I’ve never really liked the phrase, “rules are meant to be broken”. Why bother having any at all if everyone is just going to ignore them? I know what it’s implying though. Sometimes it’s better to let go of what you’ve been told and just see what happens.
In fact, I think that if I could go back in time and deliver one message to my younger self it would probably be about breaking the rules. I would make sure my younger self realized that not all rules are equal. Some rules can and should be broken.
The Good Side of Rules
I really don’t have any big problem with most rules. They are there for a reason. If everyone broke the rule on what light to drive through on an intersection than we would have chaos and a lot more accidents. This is one rule obviously no one should break.
Similarly, many laws are there for a reason. Theft and violence are things that we have to control or else we’d have people going around beating others up for their money. No one wants that.
The Bad Side of Rules
My problem lies when people arbitrarily put rules on themselves that they really don’t need to follow. Many people seem to create a lot of unnecessary rules to guide their behavior and direction in life. Most of the time it seems as if they think there is a general accepted guideline for how you’re suppose to live. And people follow them without question.
For example there are many people who feel they have to get a job working in an office somewhere after they graduate from college. This is something I personally felt enormous pressure to do. And I’ve known many others who have felt the same way. Then there are those who seem to think that they need to buy a large house in the suburbs so they can fill it with a lot of stuff.
Break Arbitrary Rules
I know now that I don’t have to do any of those things. I can live in an apartment for the rest of my life and never work in an office again. I have the confidence and self-belief to realize that there really isn’t any particular path I have to follow. And because of this, I feel I have more control over what I do and experience than at any other time before in my life.
I can see in others how little they’ve come to this realization though. I can’t count how many times I’ve told someone about my experiences and all they could muster up in reply was how “they could never do something like that”. When I try to ask them why, they just shrug their shoulders and say they just can‘t.
I understand that in many cases it could just be fear or monetary difficulties holding them back. However, fear or money don’t seem likely reasons in other instances. For example, I knew many people in college who majored in engineering simply because they felt it was the best path to getting a good job and a nice house after graduation. In that sense, they were correct. All of them went on to good-paying jobs and nice houses.
However, a large portion of these people hated engineering. Their only reason for going in was because they felt they had to. Doing anything else would have gone against rules they felt were there. Instead of setting their own paths, they did what they felt they should do. Years later, they would be playing catch-up to make up for their mistakes. In cases such as this, it is people conforming to what they think is expected of them that seems to be their main drive.
Live Your Life the Way You Want to
One of the most dreadful consequences of doing things simply because you think you should be doing them is how limiting it all can be. My engineering friends felt pressured into choosing their particular major. If they had become engineers because it was their passion, then things would have been different for them. But they went in just to follow what they saw as the rules.
These rules are unnecessarily restrictive. And I think it’s those life-limiting types you should ignore. When you follow them, you’re just limiting how far and what direction you can go in life. This is not a good way to live.
In the end it is all about following your dreams no matter what everyone else says or thinks. Only you can make you happy. And if you can’t get yourself to question all those arbitrary rules, you just might end up getting left behind by those willing to break them.
photo credit: Ed.ward