yet they showed up to work every day nonetheless. In doing so, they felt like they’d lost a part of themselves by being stuck in a situation that wasn’t serving them in any meaningful way.

They wanted more than anything to change their life but felt stuck.

Part of what they did to change their lives was to examine what rules were controlling their current lives. When we looked at the “rules” that kept them stuck, they were things like:

  • No pain no gain
  • No one really loves their work
  • I have to shut off my emotions if I want to be successful
  • I have to pick between a high salary or a job I love
  • I have to pay my dues before I’m able to really enjoy my work

Your Brain Loves Rules

Our brains love rules because they’re “shortcuts” to help us make sense of the complicated world.

Usually, these rules were created by someone else and passed down through generations of family, education, or religious/cultural systems. By virtue of living amongst other people, we’ve adopted these rules and now unknowingly use them to dictate our lives. 

What we all have to realize is that stories and beliefs aren’t always universal truths or wisdom.

We create all kinds of trouble when we believe other people’s rules are our truths – because our thoughts have the power to shape our reality.

Every time you feel “stuck,” there’s an internal battle going on – between your truth and your rules.

Change Your Rules!

When you change the rules from rigid to flexible, you’re broadening the doorway of possibility. This is the key to getting unstuck and changing your life.

If you’re already experiencing some resistance right now as you’re reading words on a page about changing your rules, this might be the same resistance that’s keeping you stuck. 

Every time you feel stuck, there’s an internal battle going on between your truth and your rules. Every time you stick with your rules, you sacrifice a bit of your truth. When we’re not living in our truth, we’re out of alignment with our integrity, which creates deep discomfort for us. Sometimes call it stuck. Sometimes we call it burnout. Sometimes we call it feeling “off” or disconnected.

Let’s bring this concept home using the above example again.

If those are my internal rules about work and success (e.g., no one really loves their work), I will never allow myself to create a life where I love my job, feel inspired and be motivated by what I do, experience deep purpose and meaning at work, and never have to experience the dreaded weekly Sunday blues again.

My brain will stop me from changing my dreadful circumstances because my rules (e.g., no one really loves their work) are in conflict with my truth (I want to love what I do). The more rigid my rules are, the harder it is for me to shift out of my situation. 

This is just a simple example of stuckness. Your particular area of stuckness is likely completely different, but the fundamental principle to change your life is the same.

How To Uncover Your Rules

Now it’s time for you to uncover your rules that are operating in the background.

You will free yourself and move toward what your heart’s been desiring.

What are the rules that you’ve created in the past to help you make sense of the world and survive, but that are preventing you from thriving today?

To find out, you need to journal. 

Merely reflecting or thinking about these questions won’t work.

You can write it, type it, or voice record it. The process of documentation will access a different part of your brain that allows insight to flow through you. 

Three Steps to Uncovering Your Rules

In your journal, complete the three steps below to help you identify and articulate the unhelpful “rules” that are operating your life.

Step #1 – Your Values

  1. What’s important to you? (e.g., purpose, self-expression, growth)
  2. What’s the feeling you want to experience? (e.g., authentic, connected, free)
  3. How does your stuck situation support or detract from what’s important to you?
  4. What ONE thing can you do today to make your situation honor and support what’s important to you?
  5. What ONE thing can you do today to honor and support the experience you want?
  6. What will need to change in the long run (one week/one month/one year from now) to ultimately align with what’s important to you and what you want to experience?  

Congrats! You now can take action on getting one step closer to what you want, starting today. You also have a longer-term goal to set your eyes further.

Step #2 – Resistance

As you reflect on #6 in the previous step, you will likely experience resistance. 

Give yourself permission to indulge in the resistance for the next 5 mins. 

Write down the reasons, excuses, fears, and doubts that you have moving toward your vision. 

You now have the beginnings of the stories and beliefs shaping your thoughts and actions.

Step #3 – Your Rules

Look at all of your reasons for resistance. Can you find a theme? 

Here are some common “rules” to get you thinking:

  • “Good girls” don’t do this
  • People like me can’t do this
  • I’ll make a fool out of myself
  • I’ll fail
  • I don’t deserve better
  • I’ve run out of luck
  • A good outcome HAS to be _______
  • Success HAS to look like _______
  • I’m not ________enough
  • I don’t have enough __________
  • It’s too hard for me
  • I’ll be seen as a loser/failure/weirdo
  • All the good ones are taken
  • I’m too _________ 
  • Good things are taken away from me
  • Nothing I do is ever good enough

Change Your Rules to Change Your Life

This is the perfect time to trade in the old for some new rules that will bring you freedom and inspire you to take your brilliant next step.

Sometimes it’s hard to see your rules in your blind spots. If you like support on your journey, tell me about what you’re experiencing here

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