Reject rigid rules
Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not talking about breaking the law. I do however think it is important to reject rigid rules when it comes to your subjective world. In Cognitive Behavioural therapy, we talk about unhelpful thinking styles (also known as cognitive distortions) and one of these is black and white thinking – also known as rigid rules.
Rigid thinking styles limit you in life – they narrow your focus and make you judgemental. The more rigid your thinking is, the more rules you tend to live by. The inevitable result is that the more rules you have for life, the more often they will be broken.
Some common rigid rules:
People must always like me
I am only worthy if I am in a relationship
I am only good enough if I have lots of money
People must see me as successful
Life should always go smoothly
I should not have to experience any set backs
It’s my parent’s fault
I should cope all the time
Showing emotion is a sign of weakness
The above examples lead to anxiety and stress as we try to live according to them and find they are constantly being challenged. The key to contentment is psychological flexibility. Learn to go with the flow more. Open up your thinking and look for other ways to look at your life and your attitudes. The easier you find it to adapt your thinking and reject rigid rules, the happier you will be for it.
Life won’t always go as planned (in fact it rarely does). You will find that acceptance rather than resistance works much better. Rigidly trying to make the outside world conform to your rules is a waste of energy and won’t ultimately work. Know your values of course but live with an open mind. Be curious…you may learn far more than if you stick doggedly to your rigid rules.