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[Short] Why it’s important to break the rules

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I went shopping with my 2 year old daughter the other day. The supermarket had the little child-sized trolleys which she loves, so we got her one of those.

We go through the one-way security sliding doors, and once we get inside we realize her trolley is a little bit broken. It’s basically okay, but the front wheel is stuck and it makes it hard for her to push it, which would ruin the fun for her.

She really wanted another one. But to go get another one, we’d have to go back through the one-way doors. We would have to wait for someone to let us through from the other side and we’d have to risk looking like we were shoplifting.

We would have to do something “wrong”.

Strangely, I found a hesitancy come up in me. It was just a little one of, a small thought of “maybe we’ll just stick with this trolley”.

Small as it was, I felt it physically hold me back. All sorts of stories about how unimportant the trolley functioning was etc. started to play in my mind.

And that’s the rule conditioning that most of us have. We’ve all been raised to be wary of potential rule-breaking, to guess and anticipate what the rules might be in any context, especially unfamiliar ones. We’re always so cautious to avoid being seen as “bad” or “wrong”.

Especially us Nice Guys. We’re well trained to feel resistant to breaking these arbitrary rules, even when we’re sure that we’re not doing anything wrong. In fact, we spend much of the day subconsciously calculating the rules and adjusting our behaviour to fit them.

After my brief hesitation, I saw the situation for what it really was. We went and got another trolley.

And no, I didn’t end up in prison, and no one punched me in the face or banned me from the supermarket. If anyone judged or hated us for it, I wasn’t aware or affected. Little Chloe had tonnes of fun helping me shop.

As per usual when it comes to being a bit uncomfortably assertive, nothing bad actually happened.

I’m glad that we went back and got the other trolley because for me, psychologically, it was important to break that rule. If I’d backed down, I would have validated a restrictive reality that doesn’t exist.

Keep an eye out for those rules and break them when you can because they absolutely hold you back, more than you could possibly imagine.


If you find yourself constantly limited by imaginary rules, check out my Nice Guy Recovery & Social Confidence Building course

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