As a young boy, I was rather obsessed with following the rules and doing everything right. For me it was avoiding the embarrassment of disapproval or punishment. My mother, bless her heart, was quite the disciplinarian. I needed to have the approval of my parents at all times and if they so much as looked at me the wrong way, my soul was crushed. So when I was punished for anything I'd done at home or at school, I would be so mad at myself for being wrong. I considered punishment to be beneath me and that was why I had to follow the rules.
I still think punishment is abhorrent and a parking ticket will ruin my day and the next three as well. But this piece is not about public laws and organizational rules. It's about the unwritten rules in life we feel compelled to obey because that is what society expects of us. We have rules that govern what we wear, how our relationships should work, what roles we play, how we should feel and a myriad other aspects of our life. We effectively become drones, accepting our lot in life and the status quo because that's the thing to do.
In many ways, my adult life has been one of being unconventional. It does feel like looking in from the outside sometimes, but I won't have it any other way. In the words of Robert Heinlein: "I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do".
I prefer to chart my own course in life and find myself constantly questioning conventions; essentially dancing to the beat of a different drum. It would be amazing to find out how much of our lives are dictated by convention. Breaking those rules, in my experience, has been liberating in the long run. Take a moment to think about the things you do each day and ask yourself why you do those things. Why do they have to be that way? Is that the only way it can be done? Just thinking about those questions in an objective and dispassionate manner can be quite revealing. If done right, you will feel uncomfortable with what you come up with and will realize that even what you think is right is only right because you've been conditioned to think that is what right looks like.
Get out of your comfort zone. Break some rules. Free your mind.