Rules. Where do they come from and why do we follow them? It is an important question to ask because many people just follow rules blindly, without question, even if it compromises how they really want their life and work to be.

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Why You Should Break All The Rules At Midlife And Beyond

Why you should break all the rules Where do the rules about life, work and business come from and why do you follow them?

It is an important question to ask yourself because many people just follow rules blindly, without question, even if it compromises how they really want their life and work to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is a value in certain rules. Rules like it is not OK to kill someone or don’t text while you are driving. Great rules. Totally on board.

But it is the unwritten, self imposed rules we live our lives by that concern me. The rules that society, relatives and peers have decided are the “norm” that don’t fit with your own values or what is most important to you.

When I challenge the rules that people feel are holding them back from creating change in their life and work to get the results they really want, I often get the response of “well that’s what everyone does” or “that is just the way it is”.

They have settled for the status quo. But just because everyone does it doesn’t make it right for you, your work or your relationships.

It used to be “normal” to put kids up the chimney but it didn’t make it right.

All rules are made up. So the question is, are you living by rules that fit your values and what matters most to you? Are you living the life you want or living someone else’s life? Are you working on your own terms or by those dictated as the status quo by others?

It is especially important to give this some thought at midlife, and beyond, as often it is these things that are getting in the way of the life, work and results you really want at this time of life, and for the next chapter of your life.

Here is my point:

Conformity is the killer of creativity

Conforming to rules for you life and work that you didn’t create for yourself, based on your values and what matters most to you, can sabotage living and working on your own terms. It can stop you thriving and wreak havoc on having a fulfilling and meaningful life.

Blindly conforming to what does serve you, your values and what matters most to you is like getting on the train to mediocrity central.

So, I invite you to look at the rules you are living and working by. Ask questions such as:

  • Is believing and operating within this rule helping me or hindering how I want things to be?
  • What if this rule isn’t true?
  • What new rule could I put in place that more closely matches my values and what is most important to me?
  • If I wasn’t buying into those rules what would I do differently, what rules and standards would I put in place for myself?

So, here’s the challenge – start breaking all the rules (obviously not the ones that would mean breaking the law or are wise to follow!). Start creating your own rules and “norms” based on your values, what is most important to you and will support the life and results you really want to achieve at midlife, and beyond.

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  • I really agree – getting stuck within too many rules stifles creativity and free thinking – I always liked the kids in my class who had a twinkle in their eye and a curious nature !

  • Thanks Sue. This whole area is something we all need to keep aware of in terms of how it is affecting us in all areas of life. Equally, as parents, we should think carefully about the “rules” we are teaching our kids about work, relationships and success by what we are role modelling. Thanks for dropping by.

  • Naomi Richards

    Ali, I generally make my own up – as my OH says. We dont have too many. Think that children should only have a few – bit like pick your fights – rules give them security but too many can constrain them into not being the person they were made to be.

  • Naomi, I think you are spot on – too many rules constrain kids and adults alike from not only being who they are but living their ideal life fully.

  • Naomi, I think you are spot on – too many rules constrain kids and adults alike from not only being who they are but living their ideal life fully.

  • Agree. The one thing I have never ever understood, is why parents don’t teach their children that they will have to make their own lives. People grow up conforming and then eventually find they are absolutely miserable because they swallowed the whole societal ball of wax. Yes, of course, to the sensible rules, but we have to make our own lives. Thanks


  • I think bringing up kids to create and live the life they want for themselves is one of the greatest gift we can give our kids.

  • Love this! It’s so true. We create our own rules every day. It’s great to come up with what works for us.

  • Estelle Sobel Erasmus

    I agree. I’ve always been a rule breaker–just not the lawful ones:)

  • Hi Andrea, when we live by our own values itsure beats living by someone elses rule book

  • Good to distinquish between rules that should be broken and those that shouldn’t!!!

  • Diane Brogan

    This is so very true.

  • Lynn Miller

    Love this article! Interesting that once I let the rules align with my values, a whole new set of opportunities appeared!

  • Aligning with values really does transform all areas of life.

  • Glad you liked it Diane.

  • one thing midlife has taught me is authenticity. I won’t play by other people’s rules if they go against my core values – I won’t even give them breathing room. If you don’t know what your values are by now then you’re absolutely right that it’s time to knuckle down and really work them out. Great post Ali 🙂

  • You are so right Leanne – being clear on your core values and putting boundaries in place to protect them is so important.

  • Rena, I think it is about just challenging rules we live and work by to check they are a fit with our values and what matters most. If they are, great. If not, then it is time for change. I think the key here is awareness. Awareness helps us to make better choices and decide if we want to change something or not.

  • Great that you are confident in who you are and own it.

  • Renee L Stambaugh

    Yes, the self imposed rules are the worst ones I think…I have been breaking the rules for over 60 years now…and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

  • Yay! Go you!

  • I love this philosophy. I think the rules I live by are always changing and will continue to change as I learn more about life each day. I think mid-life has given me a renewed freedom. I trust my judgement more. I am much less concerned about what people think and more concerned about what I think!

  • I need to think about this one. I don’t like to conform, hate to be told what to do but is that behavior “helping me be what I want to be?” That is a very good question!

  • Great point Ellen – good not to be too rigid.

  • Good to have that awareness Barbara.

  • Roxanne Jones

    Great post, Ali! At 63, I feel freer than ever to live by the rules that work for me, not those imposed by whomever. From simple things like bowing out of gatherings that hold no interest, to saying no to project work that isn’t satisfying, to taking time out of my workday to take a pottery class–it feels good to be honest with myself about how I spend my time and live my life. After all, it’s the only one I have!

  • That is wonderful Roxanne. Go you.