This year my kids had a gift-free Christmas. I’m still not 100% sure why I made this decision. Likely a combination of a few different reasons.
I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say they’ve behaved badly lately. Not just lately really, it’s become a long-term pattern. One that I can’t seem to break with any consequence I impose.
If it was not Christmas time, and they asked me to buy them a toy, the answer would be a clear and unequivocal “no.”
Your lack of respect for me, and the peacefulness of our household will not result in you getting what you want anyway.
For me, that sends the wrong message.
I am not at all a “hard-ass” mom. Not even close.
Some of my children, because of bad choices made by their birth moms, have been left with unfair challenges in life. I’m sympathetic to that and I make accommodations for it.
But guess what. No one really cares that you started life with a disadvantage. It’s not like you’re gifted a free pass that you can hand out as an excuse for the rest of your life.
So I raise them to succeed in spite of the fact that they got a slow start out of the gate. To take responsibility for what they become, and not make excuses.
I did not make the gift-free Christmas decision lightly. But I will tell you what eventually made it easy for me.
The Rules of Christmas
As I began to approach Christmas differently this year, I realized there are actually rules for Christmas. And everyone assumes that you will follow them.
I never stopped to think about the rules in the past. I was too busy just blindly following them.
Here are some of the rules I bumped up against this year:
- You must be happy and talk only of happy things during the Christmas season.
- You must be engaged in Christmas shopping, and feel triumphant and relieved when it’s over.
- You must be okay with perfect strangers asking your children anything, and expecting answers. What they’re getting for Christmas, if they’ve been good, what Santa’s bringing them . . .
- You must have an answer for the question “are you ready for Christmas?” (even if you have no idea what that means), because everyone is going to ask you.
- You must buy your children Christmas presents. And fill Christmas stockings.
- You must have an opinion on whether it’s appropriate to say “Merry Christmas” to people, and be prepared to defend your greeting of choice.
- You must post happy, perfect pictures of your kids in matching Christmas pajamas on social media.
But what I realized this year, is that you don’t have to play by the rules. No one’s making you. The police won’t come.
Yet the rules have become so ingrained in us, that we forget we can opt out of any of them at any time.
Most people don’t opt out because (1) they’ve never entertained the possibility, or (2) the social pressure to conform is more than they can resist.
(After all, what kind of horrible mother wouldn’t buy her kid Christmas gifts?! Scarred for life, I’m sure . . .)
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the rules of Christmas are necessarily bad. They work wonderfully for many if not most people.
But I gotta say, once I sat down and gave each rule a moment of thought, and realized they were merely external expectations that I had zero reason to comply with, that’s when the “Christmas spirit” hit me.
I was free to do whatever I wanted on December 25th, and all the days leading up to it. It was no different than September 25th or June 25th, or any other day of the year.
The Good Thing About Breaking the Rules of Christmas
Once you figure out you can do what you want, it feels pretty darn good (if you’re a person that doesn’t get all caught up in what others think).
AND, it opens you up to the realization that in life there are many “rules” you’ve been operating by that aren’t rules at all.
Instead, they’re walls that have kept you in places you don’t want to be, and kept you from figuring out where you really do belong.
Time to break out of those invisible ~ yet very real ~ handcuffs and run freely into the great unknown. This is where the life most everyone wants, can be found.
A Word of Caution About the Great Unknown
The great unknown is not for the weak of heart. It requires an incredible amount of courage. And work. And staying power.
Which is why much like we don’t even think of breaking the rules of Christmas, it never occurs to us to break the rules of life. It’s scary.
So most people get their education, with the goal not of learning something, but of getting the “best” grades so they’ll look the “best” and end up with the “best” jobs.
And I must say that I know NO ONE who loves their job as much as my entrepreneur friends love their businesses.
Because, really, who would choose a life where someone tells you when you have to work, what you have to do, who you have to work with, when you can take vacation, and how long you can be gone?
And on top of that, determines how much money you’re worth!
But to most people, that’s life.
If you’re going to break the rules of life and make your own, be prepared to be doubted, laughed at, and criticized by most everyone you know.
Be prepared for struggle, failure, and recurring bouts of self-doubt.
And also know that the prize for relentless pursuit of the life you want is a joyous feeling I have found no word to capture.
The One Rule You Should Break Immediately
There are an endless number of alleged rules in life. To be a successful entrepreneur, you’ll have to start breaking as many of them as you can, as soon as possible.
To get you started, I’ll give you one that’s made the biggest difference to me: You must be realistic.
I was meeting with a potential coach one time who asked me what my financial goal for my business was over the next 12 months.
I hadn’t yet reached six figures, and my goal was substantial.
Her response was that in her experience, you couldn’t more than double your business in a year. So she never encouraged clients to set a goal above that.
Not only have I done that, I’ve seen it done over and again.
Being realistic will limit you.
Allow yourself to dream a little. Or a lot.
Ignore the rule-followers who favor steady paychecks determined by someone else, and who will doubt this “internet thing” even when you’re making seven figures!
Set your goals, and develop a solid plan to get there.
Work with a coach who’s been there and can make sure your plan is solid. (I’m happy to spend 45 minutes with you on this, for just the cost of your time. See if you qualify here.)
Trade “realistic” in for some of my favorite rules: You must take chances. You must believe in yourself. You must be willing to fail first. You must jump, and grow your wings as you feel like you’re falling.
Now Go Do This
Think on this for a few minutes. What are some rules of life you’ve been unconsciously following that you want to be done with? (Be brutally honest with yourself for a minute here.)
Get a piece of paper (your journal, preferably) and start writing these rules down.
Next to them, write down YOUR rule that you want to replace the “life rule” with.
Then write down the action steps you’ll take to do this.
Implementing your rules will require changing your habits. What you do, when you do it, how you do it, who you do it with . . .
Finally, get to work. Reading this will get you nowhere.
Let me know how you implement. If you want to talk about it, fill out a problem solving session application and I’ll be in touch.