To further explore the Identify, Examine, and Reflect parts of How to unlock rules that don’t serve you, let’s play with one that just came up in my life:
Construct: It’s bad to use something up (wearing out something with electronics counts as ‘using it up’ if we perceive it as having a total number of ‘uses’ (power cycles, lifespan)). It’s bad to ‘waste’ (and a moral virtue not to). Examples:
- Using the garage door opener to open the garage when it wasn’t ‘necessary’ (opening the door must be ‘worth it’ and ‘justified’ compared to using the man-door).
- Turning on the tv for short time ( has to be for a ‘worthwhile’ period of time).
- Turning on the car for just a moment.
- Any other waste/conservation/ ‘using something up’ behavior that you’ve noticed causes burden/exhaustion in your life, or conflict with others. I would suppose using the fine China for ‘unwarranted’ meals, or wearing the fancy outfit for ‘unwarranted’ occasions may align with this construct (?)
After having a conversation with a friend, I saw a restrictive thought pattern that resonated in me as well. Someone’s garage door opener died, and instead of seeing this as an independent fact (it was twenty years old, after all), his beliefs triggered judgement on the someone instead. That this someone could and should have done something differently to have it last longer. In his mind, it was labeled as ‘wrong’, for this someone to open their garage door so often, when they didn’t ‘need’ to, thus causing it to wear out – I realized I used to operate under the same constructs (and I still do, but they are much quieter whispers now, far easier to ignore under more circumstances). I spoke with hubby about this, and we reminisced over the extreme that I used to demonstrate this construct. It caused strife and conflict in our relationship, for sure, since I had one belief, and he had another – except my belief caused me to judge him as ‘wasteful’ and try to control his behavior to match MY beliefs. I ‘had’ to do this, of course, because it felt like a moral virtue – I was looking out for him.
However, over time (and repetition and intent) I have gradually come to see these things from a different perspective. It has been better for my personal well-being and also better for my relationships.
After all, things are things. They were born with a purpose.
They were ‘meant’ to fulfill that purpose. We buy things all the time to make the experience of our *lives* better – the present moment. Things are *meant* to be used. And *meant* to be “used up”. Trying to make and *conserve* things to last ‘forever’ :
1) is a scarcity mindset (I can buy new things, and I don’t need to anticipate that things will wear out – if I looked for it, I could find lots of examples of when things exceed my expectations and last a really long time (sometimes, far too long, in the case that I’ve ‘outgrown’ them or they are not a good match for me anymore (e.g. they no longer resonate with me or ‘light me up’)).
2) obsessed with the future, too focused on ‘time’ (the present moment is independent of the fact that this was one of the hundred uses allotted of a product and thus in five years I’ll have to buy a new one (instead of four years and ten months)).
3) discounts all the small ways we can embrace the present moment for our enjoyment (they may be small contributors, but overall, they do add up. In the case of the garage door, “open” is a good feeling – open air, open views. Just “open”. It is simple as that, and as unscientific as that. But it’s true (for the people it is true for)).
4) causes conflict with others, because we don’t allow them to be them. We don’t have all the answers, despite perhaps, having a parent believing that they did. There is no right and wrong for most of life (at least 80% I’d guess 😉 ). If we (our behaviors/judgements) are at the tail end of a bell curve, the outliers, and “everybody else” lives without such rigid worries of wearing that thing out … then at some point it must make us question the possibility that *we* are the ones that need to change (or, at the very least, if anything, we are the ones that deserve the judgement and education to ‘a better way’ rather than the other way around)). Nobody likes to be constantly judged, constantly feeling that the way they see things is ‘wrong’ ( I know I sure didn’t enjoy being raised that way, and I know my husband really didn’t appreciate being treated that way early on). It is not our job to educate others – it is their choice how they want to live. Always. Especially if we are “sharing” the same concept over and over – if it was right for them at the time, they’d adopt it, the reason they aren’t is because it isn’t. So it’s our job to let it go.
- By the way, trying to control others is personally exhausting. Just trying to challenge that feeling alone (even if you don’t want to relax your personal perspective for yourself) can be immensely valuable. It is not your job to ‘educate’ others. The most important thing we can do for the people we care about is to let them be *them*and let them figure out their own path. Our job is only our own path. We can lead by example, sure, and *if* something *is* right for them, then they can choose to start moving towards it if they wish.
- Truly *accepting* that it’s not our job to ‘improve’ other people actually reduces the frustration that we feel internally. The constant frustration we have with other people’s standards and the way that they choose to live/act/be has to do with *our* expectations and *not* actually on the external circumstances. I know it *feels* like it’s that ‘thing’ that is not right, that can’t be accepted, that is just ‘wrong’ – but it’s not. That external circumstance is just details. It, in and of itself, simply is. There is no absolute cosmic scale of moral virtue upon which to even judge it. All of that judgment happens within ourselves. The frustration we feel is because we are consumed with focusing on the difference between where we *think* people should behave and where they *actually* behave. There are two ways to resolve this 1. Change how people behave (how’s that workin’ out? Effective? Definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different response.) Or, 2. Change our expectation. If we can admit that it seems ‘most’ people aren’t [X] as much as us – then, if that is true, then it’s obvious in a way that it is our expectation that is wrong and needs to change.
All of these things are the ‘costs’ to the belief in this virtue and the belief at an extreme extent (extremes based on the bell curve of ‘normal’). These costs all lead to increased internal chatter/constant thinking/constant vigilance/stress/frustration.
If ‘everybody’ else wouldn’t be worrying about a certain thing (e.g. would take an action without a thought of why it might be wrong) – wouldn’t that normally make us at least question if they must be right? We certainly do that for some things in life – defer to mass opinion. Yet, on some of these constructs that we’ve internalized, we don’t allow that questioning – we rigidly hold firm at all costs. Or more precisely, we hold firm on ONE cost. ONE measure (the absoluteness of the external ‘thing’) while blindly discounting all the other costs to our well-being, enjoyment, and relationships.
We buy things TO use them. That is what they are there for – yet, with this mindset as soon as we get them, we start conserving them, wanting that purchase to last ‘forever’. As long as the use serves us Now in some way, even if it’s small (like wanting a nice, open space for a bit, or wanting the tv on for a bit) then it CAN be absolutely worth it and absolutely in the spirit of the very reason we bought it. To support our present moment of living.