Creative Boost #623: Re-Think the Old Rules

Rules usually come from pretty good experiences and reasons. But as good as the reasons are, life changes and shifts. It’s good to consider change from time to time. Oh, sure, you’ll be met with “We’ve always done it this way,” and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,”

sunriseHere’s a real-life example. I have three different walking routes: a winter one, a summer one, and a really long one (reserved for cooler days when I have enough time.) I’ve been walking the winter route, even though it’s June. I’ve gotten used to it, and a few times I wonder why I’m not walking the “summer” route. But I’m so used to the winter one, I just kept on walking.

The other day, my walk started just at dawn. For half the walk, I was facing into the sun. On the part that has me walking North, my face cooked on my right side. (Yes I wear sunscreen. It’s still hot, and the hat is not big enough to provide shade). On the second half, which is unshaded, the sun cooked my back. In 0622002041winter, on that same route, when the sun rises later, I don’t get the sun in my face, but it warms my back.

So, tomorrow, it’s the return to the summer route. My back will be to the sun for the first half, a tall line of trees for the cross section, and the sun high enough so a slightly tilted brim shields my face on the home stretch.

Here is how we make and use rules:

1. We study the problem with the way things are now.

2. We make rules to solve the problem.

3. Time happens, things change, we still use the old rules.

Every now and then, when you are used to the rules, think about why they were made. It’s good to question them, and just as good to change them when they need changing.

This is particularly true about ideas we have about success, goals, careers, and the definition of happiness.

–Quinn McDonald loves change, but not for change’s sake.



11 thoughts on “Creative Boost #623: Re-Think the Old Rules

  1. When I ran, and there is an ironic story about stopping that includes playing Olivia in ‘Twelfth Night’ and a divorce, I always ran into the wind first, did the longest part of the run with it at my back and then finished it with another short run into it again. Two shorter head-wind bursts seemed to be more comfortable than one long exhausting run. Now, when it’s windy on the beach I do the same thing for much the same reasons! It’s logical and I’ve not needed to change the habit.
    Habits are occupying me right now . . . I’m into my final countdown at the day-job and many of the old routines will vanish in a puff of smoke laying out a fresh untrodden landscape for me to paint.

  2. I’ve mentioned before we have a creek near by where the kids play in the summer. Here’s the rule about the creek. In the winter they are not allowed to go in the water at the creek. They still like to go there because it’s beautiful and it’s become a place they love the year round. But in the winter it can be dangerous and so “Stay off the ice and out of the water.” Last year in January one of the boys decided to break the rule. He went out on the ice, it broke and he fell in. The water was so cold he couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe and getting him back out was hard and dangerous. One of the kids called home, the adults showed up and we got him out. He was freezing wet, embarrassed and frightened but okay. He broke the rule. They are still allowed to go to the creek but now they understand why it’s the rule and are more willing to follow it. Sometimes, a rule has to be tested to be understood.
    Quinn, you’ve been testing your rule about the summer/winter walk. Now you understand again why you made the rule for yourself. It’s more comfortable in the summer than the winter walk!

  3. I also have trouble noticing when an old rule is no longer relevant. And in the same way, I tend to think of myself as “A person who…” It’s hard for me to give up a conception I have of myself (even a negative one), even when all the evidence indicates that it’s time to change. Part of being human, I guess, is trying to find permanence where it doesn’t exist.

  4. I agree, I’m not sure “rules” is the right word either – habit, routine – you’ve changed your routine as opposed to ‘breaking a rule’ Either way, though, it’s good to change things up once in a while to break out of the proverbial rut

    • Many of us make “rules” about our lives. Yes, others may call them “routines” or “habits,” but for many of us, the rules that run or lives are truly directives. Just as the directives we get at work are often habits. I gave a habit from my own life because in the first draft, I talked about the QWERTY keyboard and how it was designed to slow down typists to keep the keys from jamming. But still, today, we use the QWERTY keyboard design, when jamming keys is no longer an issue. Then I discovered that the keyboard was NOT designed to slow down typists after all and the whole wonderful point I had evaporated. So much of the blog never makes it above ground.

  5. That’s a view of rules that’s very broad and benign. It seems to me what comes out of solving a problem is a solution, not a rule. People adapt to conditions and they develop habits, but neither of those are quite the same as rules. I think rules are attempts to codify and direct actions, and I”m not sure it’s possible to step “backward” from a rule to infer the experiences or reasons that gave rise to it. Which, I think, are more often rooted in avoidance of outcomes that are (or were at some point) undesirable (to somebody).

    • This was about looking at rules we make for ourselves and seeing if they still apply. A lot of time we hang onto rules simply because they were true 20 years ago, when we made them for ourselves. In my experience (which is all I can write about) corporations often do the same thing.

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