Journey of Life

the place formerly known as control your destiny

Self Imposed Rules

I spend a lot of my time reading and will often have a couple of books on the go at anyone time, some of which will generally not trigger anything in my mind but still be an enjoyable read.

Then there are books that trigger a multitude of thoughts and questions. The book I have just finished did exactly that.

As I was reading it, things started to rise to the surface, mostly in the shape of questions, but also some realisations that I think I needed to become more aware of.

The first thing that I became aware of was just how many rules and how much pressure I have managed to impose on myself over the years. I suspect that a lot of these rules have been somewhat subconsciously inherited from peers at various stages. One of these is how often I mentally make promise after promise to myself to get things done, behave in a certain way, change certain aspects of my life, most of which I never keep, leaving me disappointed in myself. I kind of knew I was doing it and also to a certainn degree realised that failure to keep the promises to myself ultimately ended in disappointment. It wasn’t until I was reading the book that I fully realised just how ludicrous this was. I created the pressure of the promise to myself as well as the disappointment by not keeping the promise. On reflection, most of these promises to myself were rarely something I really wanted to do or achieve in the first place but mostly pressure to conform to the expectations of others (and an unknown part of me) and I suspect that the carrot at the end of the stick for me was the prospect of approval..

I have made an interesting observation since reading the book, specifically with regards to self imposed rules and promises. For the past few weeks I have been on guard for the sole purpose of catching myself making these rules and promises and have also managed to stop myself from making them. The interesting part is that I seem to have been more productive and yet at the same time more relaxed.

Let me give you an example:

For me, Sundays generally consist of doing the chores; washing, ironing, cleaning etc. I work Monday to Friday as well as most Saturdays and don’t have much time to do it during the week. As Sunday approaches I have created this mental to do list that, in my mind, I MUST complete before Monday morning. Now, this leaves very little time for me to do what I really want to do, which is catching up on reading, blogging, relaxing. In other words the exact opposite of doing the housework!!!

Do I complete my to do list every Sunday?? Of course not, I break this promise week in and week out. I will do some of it, usually the most important for monday morning and I spend the rest of the day blogging, reading or whatever takes my fancy. Monday morning arrives and guess what? I start to feel guilty about the things I didn’t do on my mental to do list and to make me feel slightly better about myself, I make a promise to complete the whole list next sunday and that is how the cycle generally goes. Feel free to laugh at this lunacy!!!

The peculiar thing is, now that I have stopped making these promises, to do lists, rules etc and have chosen to do what I want to do, I have strangely got more of the chores done before sunday even arrives. Ok, just so we are all on the same sheet here. There is no magic involved here but once I let go of the importance of completing the task it somehow felt less of a task and perhaps I approached it with a different mind set. The same applies at work, where I would be a master at procrastinating on certain tasks, tasks which obviously were of less importance to me than to the creator of the task (sometimes myself). As soon as I let go of the emotional attachment to the completion of the task, the task itself somehow becomes easier for me to handle.

Is it really this simple??

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17 responses to “Self Imposed Rules

  1. viv66 January 28, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Maybe it is this simple!
    Is this the book with the unspeakable title?

  2. shiona January 29, 2010 at 9:53 am

    The biggest problem with self-imposed rules is that you don’t think of them as such and you don’t realize you’ve been following rules. Until something special happens. The same refers to certain concepts, especially ones that have become impracticable or were based on wrong perceptions at the very beginning. We tend to forget how the concepts were formed, but we unconsciously stick to them and can’t figure out why things don’t work for us. Or why we feel miserable and even a failure.

    • J January 29, 2010 at 10:51 am

      You are right, the self imposed rules tend to be somewhat unconscious and we (well me) don’t stop to question why we do them or even where they came from..

  3. summerrain63 January 29, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Beyond the truly important things we must do to keep alive and keep our homes and such….I dont like telling myself I ‘have’ to do something….I dont like being told what to do even by myself…I do things because I want to do them….or I enjoy doing them….so maybe…it really is that simple….
    nice blog….as I throw my lists out…..

    • J January 29, 2010 at 10:54 am

      I don’t like being told what to do either, but I did tell myself to do things until now (at least I hope so)
      My lists have been filed in the special filing cabinet aka the bin..

  4. wanderingypsies January 29, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I am certain that it is as simple as this. Getting rid of the rules and letting yourself live life as it unfolds. I am sure that one would eat, sleep, work and play as best possible without the rules which force us to resist our very own rules. Where the ego pushes one direction, the shadow only pushes that much harder back.

    • J February 1, 2010 at 6:04 pm

      I am beginning to believe it is this simple and I am enjoying this new found life without rules.
      How’s life in Costa Rica??

      • Robert G. Longpré February 3, 2010 at 7:26 pm

        It is very good, and very interesting in an alchemical way as you probably have noticed in my Through a Jungian Lens blog posts. That said, I’ve noticed a sudden quietness at that blog site with a significant drop in readership in the past three days.

        Breaking the rules, self-imposed rules does have a cost. Breaking the unconsciously driven rules has a greater cost. Breaking social norms has the painful effect of isolation. But in the end, one does discover a deeper sense of self.

        • viv66 February 3, 2010 at 10:10 pm

          Robert, I too have noticed a drop lately, in hits, apart from yesterday.
          I have a saying, gleaned from Pratchett’s greatest fictional creation, Granny Weatherwax. “When you break a rule, make sure you break it good and hard!” She may have a point.

        • wanderingypsies February 3, 2010 at 10:15 pm

          I agree … only, one has to know what the rules are L.O.L., in order to break them.

        • J February 4, 2010 at 11:47 pm

          I am happy to hear that all is good in Costa Rica and yes it is very noticeable on your blog. I go through drops in readers too and I suspect that sometimes everyday life takes priority. I often work a few nights a week as well as my day job and while I visit most days, sometimes I just feel too mentally tired to comment.

          I understand (at least I think I do) that breaking the rules come at a cost and I am trying my best to take it slowly and not get myself lulled into a false sense that there is no more work to be done..

  5. jingle January 30, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    we always have obligations, but when you are organized and kept things in order, you fear nothing,..

    insightful post.

    • J February 1, 2010 at 6:09 pm

      Obligations is a part of everyday life, however, the rules I imposed on myself included being organised at all times and also keeping things in order resulting in the opposite result more often than not.

      I appreciate your visit and you are welcome to drop by at any time.

  6. mysoul January 31, 2010 at 1:06 am

    Oh My!! are you sure you arent talking about me?

    Enjoyed reading this. I was nodding at the last three paragraphs in complete agreement..I am a list maker too and mostly end up guilty for not completing the list.

    Yes, it is simple.. cause the days I dont make lists are the days I have had the most fun and the day when my work is actually done.

    • J February 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm

      Hey you,

      I was very much talking about myself but gather from your comment that I am not the only one who has had a habit of imposing rules on self.
      I have stopped making list and feel much more at ease. I do catch my mind trying to make mental lists still 😉

  7. Office 2007 February 26, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Great article, thanks for the share. Blog bookmarked 🙂

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