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Rules of life

July 18, 2016

It’s interesting to me how it seems that when we are ready or need to learn something, the lesson comes from so many directions.

I’m in a non-fiction book club, and several months ago, we read “Better Than Before” by Gretchen Rubin. I think it sounds too dramatic to say something is life changing, but it has had a radical impact on my thinking. It’s all about habits, and instead of explaining how to make or break a habit, she has come up with a huge variety of tools for helping us understand ourselves better. Once we start to understand our tendencies, we are able to better shape our habits.

I’ve always been a skeptic when it comes to things that begin with self-: self-help, self-knowledge, etc… But knowing my tendency (I’m a Questioner) and seeing what strategies I can use to build habits has been fascinating and amazing. Gretchen has a list of rules for herself. I believe the first one is to “Be Gretchen”. At face value, this feels a little silly to me, but by understanding ourselves and being honest, we can keep from continually trying to shove a round peg into a square hole and then getting discouraged and depressed when it doesn’t fit.

Our pastor has frequently referred to his rules of life. I can’t even remember if that’s exactly what he calls them, but he has figured out a certain set of things that are necessary in order for him to grow and function in a healthy, life-giving way. For him, they include things like spending time every day reading the Bible, praying, reading quality books, exercising, and having conversations with trusted people. He mentions these rules occasionally and I’ve always meant to think about what my rules of life would be, but alas, there usually isn’t a whole lot of time for deep, introspective thinking around here.

To bring this idea from another angle, I was listening to a podcast recently. I think it was NPR’s TED Radio Hour. One of the guys was saying that he goes to the gym either every day or six days a week. They asked him why this was, and his answer was that if he didn’t say that he went every day, then he wouldn’t go. If going to the gym was a choice he had to make every day, he would often choose not to go. Instead, by making it a rule, he has eliminated the choice. He just goes because that’s what he does.

Back to Gretchen. (We’re obviously best pals so I call her by her first name ;-).) At the beginning of her book, she talks about how habits free us. She explains how making decision after decision is tiring and we eventually lose our resolve after having made so many decisions in a day. By establishing habits, we are freeing ourselves to make fewer and therefore (hopefully) better decisions.

Now that we have survived the first year of three 4 and under (it still feels like survival mode most days, but the fog is beginning to lift), Jonathan and I have been talking about things we would like to change in our lives. Since we know what tendency we both are (Questioner and Obliger), I’ve been trying to figure out which strategies would help. I’m wondering if it would help if we made some rules of life for our family.  For example, “Lewises go outside (or go for a walk) every day.” We have “(adult) Lewises drink coffee every morning” and “(adult) Lewises drink wine at night” nailed down without much effort.

I’d love to hear if you have any rules of life. Maybe you’ve never stated that’s what they are, but are there any things that are a consistent part of your daily life? I’d like to think that some of these things just happen, but it seems few of us naturally do that which is healthiest.



Currently reading: “With:Reimagining the Way You Relate to God” by Skye Jethani

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2016 21:17

    This reminded me of something my sister’s best friend often says. She will say something quirky about herself and finish it with, “and u like that about myself.” For example she might say, I can’t stand whiten socks, and I like that about myself. Usually it’s more unusual things, but it’s part of the turning 30 and embracing who you are. I need to process things in writing and I like that about myself.

    • July 18, 2016 22:19

      This makes me so curious to discover what are my natural rules that I need to embrace and accept and what are the rules I would like to put in place for myself. I love that you process in writing. I want to, but at some point, I got too worried about the finished product and lost the ability to just write and post. That’s one of my new goals.

  2. tracy harper permalink
    July 18, 2016 22:04

    grace. So happy to see you again.. Oh my.

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Jonathan permalink
    July 18, 2016 22:14

    Great read and even better to see you back writing again. Keep’ coming gorgeous.

  4. Stephanie B permalink
    July 19, 2016 00:32

    I always love to read your writing! I usually have a smile on my face or tears in my eyes. Don’t ever question whether or not to write! Thanks for giving me something to think a about and a new book to check out.

    • July 19, 2016 08:57

      And I agree, I love your writing. Maybe my example of publishing typos will set you free. I don’t care about spelling and typos and I like that about myself.
      Now that I think about it, we had some shared rules of life that I loved and that eventually, I will try to resurrect with Zoya, although right now I’m just working on grieving.
      They were things like, the Zolfagharis eat breakfast together on weekends before we go to do anything, even if it makes me late. The Zolfagharis spend at at least a few hours each weekend just hanging out in bed, reading, talking and laughing at Zoya. The Zolfagharis eat fruit and nuts instead of sugar (OK, that one may never be completely resurrected because I snuck chocolate and I like that about myself.)

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