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The Rules of Your Life

What is “true failure?” Is it when you try to accomplish something but come up short or is failure something more than simply not achieving something? Is failure something than cannot be avoided or is failure simply an emotion?

People in all industries and in all walks of like have an ever-present reality of failure, yet this “potential of failure” seems to have little affect on some.

What is their secret to avoiding the consequences that result from having a fear of failure and is it something all can use?

Our Rules of Life

We all countless rules that we have either accepted from others or have made for ourselves. Every facet of our lives has a rule that determines how we judge every life-event and helps us determine if something is “good,” “bad,” or “neutral.” Our rules both protect us emotionally and are in place to serve us by telling us when we are in danger.

Think for a moment of the last time you felt offended by someone else. Whatever the other person did or said to you was filtered through your rule that governs how you feel people should treat or speek to you. If you felt offended, one or more of your rules were violated.

What the other person did truly could have had no effect on you at all but your rule told you “what this person did is offensive to me. I am offended!”

When you experience the emotion of “failure,” what really is happening that one of your rules has been violated.

Rules that Serve and Rules that Harm

The thing about rules is that the can and often times should be changed. Someone who often feels offended would be better off if they changed their rule that dictates “when to be offended.” And if you fear failure or feel like you have failed many times in your life, understand that you have a rule that determines when you feel like a failure that is in need of change.

In fact, any negative emotion that you feel in your life has an associated rule that should be changed.

Changing Your Rules

The first step in changing the rules of your life that are not serving you is to identify negative emotions that you often experience. In addition, ask yourself what emotions do you fear.

Once you’ve identified these emotions, ask yourself what has to happen in order for you to feel this emotion. If you fear failure, for example, ask yourself what has to happen for you to feel “failure?” It may take a while to uncover it but there is certainly a rule behind your fear. Discover your rule and write it down as clearly as possible. For example, a rule that determines failure could be “I will be a failure if I don’t earn $250,000 this year, pay off all of my credit card balances, find my soul mate, never lose my temper and lose 55 pounds.” While this rule may seem to be a hyperbole and a set up for unavoidable failure, many of our rules follow this pattern.

Rules, once uncovered and determined to be unreasonable and “not life advancing” need to be changed and need to be changed quickly. And fortunately, rules are relatively easy to change.

Time for a Change

To change an uncovered rule that is not serving you, start by writing down all the ways a rule is harming you and stealing some of the quality of your life away. Make the rule as painful as possible. You’ll know when you’ve built enough pain around your rule when you feel that you absolutely MUST change this rule! When you arrive at that point, you’ll have enough leverage to pry the old rule out of your life and to replace it with a new rule.

When you have enough leverage, decide what rule, if implemented, would serve you better? Get very clear on the new rule and make sure that it is strong enough to drive you towards your life goals. Some people make rules that are so easy that they offer no challenge at all. For example, a rule that governs the emotion of failure could be ” as long as a I am breathing, I am not a failure.” This rule does not serve you as it offers no emotional drive.

A rule that governs failure that says “I will only feel failure if I give up without giving a worthy task my best effort” is one that would serve you well. It keeps the potential of feeling the pain of failure while not creating conditions that make feeling failure inevitable.

Once you have a powerful rule, live with it for a few days and remind yourself of your new goal as often as you can. Write it down and carry your new goal in your pocket. Set up a calendar reminder that pops up in your email inbox or smartphone a few times per day. Keep your new rule in your mind as often as possible until it becomes a part of who you are.

Revisit Goals Often

Lastly, just because you replaced an old rule with a new one doesn’t mean that you never should revisit and reconsider that rule. Your life is dynamic and is designed to change. A rule that serves you one year may be in need of replacement the next. Don’t expect that a well written and well thought out goal to be with you the rest of your life.

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