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Exceptions Break The Rule

By Ronnie Nijmeh

The golden rule isn't: "Treat others as you want to be treated... unless they tick you off."

Nor does the commandment "Thou shalt not steal" come with restrictions or blackout periods. It's a rule - a very powerful rule - that should be followed in all circumstances. Any exception would break the rule completely.

What's the point of a rule, goal, or plan if you don't follow it?

If you're not willing to follow a plan, idea, or goal straight through, then don't bother pretending. You're only setting yourself up for disappointment. You'll be creating exceptions and restrictions that serve the purpose of making temptations easier to serve.

For the Diet Seekers...

Let me put it another way. Let's say you're following a strict diet where you can eat certain foods but abstain from desserts and sweets. And let's also say that if you were to follow the diet unequivocally, you'd lose the desired amount of weight. So why do you create excuses when that mouthwatering piece of chocolate cake comes within eyesight?

"Just this little piece won't hurt," you might say. While it may be a "little piece," it'll certainly expose your weakness. And that's the worst kind of pain -- the kind that doesn't hurt you physically, but spreads like wildfire. It's called a lack of discipline. If you don't have the willpower or perseverance, how can you call yourself a success story?

I mean, this "strict diet" has suddenly become a "lax diet where you can make spontaneous decisions on rule changes."

The people you see lose dozens of pounds had to work for it. They disciplined themselves, and believed in the power of themselves. They are the true success stories!

For the Business Builders...

Let's say you've set a goal to start your own business. The plan is to use as much free time as possible to refine your idea and get the wheels turning. Oh, but wait, your favorite TV show is on and you sure are feeling mighty exhausted from a hard day's work (at the day job you despise with utmost passion).

"Tomorrow," you convince yourself. Tomorrow comes, and so does a phone call from a buddy asking you to go to your favorite hangout. Off you go, merrily downing a few with your buddies, chatting more about nothing than about anything of importance. A month later, you're still convinced that your goal is within sight. (Yeah, and the moon's within arms reach. Fat chance.)

Your goal deserves commitment; show it respect.

Beat the Cake. Say No to Distractions. But How?

Now before you dismiss all of this as crazy or unreasonable, I want to mention that temptations will always be strong, distractions ever-present and tasty treats always within grasp. But you have to account ahead of time for these obstacles. Perhaps you can use the "3 Strikes I'm Out" system. You might say: "I will allow myself to have 3 strikes (distractions, treats, temptations, etc.) a month. Not a single one more!"

Or better yet, find ways to discipline yourself when you have challenging temptations. Maybe that means reminding yourself of your overall goal or boiling down the temptation to what it really is.

After all, chocolate cake is just a bunch of heavy carbs loaded with artery clogging fats stuffed with pounds of sugars and oils. Never has an artery clogger tasted so good! The true purpose of this treat is more to test your resolve than resolve your hunger.

And that TV show that you couldn't say "no" to, is an hour of inactivity a week (for a number of months a year) that could have landed you time to test out your idea, bring it to market, or given you financial and personal satisfaction. After all, the purpose of the show is more to numb your mind than to expand it.

On the other hand, people argue that there will always be exceptions to the rule and it's the exceptions that help prove the rule (just think of mathematics or science). Others say that rules are "made to be broken," but we also say that promises are made to be kept. You can't have it both ways!

The Danger of Floating Goals, Plans & Rules

So, what happens when an exception proves a rule false or when a rule is broken? Well, almost unknowingly, a new rule is created in its place and a new precedent set. For example, if a law is changed, the new law is carved out of the old after much deliberation, thought, and majority voting. The old law no longer exists but a new one is born and is used to govern.

But what if you allowed your own personal goals, morals, and plans to change on a dime? No deliberation, thought or majority votes can stop you now. Now all of a sudden, you have shifting rules that accommodate any situation imaginable. How efficient will you be? How satisfied will you be with yourself?

Floating rules are best shown with a childhood example. We were all kids at one point. We played games, and often found ourselves changing the rules on the fly, just so we can win. Forget "3 strikes, you're out," it was more like 4... 5... 6... or however as many as needed for you to hit that proverbial game winning home run.

If floating rules were the standard, when would you know whether you should continue reaching for your goal, or take a detour? When is it acceptable to break the rules or follow them? When does the game have 3 strikes or 6?

Well, we wouldn't know. That's the danger. Discipline, perseverance, and self-management are thrown out of the window.

The Power of Focus & Destinations

Speaking specifically about goals or plans, exceptions may not be the main issue. The problem might stem from the fact that your goal isn't specific enough. Simply saying that you're "going on a diet" or "going to start a business" is up for interpretation. The goal is so generic and has no guidelines. You won't know what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior, so exceptions arise. Why not try something like:

"I want to lose X pounds but not starve myself. I can discipline myself to do X hours of exercise every day and I'll still treat myself on specific occasions, such as..."

"I want to spend X hours a night working on my business, doing specific tasks daily such as..."

When you set specific, measurable, and reasonable goals, you'll be less likely to stray. That's the power of focus and the power of having a destination.

But What If I Stray?

Sometimes you have to have that piece of chocolate cake by obligation. The problem isn't so much as your craving for the tasty treat; rather it's your need to please the chef. After all, you might not want to offend your family or friend who put their heart and soul into their baking and await your glowing review.

Or perhaps one night you simply can't focus on your business because there's something weighing on your mind. You need some downtime to sort things out, and that's completely understandable.

It's fair to stray, we're human, we're not supposed to be perfect. But, don't despair! There's no use in losing hope and giving up your goal because of a setback. You're not defeated until you truly believe you are.

The first thing you need to do is acknowledge the defeating moment.

Just because you've strayed (either out of kindness or desperation), it doesn't mean you should abandon your goal. Admit the mistake, then: Make up for it.

Refocus your energy on the goal, plan, or rule. Don't let the mistake, pain, or despair overwork your mind. That'll only increase the negative thoughts and cause further tension. Recommit yourself to your goal, and strive for success.

If you deserve commitment from anyone, it's yourself. Shed the exceptions and excuses and reach that goal!


* Exceptions break the rule. Don't be fooled by distractions or temptations.

* Your goal deserves commitment; show it respect.

* Try the "3 Strikes, I'm Out" rule. Limit the number of distractions or temptations to a specific and consistent number per month. Be sure to actually follow through with it.

* Boil down the distracting force to its core. Spell it out, it'll help you realize how ridiculous it really is.

* Disallow floating goals. They're deadly.

* You might slip-up and deviate from your goal, but if it happens, don't despair. Just admit the mistake, then make up for it.

* Don't give up! You're no quitter, not by any means

About The Author
© Copyright 2005, Ronnie Nijmeh,

For more fresh motivational articles and strategies compatible with your life, visit: Live. Learn. ACQYR.


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