What would your life look like if you didn’t live by any rules?
What would it be like if you moved fluidly from moment to moment instead of planning and scheduling your whole life out in advance?
Does the possibility sound tantalizing or does it sound a little weird, a little wild… perhaps even a little bit dangerous?
The thought of living life without rules always seemed a little dangerous to me.
Without my rules what would I do and who would I be? I didn’t have answers to those questions.
At the same time, I would read about people out there in the world — breaking the rules, doing their own thing, doing it differently. And I would wonder, why can’t I be brave and bold like that?
The answer, of course, was fear.
You see, our brains use certainty to make us feel safe — we mistakenly think that when we finally achieve the moment of absolute certainty that we will have finally achieved our deepest desire.
But it isn’t true.
The more afraid we are, the harder it is to be brave because courage always involves an element of feeling unsafe — and for those of us who are highly sensitive (i.e. me!), doing the brave, bold things that make us feel unsafe can seem impossibly scary and hard.
This doesn’t mean we can’t be brave, those of us who are sensitive, and easily startled, and quiet. It just means that we move through the world differently — and that our courage looks different too: quieter, more inward looking, more slow, more steady, less bold.
Life will never be certain. We’ll always be winging it, and always when we feel certainty beginning to creep in, the tides will turn and something will fall apart.
It’s a simple fact of physics that all systems tend toward chaos and I am convinced that this is no less true of a human life.
The only way to create certainty is to work relentlessly against the tide of the unknown, a levee perpetually threatened by rising waters.
To live like that seems to be exhausting and ultimately unsustainable.
When we pin our hopes of happiness on safety and certainty — we set ourselves up for disappointment.
And yet, I do not think that this means we should despair.
Which is why I’ve begun an experiment in what I have decided to call “lawless living”.
By which I do not mean to suggest we should live illegaly, but rather that in choosing to live “lawlessly” I have chosen to remove the structured rules that used to shape my life.
When I’ve written about this before I’ve called it “cancellation” — the cancellation of all the things I put on my own to-do list.
But with lawlessness I’m taking it deeper — beyond the level of things and tasks and to-dos — all the way down to the level of identity.
Because here’s the ultimate truth: there aren’t any rules to live by.
There are only the rules you create for yourself: the behaviors and patterns you cling to because you think that they make you a “good person” or keep you safe or make you of service to others, or [insert your reason here].
And often it is those exact same rules that keep us feeling stuck and miserable and uncertain of what we really need to do.
Because the opposite of a “good person”? It isn’t a bad one. The opposite of always trying to be good is showing up as someone who is more authentically you.
It’s about finding your natural rhythm — the ebb and flow of tasks and to-dos and emotions and choices that you naturally return to when you free yourself of rules and return yourself to you.
It’s about living a life that’s less “good” and more you — because that is kind of the secret to everything:
It’s all already there — locked up inside of you.
P.S. If you’d like to read more about finding your natural rhythm, check out this post from Martha Beck which landed in my email inbox recently
P.P.S If you think living lawlessly sounds brilliant but scary and you’d love some support in exploring what lawless living might look like for you, I invite you to work with me as one of my private coaching clients!