Awhile ago, when my efforts to find joy began to work just a little bit and the fog of depression started to lift, I started to realize that I had been living my life by a set of rules, just as everyone does. It became clear that some of these rules were keeping me trapped in depression, and that other rules were allowing me to escape it. As I kept investigating, I found that this set of values, the assumed truths I lived by, was a hodgepodge of beliefs I’d picked up here and there throughout my life.
The Truth About the Rules
My rules were some of the things my family taught me on purpose in their attempt to give me a good safe life, and some were crap they taught me by accident as they lived their own lives the best way they knew how. Some were things that I might have gleaned from common themes in culture or the media. Sadly, some had been created by my own fear and depression, some by superstition and insecurity. My rules were my beliefs about how the universe functioned, as real to me as the law of gravity or the process of photosynthesis. The laws of my universe said things like, “Dreaming leads to disappointment,” and “Pain and tragedy are inevitable.”
I also found a few very precious rules created by the kind hope of my own spirit. Those are the rules that kept me going when I was at my lowest. I stood on their backs as I struggled to hoist myself out of the pit of depression. They were rules like, “Every big task is a series of small simple steps,” and “I’m just as capable as anyone else, regardless of how I feel.”
I knew that if I was going to scratch and crawl my way out of depression, I was going to have to know what was going on in my mind. So I set about to really understand my own rules. My rules, as it turned out, weren’t all necessarily true. My rules, like yours and everyone else’s, were arbitrary guidelines put together in my imagination to making living easier, to make life a bit more simple to understand when I was faced with a situation or had a choice to make. The important part is that these rules were arbitrary, and that means that they aren’t steadfast truths. It means they can change.
So Now What?
Living by rules isn’t a bad thing in itself. You’re always doing it anyway whether you realize it or not. But many of our rules were implanted in our minds without our conscious consent. Maybe we were too young to question their validity, or maybe we just didn’t realize we ever had a choice.
Regardless of where your rules came from or why you’ve been living with them, you now have the precious opportunity to evaluate them. To take a good look at the truths in your universe and decide if they belong there or not. If you’re going to keep one, keep it on purpose. Own it with all your heart and use it as powerful guidance to build a beautiful life.
If you find that a rule isn’t true, just kindly let it go. Living by an untruth can be a very painful experience. When you find out your ugliest hardest pain was founded in something untrue, it can knock you a little bit sideways. But remember, this process is about moving forward, about finding the future. It isn’t about placing blame or criticizing yourself or anyone else, because there is no blame to place. We can’t understand what we don’t understand yet. Ever. And neither can anyone else. The past isn’t really that important now. The important part is what you do next.
And Then Your Life Begins
After you identify your existing rules and notice which ones aren’t true, the really fun and exciting part can begin. The freedom created by letting go of your untruths allows you to write your own rules, on purpose this time.
You get to decide the guidelines you will live by, the rules for your life that will light you up, that make you feel powerful and purposeful, rules that will support a beautiful happy life. You get to decide which governing forces your future will be built on. Your rules will be yours alone. They will embody the things you most deeply know. They will be your spirit in action.
These things I know are true.
These are my new rules, truths for my life to operate by, written from the kindest most peaceful place in my heart. They’re the product of a lot of years of suffering and struggle. They lift me up instead of tear me down. They continue to be a work in progress as I learn and grow, and I am absolutely ok with that.
Your rules will only work for you if they genuinely belong to you, so I’m in no way saying that these rules are what you need in your life as well. I share them as an example only, in hope to inspire your heart to think bigger and and brighter and more kindly toward yourself.
Rule #1 : Suffering is Optional
Rule #2 : Food Doesn’t Really Matter
Rule #3 : I Actually DO Have Time
Rule #4 : Everyone is Just a Person
Rule #5 : Peace is More Important
Rule #6 : I am NO KIND of Victim, Ever
Rule #7 : Belief Comes Before Everything Else
You can read how much depression messed me up here- “How My Depression Ruined Cheerios (And Also Everything)” And you can see how I started to fight my way out of it here- “A Good Life Discovered, Bullet Journal for Joy”
As always, you’re invited to leave your thoughts about my thoughts in the comments below. <3