One of our greatest sources of pain in life is when our expectations aren’t met. Surprisingly, we can control this if we know how to figure out our expectations and the expectations of others.
We all have rules for things, whether we know them or not. If you know your rules, you can find ways to speed up your success or change what’s not working for you.
When You Don’t Know the Rules, You Can’t Win
When you don’t know your rules, you might be doing all the right things, but then feel unsuccessful inside because you have unrealistic expectations. When you don’t know other people’s rules you might create conflict because you violate their rules.
Let’s figure out how to find out our own rules and other people’s rules to improve our effectiveness.
Figuring Out Your Rules
The simplest way I know to dump your rules out on the table is to ask a question. For example, to figure out our rules for success, we would ask ourselves, “In order to be successful at XYZ, I need to …?” To figure out our rules for what we need to feel loved, we would ask ourselves, “In order to feel loved, I need to …?
Here is an example of me exploring my rules of what it takes to be successful at Microsoft:
- I can’t fail at the basics (administration, email, etc.)
- I need to deliver amazing value (patents, game changing ideas, etc.)
- I need to make world-class impact – internally and externally (books that change the world, etc.)
- I need to live the MS values at work: integrity, honesty, openness, personal excellence, constructive self-criticism, continual self-improvement, and mutual respect.
- I need to know the system and leverage it.
- I need to know the network and have the right people.
- I need to have the reputation for getting results and making things happen.
- I need to go up a level at least every two years .
Don’t critique your rules. Just dump them. You first need to get your list of rules down on paper so you can explore what’s working for you and what’s not. Once you have your rules listed out, then you can start to analyze and evaluate them. Using this simple technique, you can dump your rules for any area of your life.
Your Rules Can Make or Break Your Personal Satisfaction
Some of your rules might surprise you. It’s very likely that you have some rules that make it impossible to be successful. You could be the prettiest girl in the world, but feel unattractive because you don’t match your own rules.
If you define your success based on external things beyond your control or if you set unrealistic expectations, this is where you can create your own pain, instead of creating your own pleasure or satisfaction.
MUST vs. SHOULD Rules
This is a distinction that separates bad, good, and great results. As you dump rules, get clarity on whether they are “MUST” or just “SHOULD.” For example, if you ask yourself, in order to be healthy, ….,” and you respond with ….
- I SHOULD exercise.
- I SHOULD eat right.
Well, that’s pretty lame and it’s not going to change your life. To show you the difference, let’s contrast with what we might see if we ask an athlete. They might respond with …
- I MUST workout 4 days a week with suffucient rest between workouts.
- I MUST eat the proper ratio of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates for my current condition.
- I MUST limit my starchy carbohydrates to XYZ per day.
- I MUST eat 5 small meals per day to maintain my blood sugar levels.
- I MUST eat foods that are high in nutritional density.
To get great results in areas of our life usually means getting more specific rules and turning SHOULDs into MUSTs.
You can have rules conflicts with yourself or others. For example, to feel loved, maybe you need to be told, and maybe you need to be told everyday, but your partner thinks actions speak louder than words. You can imagine the disconnect. In another example, let’s say you think that to do a good job you need to work 12 hours a day, but your boss doesn’t care how much time you spend, just the results. When you know the rules, you can better match them or change them, and improve your effectiveness.
Explore your own rules … Ask yourself, “In order for you to be successful, I need to …?” Explore your boss’s rules … Ask your boss, “In order for you to be successful, I need to …?” Explore your kid’s rules … Ask your kid, “In order to be a great Mom, a great Mom needs to ….?” … “In order to be a great Dad, a great Dad needs to …” Expect yourself to be surprised by yourself and others.
Photo by austinevan.