guidelines for lifeOften when I fall in love with a movie, it starts with a single line that hits home.

For instance, let’s take the original “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. I know there have been like a zillion new ones since the original, but I am still stuck on the first one. It is because of “the guidelines” (otherwise known as the “Pirate’s Code”). When Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) invokes the rule of parlay and is told only after being imprisoned aboard the Black Pearl that the Code is not a rule, per se, but more like a set of guidelines, I was hooked.

I see this as how all of life is – or at least how it is in my life. I try to make rules. “I will never do this.” “I will always do that.” “This is the most important goal in my life.” “I will not put up with that any more in my life.” And then I do….or I don’t. What feels absolutely wrong one day, or in one moment or situation, might be absolutely the right choice for another. It has taken me a long, long, LONG time to figure out that this is how my life works.

In the previous post, “Setting a New Year’s Vision“, I talked about how my life coach taught me to set an overarching life vision, and then work with each aspect of my life (career, relationships, health, free time, etc) to enhance that life vision quality in each area. My overarching life vision is to live a life full of peace and contentment. So here, I have discovered that I can’t set down a list of rules – of do’s and don’t’s – to govern how I am going to achieve that peace and contentment.

This is because peace and contentment don’t respond to marshal law. Neither does joy, for that matter, which I have often found to be a natural by-product of both. Living a peaceful, contented life is an inside job, and the amount of peace or contentment I uncover and enhance on any given day may have little to do with what that day brings me. For instance, if I get bad news, or something doesn’t go the way I want it to, that could wreck my peace….if I let it. I could also choose to adopt the viewpoint that whatever is happening might be for the good I can’t yet perceive. Or I could simply take it in stride, as that day’s happenings, but certainly not indicative of what tomorrow or any other day may bring. In the same way, if the day delivers a delightful surprise, it might be very easy for me to feel contented, but that doesn’t mean the contentment I feel is deep enough to put down any roots.

So today, I look at all of life, at my goals and my vision for how I want to live, at my relationships with others and myself and at every element of my life as not a series of hard and fast rules, but rather as a set of flexible overarching guidelines. This allows me to “roll with the punches” by focusing on a deeper, much more vast intention of cultivating peace and contentment in a diverse set of scenarios, rather than getting too wrapped up in any one scenario as it unfolds.

This is extremely helpful for me, and is a big part of bringing a New Year’s Vision into reality. I hope you find it helpful too and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Today’s Takeaway: Are you a “Pirates of the Caribbean” fan like I am? Do you find rules to be helpful in your life, or do you prefer guidelines? If you have been living by a set of rules and it isn’t working as well as you would like, would adopting a looser approach with guidelines perhaps bring you the result you are looking for?

Crows’ nest image available from Shutterstock