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(006) Playing By The Rules
Escaping the things that limit us
It’s incredible how many people have the answer for us.
When we’re with friends, family, or colleagues, we’re given opinions of ‘what is best for us’ or encouraged to do one thing or another, and when we open social media, we’re told by strangers where to go on holiday, what to wear in the streets, and how to grow our businesses.
Society seems to have a plan for us, constantly reminding us what’s right and wrong, what’s good and bad, what’s art and what’s not. It can be so overwhelming that it’s hard to know what thoughts or opinions are our own.
These forces establish the rules that we live our lives by. Some we choose to live by consciously, but most shape our lives in ways we aren’t even aware of.
The thing with rules is, they inherently direct us towards the average – the way everyone else does things. If we’re aiming to have an exceptional life or to create exceptional work, these rules can’t apply. Average is nothing to aspire to.
If you take a moment to look at all of the people or brands that have left the most profound impact on society, you’ll notice that they fell into the zeitgeist by breaking the rules. They did something beyond the standard conventions, and we all took notice.
The best architects challenge how structures are formed and how energy flows through a space. The best designers challenge how you feel in a home and how to communicate an aesthetic. The best brands challenge how you feel about yourself, the best musicians challenge how you interpret sound, and the best artists challenge how we see the world.
The irony of me offering you any advice right now is not lost on me, so instead I pose a challenge. My hope is through this, you’ll uncover some assumptions or beliefs that aren’t serving you. What you do with them is up to you.
Step 1: Observe
For the next 24 hours, try to notice the things you think and do throughout your work day either out of habit or because that’s what you’ve been told is right, and list them in a blank note in your phone or on a piece of paper. Nothing is too small to jot down – capture whatever feels right.
Step 2: Analyse
Take a new piece of paper and divide it into four columns with the following headings:
Once you’ve done this, start by rewriting your list from the day before as a list in the Behaviour column. Now, for each item in the list, work through each of the columns answering the following questions:
Source - Where did I get this behaviour from? Myself or someone else?
Benefit - Is this behaviour serving me or limiting me?
Notes - What do I think about this behaviour? Do I want to hold onto this behaviour? What could I replace this behaviour with?
Once you’ve gone through the list, you should have a pretty clear indication of who your biggest influences are and where you face limitations. Bringing awareness to limitations is the first step to moving past them.
Below is a selection of rows from when I did the exercise.
Step 3 - Continue (optional but recommended)
If you found this useful, consider making it a monthly or quarterly routine, or use the framework to audit other aspects of your life.
This exercise can be quite confronting, as we all live quite a large part of our lives on auto pilot. When I did the audit I was surprised by how many of the things that are ‘good for me’ are actually limiting when I analysed them against what I actually value.
The easy path would be to look at your list and get discouraged. Rather, try to frame each row as an opportunity. Pick the one that you think you’ll be able to overcome the easiest and start there. Once you’ve tackled your first, move onto the next one, and so on. Don’t rush it - do it in your own time.
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