I have a really wise cousin.
Her name is Diana, and our mothers were sisters.
We don't talk often and sometimes will go for months without connecting, but during times when it matters, I know she is there to listen and to support me. Our fathers both died when we were younger and her mom died just four years ago so she has walked this journey before me.
We were texting the other day about the grief journey. She had been reading my Facebook posts and knew I was having a hard time. She reminded me that there are no rules. There's no one right way to grieve. It's a very personal experience for everybody.
I appreciated what she said because I have been surprised at the people who have told me (just two weeks after my mom died) that I have to “move on” or “be strong”. Ummmm thanks, but no I don’t folks. I can be sad and cry and eat chocolate all day long if I want to. For as long as I want to.
It got me thinking. So many of us were raised to follow the rules – I sure was! Were you?
The truth is, there are no rules to how you “should” live your life.
My mother was a strict rule follower because as a child, growing up in an orphanage, following the rules meant that she got her basic needs met. Not following the rules (which she did sometimes) resulted in pain and punishment.
So she learned to be a rule follower early on. And she raised me to be a rule follower.
And I was for much of my life. I was a good student. I did volunteer work. I wrote thank you notes. I kept my house clean. I married my high school sweetheart. I did everything I was “supposed” to.
So at the age of 30, when I started my own business, she freaked out on me a little bit.
I had just barely started my coaching business and my first husband asked me for a divorce (oops, first rule broken!). I moved to a new city with no job… just my part-time business and a few thousand dollars in the bank and my mom was screaming at me “Get a Job! Get a Job!” (Code word for “Follow the Rules!” – Single women don’t start their own businesses, don’t you know that?!)
But I had a fire in my belly. I knew that coaching was “the thing” I had been looking for as my career path… or more accurately… my calling. I had finally found it and I sure as heck wasn’t going to give it up just to feel “safe”. So I stayed committed to it and built my business on a shoestring budget, a wing and a prayer. (And some credit card debt… I won’t lie!... things were lean in the early years.)
I think that's probably the first time in my life that I realized that I didn't have to follow all the rules. Entrepreneurship is an invitation to creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and stretching beyond your comfort zone. It’s about being a little rebellious and taking risks, even when you’re terrified.
And my mom? She eventually came around. I know she was just scared for me and she allowed her fear to seep into her interactions with me. But I refused to take on her fear. I trusted my intuition telling me this was the right path for me. And boy, was she proud of me the first time I got an article published, then the first time I was on TV, and the first time I was on a magazine cover! She finally understood that what I do matters and helps people live better lives.
But whether or not you’re an entrepreneur, or whether or not you’re grieving (like me), you’re given invitations to throw out the rule book all the time.
Think about your own life. Where have you been following the rules, but it's not getting you what you want or where you wanted to go?
Maybe it's time to throw out the rulebook. Stop listening to the voices of “others” and start listening to your own inner voice. Here are some areas you may consider changing things up…
- Grieving – How long will it last? One week, one month, one year, a lifetime…should you keep working or take some time off?
- Parenting – Should you breastfeed or formula feed? How about stay at home, work from home or work in an office?
- Running a business – Should you go solo? Have a partner? Buy a franchise? Sell a product or a service? Have a store front or go virtual?
- Making art – Are you good enough? Should you go back to school? People only like X style so maybe you should create that.
- Scheduling your family holiday travels – Do you really have to travel to Aunt Sally’s when what you want to do is stay home?
- Trying to get healthier – “They say” that you should lift weights, cut carbs, drink this protein drink, go to X doctor…
I’d love to know in what area of life you are ready to throw out the rule book! Send me a note and let me know so we can throw out the rule book together!
Here’s to breaking the rules!