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Do Rules Keep You Back or Move Your Forward?

“Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking.” ~ Leo Tolstoy  

Today I saw the riveting film, “THE LAST STATION” chronicling the final chapter of Leo Tolstoy’s storied life.  Simply put, what I find so fascinating about Count Tolstoy is that he lived his life by a very strict set of rules, yet later in his life he was considered a prophet by those who considered themselves freethinkers.  As a celebrated novelist and essayist known for his theories on pacifism, he eventually walked away from his previous set of rules and developed a devout group of followers of his theories on freethinking, thus creating a Rules whole new set of rules.   

It got me thinking about rules.  Do they help us or hinder us from expanding and being our best selves?   It depends on how you define rules.  I think of rules as being confining.  However, I do live my life by a set of core values and philosophies.  And, I run by business  with a plan, a blueprint and a set of guidelines.  Guidelines are more fluid than rules and leave space for creativity and movement.  Guidelines give direction and focus; rules are narrow-minded and militant.   

So, what to do?  

  • Throw out your rule book and replace it with a list of values.  
  • Make some of your own guidelines.  Give yourself permission to color outside the lines.   
  • Create a checklist by which to guide decisions – it keeps you focused on what’s important to you: 
  1. WHAT is the specific action?
  2. WHO is it for, WHO will be impacted, and WHO can help me?
  3. WHEN and how long is the time frame or WHEN is the deadline?
  4. WHERE does this fit into my short and long-range career goals?
  5. WHY do I want to do this?
  6. HOW will this raise the value of my brand?
  7. IF I do or don’t move forward with this action what are the risks involved?  


Trust in your own mind and in your ability to set your own rules, guidelines and values.  It’s up to you to set them in motion.