What Happens When Your Life Rules Are Outdated?

You know those rules we all live by?

There’s the societal rules:

Don’t murder your kids, no matter how badly they annoy you unless you want to spend the rest of your life in jail.

Or, personal rules:

Don’t show up late for work every day unless you want to get fired, go bankrupt, and end up homeless.

Or, those silent personal rules that you may or may not be aware of but you live by everyday:

Make sure to put on clean underwear just in case you have an accident and are rushed to the hospital.

Seriously? Who came up with that one? Let me be the one to break it to you. The day I broke my arms (yes, both of them at the same time) and got rushed to the hospital, I never once thought about whether my underwear was clean or not. I was too busy trying not to pass out from the pain of shattering both my wrists and a minor concussion. Full disclosure: In the last decade since that accident, I never once contemplated my underwear from that day until this moment.

Most of the time we live blissfully unaware of the rules we have created for ourselves. But sometimes, when life alters in such a way those rules no longer serve us, we become painfully aware of them, usually because breaking them causes friction and guilt.

This happened to me recently.  And it was painful.

For the last decade, I have lived by a singular rule: Live life to the fullest.

This rule weaves through every blog I post and, if you know me, through every action, decision, and breath I take.

But let’s break that rule down.

What does it mean to live life to the fullest?

It’s such an objective concept. If I asked a hundred people, I’d get a hundred different answers and a hundred different ways to accomplish it.

My definition:

Make every moment count. Experience and enjoy life. Move through it purposefully.

Still pretty subjective, huh? One thing is clear, though, to accomplish living life to the fullest I needed guidelines, or rules, to follow to ensure success. And so, my number two rule became: Don’t waste the precious time God gave you. And to accomplish this rule, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, I needed to create even more rules. Here are just a few:

  1. No TV watching
  2. No taking extra time in traffic
  3. Streamline everything I do (cleaning, cooking, errands) into neat and tidy systems.
  4. Achieve. Achieve. Achieve.
  5. Write a certain amount each day.
  6. Make something of myself.
  7. Travel every chance I get.
  8. Be present
  9. Enjoy every second of little and big experiences.
  10. Don’t miss opportunities because of fear.

I can probably break down any one of these rules into more rules, but you get my point.

These rules aren’t bad or good, they simply kept me progressing towards my full life. (I admit, some might be slightly unreasonable. After all, I can’t control traffic). They worked for me. They kept me motivated. They gave my life purpose.

But then I got sick.

What happens when you’re so tired it’s dangerous to drive a car? What happens when your brain is so foggy you can’t put coherent thoughts together? What happens when you’re in so much pain you’re confined to the house all day by yourself? What happens when you get more and more bad news health-wise?

The core of me still longs to live life to the fullest. That hasn’t changed.

Yet, some days all I can do is lie in bed watching TV (rule breaking!!!). I can’t exercise (this breaks a living fully rule, because how can you pick up and go hiking, or travel the world at a moment’s notice, or chase your nieces through Yosemite if you don’t have some muscle mass?) I miss dozens of opportunities because of fatigue.

The hard, honest truth? Those rules don’t work anymore. And, I’m guessing, neither does my old definition of living life to the fullest.

So now what?

I change the expectation for what living fully means at this point in time. I sculpt a new definition, a realistic definition.

My new definition of living life to the fullest:

Take each day as it comes, enjoy the heck out of it, work towards dream-goals, but ensure everything I do is geared to healing my body.

Some new rules are in order, too.

  1. Listen to what my body is telling me, and act accordingly.
  2. Healing is top priority.
  3. Live life one day at a time.
  4. Celebrate the accomplished to-do list tasks, leave the rest for later.
  5. Enjoy rest.
  6. Guilt is not allowed.

The more I practice, the better I get at living by these rules and giving myself grace. The more I celebrate the small moments, the better I get at counting them as triumphs. The more I focus on healing my body from the torture I put it through, pushing it beyond its capacity for the last twenty years, the more my life will expand. And, my life has shrunk, but it is a temporary shrink. In the four months I’ve listened to my body and given it what it needs—proper rest, food, and encouragement—my energy has increased and my life has expanded.

One day soon, I will travel the world and I won’t grow weary.

What about you? What are some of the rules you live by? Are any of them outdated?

2 thoughts on “What Happens When Your Life Rules Are Outdated?

  1. “Guilt is not allowed.” You know, I think guilt and regret go hand-in-hand. We feel guilty because we break “one of the rules” and regret it. Something has happened which, thanks to the currently known laws of time, cannot be ‘unhappened,’ and there’s nothing we can do about it. If you can’t change, why worry about it? Why regret? Live what follows bravely and stand up to your decision. After all, you had a reason for doing so. Hence, “regret is also not allowed!”

    Loved reading this post, Rachelle!

    1. I love this thought! Thank you for sharing it. Regret pops up more often than I care to admit when I’m lying in bed almost asleep. With regret we only see the “failure”. But you’re right, when we made the decision, we were acting in the best way we knew how at the time. I hold firm to Brené Brown’s truth that everyone is doing the best they can. This has helped me so much with forgiveness and moving forward. Why not apply it to our past selves?

      Guilt and regret are not allowed! Love it!

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