Break Your Own Rules, Live Better

When you hesitate to act, even for a second, you create a barrier to action. The barrier is known as a precedent. Every action we take (or don’t take) either establishes a precedent or strengthens an old one. The strongest precedents become rules, and these self-created precedents and rules typically dominate our choices.

Precedent (n): any act, decision, or case that serves as a guide or justification for subsequent situations.

The Dream-Murdering Precedent of Reactiveness

Dreams are fragile things – they can be shattered by an unlucky injury. They can be ruined by low confidence. They can be lost in an untuned mind.

In 95% of your days, you’re following the precedents and rules that you’ve set up over many years. They are hard to break because they’re what you know. The lethal precedent that silently kills your dreams, and the one I recommend being consciously wary of, is reactiveness.

What is reactiveness? It’s reacting to situations and events with appropriate actions. Harmless in itself, lethal if it dominates.

Reacting is important in life, but it is not most important. That honor goes to creating. If all you do is react to the world around you, I’m sorry, but you’re just like any other animal. Humans are different because we can create new possibilities. I can find a way to cut down 20 trees today for no reason if I want to. There is no stimuli for me to do that, but I can do it because I have choice.

Stealthy woman

You don’t have to do things the way you always have. In the past, you waited for your chance. You crouched in the brush, waiting for the opportunity to walk by. After so many years, you have to wonder if maybe you need to MOVE!

There are people who believe in circumstances as if they have no say in them. They think, “I’m here now, so this is where I’m supposed to be.” What a terrible rule to live by! How about, “I’m here now, and I can go in any direction.”

Get Ready To… Mindshift!

The way to transform your mind is a conscious understanding of your precedents and rules. In reality, there are NO rules. You can be or do anything. ANYTHING. There are laws and such, but I bet that your dreams are mostly legal. The rules that cripple us are our own. Here are a few ridiculous, but common rules:

  • I can’t go to the gym until I’m in better shape.
  • I won’t be able to travel until I have more money.
  • I hate my job, but I’m lucky to have one now.
  • My idea is too crazy/stupid to work.

What do they have in common?

  • Fear of failure/embarrassment
  • Completely ignoring solutions
  • Accepting undesirable situations

So what if we flip those switches to the other position? Can we pull off the triple mindshift? 😛

1. Do Not Fear Failure.

I’ve written about it before and I’ll do it again. Fearing failure is a mental disease. Failure comes before success in 99% of cases. You NEED to fail to learn. And yes, failure is going to be a part of your life even if you try to avoid it. Michael Jordan missed so many game winning shots, but he’s remembered for the ones he made. You’re remembered for what you’ve done, not what hasn’t worked out. Who cares about Bill Gates’ first company? Is he ridiculed for it? No, he points to Microsoft and says, “well, this one did pretty well, didn’t it?”

I hope it’s clear to you as it is to me. Failure is good. But that’s not to say to focus on it and exclaim, “I’m off to fail!”  Ignore failure unless you’re learning from it, as you aim for success, whatever “success” means to you. If the prospect of falling short doesn’t bother you anymore, you’ve conquered your fear of failure!

2. Pay Attention To Solutions! 

Gyms are meant for people who want to get in shape. The more out of shape you are, the more you qualify. Some would say it’s ok to work out from home in this case, but no it isn’t. Be comfortable with who you are and where you are. If you’re afraid of going to the gym, go there until you’re not. The solution is to force it until it works. This is facing your fears and breaking your rule – an easy success when they’re irrational.

People travel for free all the time. None of my vacations have ever exceeded $2,000. There are a TON of solutions for the “travel is too expensive problem.” You can sell your stuff on ebay for more money, and start travel hacking to bring the price way way down.

Are you sure you’re lucky to have a job you hate? Have you really exhausted the other options – going all out for the jobs you would enjoy working? It will take some hard work, but a driven individual most often gets what he/she wants. Chris Gardener famously went from sleeping in a subway bathroom with his son to a multi-millionaire in a job he loves. This is a true story of a real person. You’re reading this on a computer, so you’re already better off than Chris was.

Your idea is crazy? What about “Snuggies?” Give it a try or modify it.

3. Don’t Accept Misery – If you’re miserable for long enough, you’ll start to believe that you deserve it or that it’s “normal.” It isn’t normal and nobody deserves to be miserable. Undesirable situations should be cut off ruthlessly. If a person is ruining your life, you need to get away from them. If a job is destroying your vigor, you need to quit immediately or take strong action to find a new job. This should be one of the “rules” you live by – always react strongly against negative situations and never let them linger. Be intentional about your well-being and you’ll have it.

The Time Is Now

The present moment has never been lived before. It is an empty vessel of opportunity ready to be filled with inspiring action. Only you can choose to do something worthwhile with today. You can’t wait for anyone or anything, or you’ll risk doing nothing. You don’t need permission.

You can’t follow your old rules, or you’ll never make any progress. Do the unexpected. Break them. If your life improves because you broke a rule, you won’t go back. After you break one rule, you’ll be ready for the next one.

I’ve been breaking my own rules for a few years now, and I’ve found that most of them aren’t any good. I expect you’ll experience the same.

About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.

Riley Harrison

That’s very good Stephen. I’m in a very lethargic state at the moment and rather than have another cup of coffee I think I will print your post and let it be my guide and mentor for the day.

Stephen Guise

It sounds like having a coffee is your rule for what you do when you’re tired (a very common one!). I typically don’t drink coffee when tired for that reason. I’d rather not become dependent on it. Sometimes I’ll exercise or nap, depending on how tired I am, and they work great!

Have a great day!

Slavko Desik

It’s interesting how we perceive reality- as mere collection of circumstances. Knowing that we can change those circumstances is something we are forced not to believe. The initial premise would be, of course, that someone else forced that mindset upon us- friends, relatives, society, among others. And while this is not so far from the reality, truth be told, the biggest obstacle is more than partially set by ourselves. As you say, we create precedents.

Thus we go reacting instead of acting, following the already laid pattern, instead of creating a new one. Granted, it’s always hard for a new path to be created, but if we don’t try, we are always in the same chase around the maypole. It’s insane to ask for change in outcome, if we don’t strive to change our actions, our circumstances.

I find the rules you just listed above (the ridiculous ones) to appear in almost any setting around us nowadays. For example the one about having an idea that we regard as a stupid one. I recently tried experimenting with an offline business, and once I got free from this one, it is as close to reality as it can get. Sure, people from outside this mindset will beg to differ, but seeing this stupid rule broken lets you see just how confined into their imaginary limits they are. So it happens that, your mind gets open to new and new ideas, ones that you are not afraid of executing. And my equation is that success loves movement.

Oh and this line “Gyms are meant for people who want to get in shape. The more out of shape you are, the more you qualify.” was just too great not to mention it again 🙂

Great post my friend, I enjoyed reading it.
Have a great day

Stephen Guise

Thanks Slavko!

Nice job on getting on Pick The Brain, by the way.

It’s amazing to me how much I tend to limit myself. There are very few people who actually allow themselves to reach their true potential. The rest of us are delaying success by being overly cautious and not aggressive enough.



Hi Stephen. I have been wanting to shift for a while now and you gave me the right ‘kick’ to start. Perhaps by initiating a long-expected conversation. Perhaps by waking up tomorrow with the first thought of tranquility and joy. Perhaps by deciding, here and now, that from now on I will only create thoughts that make me feel good. Thank you.

Stephen Guise

That’s great Katarina. And you’re welcome!

I have no doubt you can do those things. The only resistance to doing any of those you mentioned is self-made. You can start that conversation, wake up with joy, and focus on positive thoughts. They are all choices. No one is going to stop you.

Wishing you the best!

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