Sometimes I find myself obeying rules no one ever told me or that don’t make sense anymore. For example: blazers. I gave up on blazers as corporate apparel and threw all mine away when I got my own business. But then Amazon had this killer blazer and I was all, “Why can’t I wear blazers, again?”. Oh, BECAUSE I’M AWESOME AND MADE UP A RULE THAT I’VE ARBITRARILY FOLLOWED FOR YEARS. In big things and in little things, we follow rules. We forget that big rules (like not murdering people) matter, but often small rules (like how and when to e-mail people) are self-imposed and entirely optional.
Here are a few helpful reminders to help you rid your life of self-imposed rules (and embrace your inner blazer-wearer).
You don’t have to watch the news. The news hurts me physically, as I’m an empath, and so watching people suffer or respond to suffering or talk about others’ responses to suffering causes ME suffering. It’s a waste of feels. I’ve chosen my causes, I’m helping them as much as I possibly can, and my watching a reporter outline the details of another shooting in Philadelphia does absolutely no one any good. Doesn’t mean you can’t stay informed with a print newspaper, a few select websites, and a magazine or seven! Just means sitting down to watch another THE THINGS IN YOUR REFRIGERATOR THAT WILL PROBABLY KILL YOU BY MIDNIGHT alert won’t help your mental health.
You don’t have to respond to every e-mail you receive. An answered e-mail typically leads to another answered e-mail, and back and forth and back and forth until OH DEAR GOD MAKE IT STOP. If a vendor has clearly copied and pasted my name into a form e-mail that’s of no interest to me and/or refers to me as ‘Kristin,’ ‘Business owner,’ or ‘Valued customer,’ I delete the e-mail. No awkward response required. Same goes if a client sends a bunch of e-mails in a row: I answer once every 24 hours. Because boundaries. Most emergencies either work themselves out or really aren’t emergencies in the first place.
You don’t have to be on any social media platform you don’t enjoy. I quit Twitter years ago. I quit Pinterest a few months ago. I quit Facebook and left over 9,000 followers behind.
It was sucking me into the perfection porn hole, in which I wish for a better or brighter or shinier life instead of living the one I have right now. Go on, quit a platform. Quit two, quit three, quit ’em all if you want. You’ll have to find other ways to feed your business if it currently relies on them, so you might want to make the transition slowly, but there’s no need to take part in a platform you despise.
You don’t have to join Periscope or the latest, greatest social platform that promises untold riches with only a few minutes’ investment per day. HOLY SHIT, you don’t. It’s all the buzz right now, and people are trying to sell you courses and webinars and classes about how to use it, but when I sat down with both a past and a present client to honestly assess a time in which we would use or open Periscope as consumers, we couldn’t think of one. I’m not on Periscope. I despise video. DESPISE. Why in the fuck would I want to join a platform based on live video?
You don’t have to go to that event. Really, you don’t. That networking thing or that party you’re invited to or that open house you’re dreading? Don’t fucking go. Use that time to fill your own well however you see fit (read: Netflix and chill), but don’t let obligation drag you to shit you hate.
You don’t have to follow a formula for your business or your life — though you’ll probably need the three threads. My Mom shakes her head every time she sees me, begging me to go back to ‘normal’ hair. When she does this, I threaten to make it rainbow — a variation she hates even more than pink — and she sighs quietly. She doesn’t understand why I don’t go to Mass every Sunday, why I swear, why people pay me for services when CLEARLY I DON’T OWN ENOUGH PROFESSIONAL CLOTHING, or how I can sell books on the internet. Or how I can sell anything on the internet, truth be told. My life is a mystery to her. But it’s my life.
Your life requires explanation to absolutely no one.
So your Mom disapproves of your child-rearing techniques or sighs every time you mention your job. So what? It’s your freaking life. Same goes for those old ladies at the diner who can’t stand your glittery choices and your partner who doesn’t understand why you aren’t just doing X to make more money instead of doing the thing you’re doing, or the colleagues who look at you funny when you tell them you deleted fucking Periscope from your fucking phone and no, you won’t download it right now just to see this one funny video they watched this morning.
Your life. Is your life.
You don’t have to listen to any one individual’s voices, opinions, thoughts, or convictions. This thing you’re doing — where you listen to me? — it’s optional. If my words make you want to stab your eyes out or poke kittens with knives or murder baby seals, stop listening.
It’s your job to curate your life.
You choose what you let in.
You choose your influences.
You choose your mentors, your icons, and your gurus.
You don’t have to trust people simply because they seem to be more successful than you. Success is a moving target that we all define differently.
You don’t have to listen to her just because she’s made millions.
You don’t have to listen to him just because he seems smart.
You don’t have to listen to them because they couch their message in vague spiritual terms that you feel bad calling ‘bullshit’ on.
Choose the voices you let into your life consciously, and with great care.
You don’t have to stay in the Facebook groups. They’re full of strangers who are throwing energy around like so much gloppy, wet sand. It’s messy, it gets everywhere, and you have no real control of it. You don’t have to stay in any group, even if you paid to be a part of it. (KonMari that shit.) You don’t have to subject yourself to people who make your stomach turn or who make you roll your eyes.
Hold steady boundaries that keep the people you don’t like, enjoy, or value out of your life.
You don’t have to hold onto clients you can’t stand. You’re well within your rights to fire clients. To treat some better than others because frankly, you like them better. To lavish some with gifts and to treat others with a level of service that’s nice but not extravagant. You’re human. You connect more with some humans than others. This is normal. You can let go of the clients who drive you crazy. It makes room for clients who aren’t nutjobs to make their way into your life.
You don’t have to put cash in the driver’s seat. I know, you own a business, so the default is to put cash front and center, only cash makes a piss-poor navigator. Cash doesn’t care about what your heart wants, or how your soul aches, or how making that thing involves no joy and maaaaybe a few grand? Cash drives you to allegedly safe, stable choices that provide no fuel for your soul.
When you let your business unfold as an expression of your talents, as a measure of faith in the future, and as an exclamation point to show off what you stand for, shit changes. You go all in.
You find ways to make magic happen. You meet clients you adore, instead of clients who simply exchange money for services. You make connections with your fellow humans that simply aren’t possible when you view them as a transaction on the way to your 6 or 7-figure earnings goals.
You don’t have to give cash the final say. That tiny voice within you that whispers about what you love, what you want, and how you want your life to unfold deserves a listen. Spend some time with that voice. Ask it what to get rid of, and who to get rid of, and how to get rid of it. Ask that voice to show you the next thing, to lead you to the next person, and to help you see the next step.
Now go: unfollow. Unsubscribe. Quit. Ignore.
Make space for more good in your life.
P.S. This was a podcast episode called ‘You’re Not the Boss of Me.’ Here are more podcast episodes. (Or you can also Fuck the Plan.)