Which Unspoken Rules Are Creating Your Results?

You may be tired of hearing about “rules” if you’re trying to master a language or move forward with your business or career.

  • In language learning, we have grammar rules and pronunciation rules, rules for formal and informal language, rules for intonation…
  • In business, we have accounting rules, insurance rules, legal rules, corporate rules…

But if we want to be truly successful, in a way that fulfils and drives us, we need to take other important rules into account:

the silent rules we have for ourselves; the expectations our mind tells us we must meet if we want to feel good.

And we all have these unconscious rules whether they concern our language learning, business/career, relationships, children…

What do rules look like?

Whenever we feel “off”, upset, it’s because our rules about how something or someone should be, have not been met.

Think about it: what has to happen for you to feel good/successful in a given area? What are your rules?

Let’s take language learning as our example. Maybe you have an unspoken set of rules such as the following:

  • I’m a failure if I make mistakes
  • I must understand everything people say otherwise they’ll judge me
  • I must look smart otherwise I won’t be credible
  • I need to say the right thing or find the right word to feel in control
  • I should be fluent in X months / I should be at X level by now
  • I can’t speak up until I’m perfect / If I’m not perfect, I might as well give up
  • If I’m not as good as Peter or Camille, then I’m rubbish
  • If the person I’m talking to ends the conversation first, it means that…
  • If I don’t feel like practicing, it means that I need to change my resources, teacher, etc. (something outside me has to change)

How could we ever live up to these rules? They are vague and completely impossible to meet. And some of them are completely outside our control.

If someone else gave you these rules to follow, wouldn’t you think they were being unfair?

But we do it to ourselves.

What happens when we have rules like this?

If we or other people don’t follow our rules, then we feel bad.

Rules like the ones above can only lead to frustration and procrastination because they create a sense of overwhelm. They’re disempowering.

(Note to explore: we also tend to judge people based on our own rules so you’ll probably be as hard on others as you are on yourself… which creates a fearful cycle of judgment)

Becoming aware of your rules

So the first step is to shine a light on your current rules. Sit down with a pen and paper. Look back at the times during your learning or business journey when you’ve felt “bad” in some way. Trace each one back to the trigger in your mind. Then move on to the next.

Here are some questions to help you:

  • What must happen for you to feel confident enough to speak up?
  • What must happen for you to feel successful or good enough at what you do?
  • What must happen for you to feel like you’re progressing?

Perhaps your values need to be updated before you redesign your rules?

Changing your rules

The next question to ask yourself is: are my rules serving me based on what I want?

If the answer is no and your rules are stopping your progress and enjoyment, then you need to create new rules that make it easy for you to feel good. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be lowering your standards and your growth will suffer. It just means that you’ll be free to approach your learning or business with new energy and enthusiasm, one that will connect with others and propulse you forward.

After all, the reason we do anything is because of the feeling we think we’ll get in doing it.

A tip:

The type of rules that propel you in the direction of your goals are:

  • clear & specific
  • possible to achieve
  • within your full control (i.e. not relying on other people)
  • as simple as possible

What if you decided that the only rule was to enjoy yourself, no matter what?

“It’s your game; so make up your own rules.”

Barbara Corcoran

If you want help training your brain and redesigning your mindset on purpose, I have just the program for you! Contact me to find out more.


Photos courtesy of Unsplash: Siora-Photography, Mark Duffel, Anna Pritchard, Jeremy Bishop

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