There are many, many ways for us to be happier and more fulfilled in our lives. There are also many ways for us to limit - or even sabotage - our ability to be happy. One of the ways most of us limit our potential for total happiness is through our "rules". We all have them.
So, as one fundamental way to be as happy as possible in life is to understand
“The 3 R’s” and then use that understanding to make your life better.
The 3 R’s are: Relationships – Rules - and Regrets. And specifically, to truly be happy in our lives, we must:
- Build and nurture great RELATIONSHIPS
- Minimize and/or change our RULES
- Eliminate REGRETS from our lives
This article is all about the second “R” – RULES - and how they affect our happiness, both positively and negatively.
My former business partner, Tony Robbins (the well-known personal development and life coach) teaches that every disagreement, fight, war, act of terrorism, or other “upset” between people is due to a difference in their rules. He says, "Every upset between people is a 'rules' upset."
I happen to believe that’s completely true. Think about it. What do you argue about with your spouse, your friends, or your family? Why are wars started? What instigates acts of terrorism? Why are religious conflicts initiated?
It’s all about differing rules (based sometimes on opinions between the two or more parties involved).
Whether it’s about money, the kids, vacations, fidelity, politics, religion, or anything else – it comes down to a difference in our rules that causes the conflict.
Changing Your Rules…
We all have rules. They started getting formed from the time we were born (maybe even earlier) and were shaped by our parents, teachers, friends, relatives, experiences, and other influencing factors. And the more rules we have, the more likely (and frequently) others will break our rules - because everyone has different rules (since everyone has different experiences and sources of influence. In addition, the stricter we are about our rules, the stronger the conflicts we will face when (not if) people break them.
And changing our rules is not easy. Why? Because our rules are dear to us. Most times they are fundamental principles created over many, many years – as mentioned, some since the time we were born – which can be very deep-seeded in our psychology. Even more difficult is changing other people's rules.
In relationships, rules can cause significant arguments - even simple rules. For example, is one of your rules that you must always be on time for every appointment, event, gathering, party or function? And what is the rule on this topic of your spouse, significant other, family members, or closest friends? Is it the same or is it that if you’re within 30 minutes of the planned time it’s OK? Or do they not even have a rule related to punctuality? If it’s one of the latter two and your rule is to be punctual, then you will likely (a) feel stressed every time you’re late (which is probably often) and/or (b) have an argument with that person about it.
Do you get the picture? Well, that’s a very minor “rules upset” (and it’s actually a frequent one for me in my family). My wife, for example, gets stressed because she knows my rule about punctuality and I get irritated because my punctuality rule is frequently violated (especially now that we have a young daughter).
To reduce or eliminate the “upset” associated with this simple example is a three-fold process:
- I must change my rule to a guideline
- I must understand my wife’s rule and she must understand mine
- We must communicate about the difference in rules and she must agree to “meet half-way” toward my new guideline.
Again, that’s a relatively minor rule example. More significant, though, is the example of an impactful conversation I had with a very good friend of mine many years ago. At the time, his son was eight years old and he was discussing how frustrating his relationship was with his son. He said they were not getting along very well and he may have even been concerned about the future of their relationship.
After discussing the details surrounding his frustration and concerns, it was clear to me that – as always – it was a rules conflict that was creating most of the problem. So, my advice to him was “simply” that he had to change his rules a bit (this is one of those “simple” but not necessarily “easy” things in life).
The bottom line to this example was that my friend took my advice, and to this day, has remembered that night because of its profound, positive impact on his relationship with his son - and his life (he has thanked me several times over the years for possibly “saving” his relationship with his son). His son is now 22 years old and he and my friend enjoy a wonderful relationship together. Sure, they have their disagreements – as we all do with people we love. And certainly, their rules are not perfectly aligned (since they rarely are). But just changing some very strict rules into guidelines has made a very big difference in their lives. I know my friend, and I'm sure he has coached his son on this as well – which has also helped a lot.
So, what are your rules? Do you have lots of them? Are they different from some of the rules of the people you spend time with?
If you are frequently in arguments with these people, chances are you have too many rigid rules - and perhaps they do, too.
So, if you want to have a better relationship with these people (and, therefore, be happier) - since it is very difficult to change other people's rules - you must either eliminate some of your rules, or at least change as many of your rules as possible to guidelines. Click here to learn more with a book that contains a series of exercises designed to do just that and improve your life – and your relationships – dramatically.
The bottom line is this:
We should all evaluate and challenge our rules (as depicted graphically and symbolically in the photo at the top). Are some of them not even appropriate anymore? Are some of them changeable? Can some be eliminated altogether?
Then, once this is done, can you discuss this topic with the people you spend time with regularly (especially those people who you seem to fight with frequently)? If you can relax, change, or eliminate some of your rules, then get those people you relate to regularly to do the same thing, there is no question your life will improve significantly.
So if by reading this article you see that your rules are causing conflicts with the people you love and spend your time with, then make sure to do something about it and I can promise you will...
BeHappy! my friends