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It is difficult to make a plan to improve yourself if you are following some outdated or self-imposed rules. Learn how to adjust your own rules so you can continue your progress toward your goals, right here, right now!

Lesson Learned: A New Era Demands a New Set of Rules

Since I began my blog in 2018, I have tried to be as transparent as possible. Some days, the stories I share are easier to access as an analogy for the lesson I want to teach. Other days, the stories escape me and I struggle to reach one that I can use. In the last two years, I have always found something to write enough that reveals what my heart and my mind are doing.

This type of transparency has been a wonderful tool for me. Until now.

In the past month, trying to find focus while grieving has left me rudderless and feeling without purpose. For me, I have found it impossible to look at my work the same way since the end of October 2020. Even today, I woke up without feeling connected to any topic or lesson that had any sense of urgency to share.

It took me a while to process through what all of this meant to me before I realized that whether I found a topic or not, I was doing enough. And that I was enough. In my grief, I didn’t need to measure my work or my self-worth by such trivial matters like what I did. What mattered is that I showed up, tried to make my work relevant, and practiced the self-forgiveness I have written about.

Redefining the Rules

The year 2020 has been about making up new rules. But that hasn’t necessarily translated into how these rules apply to how I see myself.

Sure, I can forgive others for adjusting how their work has changed and how they measure success in their lives. But perhaps I wasn’t ready to apply these rules to myself? Perhaps I wanted to rely on my previous ways to ensure that I was as productive as before the pandemic.

What I am realizing, slowly but clearly, is that the world change for all of us, including me. The remnants of the previous era that I wanted to control are gone. Either I change my expectations to match this new reality or I should be prepared for more angst in the near future.

My expectations for working haven’t entirely changed. But how I look at my work has to change, as well as what I expect to develop and create from now on.

The game hasn’t changed, but the rules will need to change. What I am excited about, finally, is that I get to decide what the new rules are.


My Moment of Clarity

Originally this post was going to be about being enough. But I realized that this act of feeling like I was doing enough was actually grounded in a swift change in how I engaging in work. I had been using the same metrics to measure my success for months – I would pick a topic Monday morning, spend two hours writing a draft, and then publish the entry in time for lunch.

Writing about doing something – anything – felt like a solution before it occurred to me that what I was actually doing was re-writing these internal rules in my own favor rather than use rules imposed on me from an outsider.

This, of course, reminded me of every single time I would beat myself up when I wouldn’t complete a task according to some self-imposed internal deadline that I arbitrarily created. Or I wasn’t as clear as I wanted to be when training others about work-related topics.

These internal rules were my nemisis.

Until today, it never occured to me that I could simply change the rules and still create relevant, important work.

How to Make Your Own Rules

Renita Kalhorn, in Why You Need To Make Your Own Rules, believes that by creating our own rules, we allow ourselves “greater clarity, less redundant thinking, and quicker conflict resolution. That frees up mental energy for more productive, creative thinking.” We should feel empowered to make up rules that support us, rather than limit us.

Below are four steps to creating new self-made rules from the blog Early to Rise by Sam Thomas Davies:

Step #1. Decide what you want and why you want it.

Using Simon Sinek’s Start with Why idea, people who consider their ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’ are more likely to stick to the work required for an outcome.

Step #2. Evaluate what’s not currently working. 

Examine how you’ve approached your goals in the past. What has contributed to your success? Distracted you? What can you actively stop doing?

Step #3. Determine what your “ends rule” and your “means rule” will be.

The ‘ends rule’ is related to the outcome: I will write a new topic each week. The ‘means rule’ relates to support how the ends are achieved: I write four hours each day. You can adjust the means rule as needed. Perhaps one week you need to write five hours per day to achieve a new topic idea.

Step #4. Honor your rule by taking action and allowing no exceptions.

Commitment takes time, effort, and energy. If you want to achieve your goals with your current rules, put time into following the rules. But as a reminder: Rules aren’t made to be broken — they’re made to be improved upon.


A New Start with New Rules

Moving forward, I will need to adjust my own rules. Improve what I can. Discard what isn’t working. And value each time I do something – anything – even if that something is just thinking, brainstorming, and summarizing.

I always knew I was doing enough. But it was enough as measured a set of old rules I knew weren’t sustainable. And I know now that I can just change the rules so I continue to feel motivated.

I know that I am not the only one struggling to find a measure of success in this new reality. But for the first time I am admitting that it is a new reality and this new reality demands a new set of rules.

I believe that right here, right now, I need to stay in the moment and establish new ways to achieve my goals and I hope that all of you are able to do the same.


Career Coaching for the Mid-Level Career Professional

I have worked with entry-level and mid-level career professionals for nearly ten years, helping them reconsider their strengths and ways to learn new skills. Let me know if there is anything I can do to support you as you develop this new skill.

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Joseph Rios, EdD
leadershipandvaluesinaction@gmail.com
I am Joseph Rios and I believe that leadership is an expression of our values
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