Last Updated on November 13, 2023

Personal growth is not about following more rules.

Rules are the “have to’s” and “can’t’s” in our language.

“I have to get everything right.”

“I have to get all the things done on my to-do list.”

“I can’t make any mistakes.”

And so on.

In NLP we call these “modal operators.”

There are modes of operating where we create needless stress, for ourselves and others.

All these rules and expectations for how things “have to” and “can’t” be just make us miserable.

When you don’t have to be any particular way, then you are free to choose.

Rules for Relating

I’ve been happily married for over a decade now.

On social media I see a lot of bad dating advice.

Much of it involves rules, what men “have to” do or women “can’t” do.

Now it’s fine if you have preferences.

What’s silly is having these unspoken rules and expecting your partner to guess them, or else they will be punished!

No two people have the same rules for how things “have to” be.

And having lots and lots of rules for someone feels confining.

We all want the freedom to say “no” and “yes,” to have autonomy and choice.

No one wants to be forced to do anything.

And ultimately, we can’t force another person to love us.

Relaxing the Rules

I think personal and spiritual growth is about releasing those needless rules.

When we do so, we enter into a state of Beingness or OKness.

That’s an experience where nothing needs to happen to be OK.

And you also can make choices.

Because you can see infinite possibilities, and you are free to say “yes” or “no,” now you can finally make a choice.

Often in life we “choose” based on what we feel like we “have to” do or “can’t” do.

We pursue careers, partners, and goals based on other people’s rules, or the rules we have set for ourselves.

When we really feel like we “don’t have to” do anything in particular and we “can” choose what is best for us, then we can make better choices.

Your Innate Goodness

All needless rules and rigidity is an attempt to keep us safe.

We don’t trust our nature is good.

We don’t trust that deep down, we would make the right choice.

So we create rules to restrict our choices.

But it is the needless rules and rigidity itself which creates the addictions and bad habits and negative harmful behaviors and so on.

Bad habits are often a rebellion from an inner authority, from needless rules.

“Oh you’re telling me I can’t do that? Well watch me!”

Rebellion becomes it’s own “have to.”

“I have to rebel against the rules in order to feel free.”

Punishing rule breaking therefore is part of the system which maintains the problem.

Similarly, shame tends to reinforce the problem.

Shame is the feeling of “not good enough” or being a bad person.

In other words, the message of shame is we “have to” be a certain way in order to be good, and we “can’t” do certain things and still be good.

If we really relax the “have to’s,” we find peace.

If we really relax the “can’t’s,” we find boundless optimism.

Then we are truly free.

And what we discover is that our deep inner nature is peace, love, and kindness.

Until next time,