Living By Your Rules, or Someone Else’s? – How To Know The Difference

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Whether you see yourself as rule-maker, rule-breaker or rule-follower, at some point in your life, you’ve probably realized that some rules were definitely made to be broken! From the moment we first learn to say the word “no”, we start realizing we have the power to carve our own path as an autonomous individual.  Living by your rules, not theirs, is clearly an option.

But, how do you know you are truly the one making the rules you live by and not letting all the taught and learned expectations, standards and ideals of others secretly rule you? And when you aren’t breaking the rules you should be, how do you go beyond them and live without limits?

Here are some signs you may not be living by your own rulebook.  Do you

  • worry about what others think?
  • feel stuck or limited about the choices you have in life?
  • keep your true desires hidden and secret from the world, and even yourself?
  • fight, react, confront or resist rules and expectations, rather than calmly question them?

Basically, anytime you feel you must either align with a rule or resist and fight a rule, you are still playing by the rules! In other words, it’s the same coin, just different sides.  If you truly desire to create your own way in the world, it’s time to throw that coin away and go beyond the rules.

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Get comfortable with being judged

People will judge. No matter what you choose. So, choose what works for you! Most of us try to follow the rules (or at least try to appear that we are) to avoid judgment, especially from the people we care about. If people in your life judge you now, they will probably judge you tomorrow. And, it’s not your job (or your ability) to change their point of view! Spend your time with people who encourage you and are grateful for you, no matter what. Realize that judgments from others are just opinions or perspectives that they choose to take; it isn’t personal and isn’t actually relevant to your life. You may have heard the Polish proverb, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” Those judgments are their monkeys, not yours.

Question everything

One of the most empowering steps you can take to help you live by your own rules is to question everything you think you know, believe or have learned—including everything you think you know about you! Every thought, feeling, emotion, reaction, and self-critical attitude was pretty much a learned behavior at some point. If you start asking, “Is this my point of view, or someone else’s?” and “Is this really true for me or about me?” you will begin to have a greater sense of the difference between what you have bought from others, and what is actually yours. What is true for you will tend to make you feel a lot lighter, whereas what is false tends to weigh on your mind or shoulders.

 Become brutally honest with yourself

Self-honesty is going to be your best friend in the quest to live a life of your own making. It may take time to develop that level of vulnerability, because we have mostly been taught to be rule-followers, and not look beyond.  Just like strengthening a new muscle, you must practice, practice, practice!

Let these questions become part of your daily routine:

  • “If I were truly choosing for me, what would I choose?”
  • “What else is possible for me I have never considered?”
  • “What do I truly desire to create in my life and the world?”

You may or may not receive instant inspiration or answers to these questions, but asking questions daily keeps your mind open and your attention on creative ways forward, rather than getting mired in limited and polarized concerns of right/wrong or good/bad. That is the trap of blind rule-following.

 Choose again, and often.

Ever heard the phrase, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it”?  That’s a gem from our grandparents’ generation, and I urge you to throw it out. If you make a choice that goes awry, just make a different choice. If you make a choice that’s great, you can choose something even greater. This isn’t an excuse to be a total flake and not follow through on promises or appointments.  But if a choice you make isn’t working, you don’t have to live with it forever, you can change it and choose again.

For every choice you’re considering, get in the habit of asking: “If I choose this, what will it create in my life?” and “If I don’t choose this, what will it create?”  and “What choices do I actually have that I’ve never considered?”  Look at past choices and ask: “Did that choice create what I desire? If not, what different choice do I need to make? If so, how does it get even better?”

Not only do we have a natural instinct for knowing what choices will work for or against us —and we’ve all made those choices we knew we shouldn’t, and it turned out exactly as bad as we knew it would—we also have choices available that we haven’t thought of yet. And if you aren’t willing to open your mind up to the possibility, there’ll be no space for them to come knocking. Still not sure what to choose? Easy—just choose! See where it leads you and then make another choice. As Dolly Parton says, “It’s okay to change dreams in the middle of the stream.”  It’s getting moving along the stream that counts, you can course-correct as you go!

 Be willing to say “*$#@ it!” and do it anyway

Living by your own rules isn’t about being comfortable. In fact, it can be very uncomfortable and unfamiliar. But beyond your comfort zone is also where the true fun and freedom is. What abilities and unique differences about you have you kept hidden and secret? What brilliance have you not been sharing with the world? And what choice could you make beyond your comfort zone today (even if it’s just a little) that would lead you closer to living life on your terms, with no limits?

Living by your own rules is not about having the answers for everything or playing everyone else’s game a bit better than before. It’s about knowing you are on your own playground. It’s constantly being open to new possibilities, questioning every limit, discovering your brilliance and never buying into a single judgment about you—even the ones in your own head. Judgment, doubt, limits, “should” and “should nots”. They’re the old rules. The rules do not apply.

This guest post was authored by Amanda Holland

Amanda Holland is an anthropologist and film-maker by training, and a writer, editor, and communications coach by trade. She has always been fascinated by diversity, difference and creativity and their ability to affect profound change. As a Right Voice for You facilitator, a specialty program from personal development organisation Access Consciousness, she engages people to see their difference and use it to create greater in their own lives and the world. Freelancing since 2012, Amanda works with individuals, businesses, companies, entrepreneurs, experts and thought-leaders across the globe who are changing paradigms in education, health, business, money, relationships and more. Find out more about Amanda at


Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.