Are the Rules You’re Living by the Right Rules?

Have you ever taken the time to write out the guiding rules that govern your life (or that you’d like to govern your life)? And if you have, have you ever shared them with your people?

As the leader of your business (whether you have zero employees or a thousand is irrelevant), who you are drives your business. As you’ve heard me say before, “As the leader of your business, you are both the high water mark and the bottleneck.” Which means that, if you want to grow your business, you have to grow you first.

For example, if you’re a plodder who likes consensus chances are your entire business is slow to implement. You may be frustrated that others don’e execute fast, but the reality is they’re simply following your example. The way to change that is to change the rule you live by from “I will wait until everyone is on board before I make a decision” to “I will model for my people quick decision-making and execution.”

My guess is that you can quickly see how those two different rules lead to two very different outcomes. One leads to a slow growth or plateaued company, the other to a fast growth company.

In other words, we all have rules that we live by. Whether you’ve formally written them down or not is irrelevant. The way you lead your life (and your business) is driven by a set of rules you have in your head. Which means that some of the rules are positive (leading to the kinds of results you like) and others are rules that need to be changed (because they produce results you don’t like).

So, here’s what I’d suggest (and I’ll share mine with you in the P.S. below). Take out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left-hand side, write down the rules you live by that are positive or that you want to affirm. And on the right side, write down the rules you want to change.

1. Rules You Want to Affirm

For example, if you’re successful, then chances are you know that persistence matters. You can probably think through several situations where you know that most people would have given up but you didn’t. And because you didn’t, you succeeded. So one of the rules you’ve lived by that is essential to your success is something like, “I will persist at what I’m doing until I succeed.”

One of the rules I live by is, “I will learn something new every day so I continually multiply my value.” Anyone who’s ever worked with me or known me knows that I’m absolutely passionate about learning. I’m incurably curious by nature, but I also know that if I want to grow my business, I have to grow me first. So, when I created my list, I made sure this rule/value was on my list. I wanted to affirm it daily.

If you’re a religious person (Note: I’m not proselytizing here) my recommendation would be that you live your life congruent with that (whatever your faith-orientation). So you may want to affirm something like this each day (Note: adjust to your spiritual heritage), “I will honor God in all my actions and pray for his guidance throughout the day.” If you’re not religious, no biggie, this rule wouldn’t be on your list. I’m just suggesting ideas for rules someone might want to live by every day.

If you’re an excellence junkie like me, then another rule you may want to affirm would be something like this, “I will make sure that everything I work on has a seal of excellence upon it.”

Now, as you’ve hopefully noticed, when you’re writing up your rules, you want to put them in the future tense, as in,  “I will …” and they should be focused on what will guide your behavior today (and everyday).

2. Rules You Want to Live By

While the first part was encouraging, most of us know that there are a lot of things in our lives that aren’t what we’d like them to be. In that case, one of the ways to change them is to take a current negative rule and turn it into a positive rule for the future.

For example, I frequently find myself writing down tasks that I want to accomplish on a specific day—and then I don’t do them. I wrote them down because I wanted to get them done that day, but I didn’t. So what gives? Well, if I’m honest, it’s because (and I hate to admit this), I ended up choosing to do what I felt like doing at the time, not what I had decided ahead of time to do. I know, embarrassing!

So, when I recently rewrote my “Rules to Live By” I decided to add one that states, “I will act my way into feeling, rather than feel my way into acting.” In other words, I had a problem that was governed by a bad rule (I will do what I feel like doing when I feel like doing it) and it needed to be changed. Now I never wrote down this bad rule. But, if I’m honest, it was the rule I was living by—even though most people who know me think I live a very self-disciplined life—I know better—which is why I created the new rule above.

You can do the same. If you know there’s something in you that holds you back, be honest about it. For example, if you know that you’re a terrible vision-caster and morale builder, then you can create a new rule to guide your life. Maybe you might want to write-up a rule like this, “I will breathe life into the people I work with by dripping vision into every conversation and communication I have with them.”

Now, if you’re wondering where all the payoff is for this, here it is. First, for you. Actually taking the time to write out your rules will probably be an eye-opening experience. Secondly, you’ll move from being more reactionary to being more intentional about the person you want to become. And thirdly, by reading your list every day (I highly recommend each morning), you’ll be able to speed up the process of changing you. And, by definition, the faster your change, the faster your business can grow.

Note: If you’re following the logic of my argument, then you should know by now that this is not a frivolous exercise. The longer you remain stuck, the longer your business remains stuck.

Furthermore, if you have employees, I would highly encourage you to share your list with them as soon as you feel comfortable to do so. Why? Because you’ll be clearly communicating to them what matters to you and you’ll be modeling for them a great process for their own lives. And, similar to you, the better they are, the better your business will be.

So, what are the rules you live by (or should live by)? Make sure you make your list ASAP and review it daily because if you will, it’ll change  you and your business for years to come!

To your accelerated success!

P.S. As promised, here’s my list. There is no perfect list so don’t try to create one. Just get started and add and delete as time goes on. I change mine frequently (remember, some of these are for issues you want to change in your life). So, as of today, February 22, 2012, this is my list. Hopefully it’ll help you get started.

  1. I will honor God in all my actions and pray for his guidance throughout the day
  2. I will love, honor, encourage, and be there for my wife and daughters
  3. I will think big and not small
  4. I will act my way into feeling, rather feel my way into acting
  5. I will eat healthy and get some form of exercise this day
  6. I will persist at what I’m doing until I succeed
  7. I will be in control of my emotions, decisions, actions and thoughts—and will not give the power of these over to anyone else
  8. I will learn something new this day so I continually multiply my value
  9. I will create some form of content that can help add value to someone else’s life
  10. I will focus my time and energy on big and important tasks that move the needle, not menial ones
  11. I will execute with speed and excellence—and not waste my time needlessly debating, planning or reviewing decisions I’ve already made
  12. I will be kind and generous to everyone with whom I interact and add value to their life
  13. I will not waste my life watching TV, reading information on the internet or processing email
  14. I will not waste a minute worrying about something that happened in the past. It’s over
  15. I will give my full attention and effort to whatever I’m engaged in doing at that moment
  16. I will live at peace with all men, as far as it depends upon me

Let me know how this exercise goes for you!

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