I am reading a great book right now called, “The Creative Act: A Way of Being” by Rick Rubin. One of the chapters is about rules, and how they apply (or don’t) to the creative process. I happen to like concise rules, systems, outlines, and other such things. I want a plan, and I need to know how that plan will be executed. Yet I’ve also realized that such things can hamper us if we put so much weight on them that we can’t see other options.
Of the most innovative projects that humans have created, most of them came from people who could see beyond the limiting constraints and rules that we often adopt unconsciously. Smart phones, fantasy literature, Google, space shuttles…were all invented by people who saw beyond rules. One example of an unconscious rule for me came from my 9th grade civics teacher who wouldn’t give us any credit for papers if we didn’t measure our margins with a ruler and stay perfectly within them. That rule stuck with me most of my life, until I took a writing class and the author/teacher said, “Look how much paper we waste in our personal journals by sticking to margins. Use the whole sheet of paper! Margins aren’t necessary for what we are doing.” How many rules like that do we include in our everyday decision making that we aren’t aware of?
Another example is that often when I am about to start something new, I believe I can’t start until I obtain all of the necessary items, such as a new pull-up bar for a workout or a specific color ink for a writing project. I also get stuck on the idea that the best day to start something is Monday, or the first of the month. I like the idea of a plan so much that I sometimes put so much time into planning that I never actually get started! The truth is, the best time to start is right now with what you already have to work with.
My favorite quote from the book so far:
“All kinds of assumptions masquerade as rules: a suggestion from a self-help book, something heard in an interview, your favorite artist’s best tip, or something a teacher once told you. Rules direct us to average behaviors. If we’re aiming to create something exceptional, most rules don’t apply. Average is nothing to aspire to. The goal is not to fit in. If anything, it’s to amplify the differences, what doesn’t fit, the special characteristics unique to how you see the world.”
While the book is about the creative process, I think it applies to so much more. I grew up believing that creativity was specific to drawing, painting, knitting and other forms of arts and crafts. But creativity extends to all areas of life, including how we take care of ourselves. There is creativity in our workouts, our meals, our stress relief, and in the ways we spend time with others. Perhaps in those areas specifically, we are often guilty of following someone else’s rules when we should be using our own unique perspectives and experiences.
Innovation is what drew me to wild gym. I was a customer first. They were doing something different and I found it exciting. It got me thinking outside the box about my fitness beliefs – expanding my imagination of what was possible, in fact.
We are led to believe that without rules, life would descend into chaos. Some rules are necessary, but there is freedom in breaking some of them, too. The idea of breaking a rule is so heavily linked to negative consequences that many of us would never consider it. Yet many of the rules we live by are things we don’t ever remember agreeing to. Every expert claims there are right and wrong ways to eat, to do cardio,or to do strength training. Most problems have many potential solutions, and many paths to each different solution. The amount of information we are exposed to makes it hard to even know where to start. Person A offers convincing information on why you should only eat meat. Person B offers convincing information on why you should never eat meat. Person C tells you that all you need is a daily shake, and they also appear to have convincing evidence! So who do you believe?
Trust your unique way of being in the world and follow that. Break the rules once in a while. If your gym teacher told you 40 years ago that running would ruin your body, you don’t have to believe it. If someone told you not to eat dairy but you love it and feel good when you eat it, then go for it! If you were told that yoga doesn’t count as a workout, that doesn’t make it true. Some rules might be reasonable for some people. It doesn’t make them reasonable for you, and you don’t need anyone else’s permission to break them. Live your life on your own wild terms.
Within our monkii and Momentum apps, we give recommendations for gear, weight, reps and sets. They are not rules. Do what works for you! If you feel like 30 reps is too much, then do 20. If you are wanting more after 3 sets, add a couple more! If you have a 20-pound resistance band but not a 25-pound one, then use the 20. You don’t need to run to the store to buy another band. If you know you are doing a hard hike later in the day you can lighten the load or do just one set as an appetizer. You don’t owe anyone else – including Dan or I – to live by their rules. Even if you’ve made up rules on your own, you can – and should – consider breaking a few of them.
There are, of course, many benefits to having a plan. I’m not suggesting you throw plans out the window! But perhaps consider whether, within the details of your plan, you have some room to get loose with rules that you’ve adopted but don’t remember when or why. Often we assume a rule exists because it’s true, but that is definitely not always the case. A film doesn’t have to be 90 minutes. A book doesn’t have to be 300 pages long (in fact I’d argue that a lot of books simply repeat the same information over and over in an attempt to get to a certain page number). And your workout doesn’t have to be 3 sets of 10 reps, even if that’s what you did for the last 10 years because a trainer once told you to.
I encourage you to consider all the ways that rules impact your life and see if you can’t find a few to break. Drink 6 cups of water instead of 8. Sleep 9 hours instead of 8. Carry weights in your backpack when you go grocery shopping. Walk barefoot somewhere other than the beach. Write outside the margins. I’ve mentioned more than a few times how much I rely on little rituals and tools to make sure I get everything done in a day. I also want the freedom that comes with finding a new way to do or look at something. Life is always a balance. Rules are needed. Plans are good. But sometimes we need to explore what lives outside of them, too.
Break a rule this weekend!