We all have rules we follow. Some rules are imposed on us by the government, our parents or our workplace. Some rules however we devise ourselves. These rules often align with our personal philosophies in life. These rules clarify our principles. For example do you always give some spare change to the homeless or do you think its better to ignore beggars?
Whatever your set of rules is, they are critically important to your life. They determine your discretionary actions. Your non-discretionary actions are the ones that are bound by rules imposed on you - for example not stealing. You don’t have a choice about this rule. Your discretionary actions are guided by your own rules - for example do you do just what is asked or do you always strive to do more than asked. You have a choice about this.
Early on in my journey of personal development, I read a lot about other peoples rules. About the rules that famous leaders or successful people have devised themselves. I took the ones that resonated with me and carried on reading. It was a fun, intellectual, exercise that I enjoyed doing. Then all of a sudden it became more than an intellectual exercise…
Like 1 in 10 couples my wife and I needed a little help getting pregnant. Following our second round of Invitro Fertilization we discovered we were pregnant with twins. Incidentally, the first round a few years earlier was very successful and resulted in our daughter Grace. Early on we learned we were expecting twins. At the 4 month ultrasound we were told one of the twins had a serious birth defect and if he survived to full term we would only be with us for a very short time. We named the twin with a birth defect “Sam” and his brother “Luke.”
So we were referred to a Palliative Care Doctor to discuss how we wanted to treat Sam. One of the questions the Doctor asked was - what do you believe. I am not “religious” and I hadn’t really given it too much thought up to this point. This prompted a lot of serious contemplation. My wife and I had to look deep inside to make decisions about Sam whilst he was still in utero. After Sam passed away we also did a lot of deep thinking.
I mulled over the question of what I believed and came up with 3 rules. Or “RUL3S” - see what I did there! I repeat follow these rules to myself daily and even have them inscribed on a ring I wear now. My rules help guide my discretionary actions all the time and help make me who I am.
Here are my 3 rules.
RULE #1: “THINK CAN.”
My first rule is that I can do anything. All you have to do is THINK you CAN. To quote Henry Ford: "Whether you think you can, or whether you think you cannot - you are right." Buddha also put it like this - “He is able, who thinks he is able.” If you believe you can do something you will try harder - and importantly you will keep trying until you succeed. If you think you cannot do something you will stop at the first hurdle because it has validated what you thought. How you think about something starting out has a huge impact on how it ends up. Your attitude is like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pick a positive attitude starting out.
I also believe that the more our minds hear something, the more it becomes true to us. Napoleon Hill called this ‘auto-suggestion’. A few years before Buddha said “What we think, we become”. Repeat to yourself that which you want, several times a day and write it down and read that too. Do this every day. Whatever you keep thinking to yourself will eventually come true. I believe this happens because once you start believing something you have told yourself repeatedly it subtly affects your actions. Over time these small changes in behaviour get bigger and bigger until your thoughts have made a noticeable difference. Its not magic, and it doesn’t happen overnight - but it does happen. Keep telling yourself that you can do anything.
RULE #2: “SEE GOOD.”
My second rule is to always SEE the GOOD. In the words John Lubbock "What we see depends mainly on what we look for." Or as Monty Python puts it - "Always look on the bright side of life". There is good in every person and every situation. If you look for it you will see it. If you think a person or a situation is bad, you will look for things to validate that thought. But, if you think a person or situation is good, you will look for things to validate thought instead. Either way, its your choice. William Shakespeare said "It is neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so." You decide your attitude to everything, and your attitude determines how you deal with each situation. Walk in to the situation thinking its going to be good. Make a decision to make the best of everything, and that is what you will get.
When talking about other people, whether they are in the room or not - make it a rule to either compliment or keep quiet. First try and compliment people as much as possible (sincerely). This will help you focus on their positive attributes and not resent any perceived flaws they might have. Secondly, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Talk about people as if they were in the room. Remind yourself that behind every behavior is a reason and you don't know all the facts. When dealing with other people assume good intentions. Never ascribe to malice what can be ascribed to ignorance. Don't assume they are deliberately trying to upset you. Ask yourself if you could take what they said or did any other way. See the good in people.
See the hidden opportunity. When a situation doesn’t turn out the way you initially would have wanted it to, maybe it will mean you will be able to take advantage of an even better opportunity instead. When one door closes, another one opens. Maybe its a lesson for you to learn - even if the lesson is only to not do it that way again. Learn the lesson and do better next time. Lastly, be grateful for what you do have - not what you don't have. Be grateful its not worse. There is always someone who would love to be in your situation no matter how bad you think it is. Every day tell yourself one thing that you have to be grateful for. It will make you just a little bit happier. See the good in situations.
RULE #3: “BE KIND.”
My third rule is to always BE KIND. The Dalai Lama says "Whenever possible be kind. It is always possible." Or to quote Google - "Don’t be evil." The first two rules are really about me, this last rule is my guide on how to treat others. Always give help, when this isnt possible, at least don't hinder. Do a good deed daily, preferably without telling anyone. Just something small. It will make you feel great and it will make the other persons day. Who knows, it might even inspire the other person to do a good deed too, and look you're making the world a better place.
You get what you give. What goes around comes around. Reciprocity. You reap what you sow. Karma. If you are nice to people they will be nice to you. If you are mean to people they will be mean to you. I believe this works because there are only 6 degrees of separation between everyone. That means if you do something to 6 people then everyone will get a reputation for being that way and people will treat you that way. This is why everything you do comes back to you. If you need help, help someone else first. If you want to be respected, respect others first. If you want more friends, be friendly to other people first. This really boils down to the "golden rule" - do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Just be kind.
I have shared my own rules as an example. Every person should have their own set of rules based on their individual character. What are your rules? I encourage you to think about them and write them down. Whatever they are, they guide your life. Once you have identified your own rules you will probably make a connection about why you act the way you do. Think long and hard about the rules you come up with and ask yourself if your rules are guiding you in the direction you want to go in life. If they are - awesome, if not - tweak them. Some of your rules may change over time, others will be your core values and stick with you forever.
I hope reading this has given you some serious food for thought. My 3 rules are dedicated to my son Sam. “You will always be my son and I will always be your Daddy.”
Barney Matthews. November 2014.
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