Each of us has rules that govern our behavior.
I’m not talking about laws, or policies, or even societal mores. I’m talking about our individual, internal rules that we’ve adopted over time, gathered from many sources. These rules tell us they will help us feel secure, they will keep us safe. An analogy my daughter shared with me is this:
Imagine two people are running a race. One person starts at the starting line and runs to the end. The other has to avoid every crack in the sidewalk. Who is going to win the race?
The runner who is avoiding the cracks is following a rule that make sense to her, but it is preventing her from running the straightest path to the finish line.
When I was in my early 20s, I decided that I was a person who read the New Yorker. Not only that, I was a person who kept all her issues of the New Yorker. I moved (and then stored) my collection of magazines four times while I lived in New York, then twice again in North Carolina. Each time, of course, the collection was bigger, heavier, and more unwieldy.
A few years ago, I told a coach I was working with that I kept all my New Yorkers. (Doing some quick math here—that’s something like 1100 magazines.) We talked about what that collection represented for me, and it became clear that keeping the magazines was a secret rule of mine, determined when I was barely out of college, that now seemed to serve little purpose. He asked if I could think about recycling them, particularly since all of that information is available digitally now.
I said that I could think about it, but that “it would be really hard.”
His response was such perfect one that it has resonated with me every time a secret rule rears its head:
“What if it’s not?”
The rule I had made for myself was the equivalent of the cracks in the sidewalk. I could still love the New Yorker, but I needed an updated relationship to it. As soon as he said, “What if it’s not?,” I was able to see this rule from outside myself, and I cleared out my collection that weekend.
What if you release yourself from a secret rule? What if you decide it doesn’t serve you any more?
What if you make space for something new? What if the secret rule is holding you back in ways you can’t even imagine?
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