Follow My Rules – Or Else!


I’d like to share an undisclosed secret about myself, but only if you promise not to tell a soul. Promise?

I used to have countless rules for other people to follow in order for me to be happy. That’s right—rules for other people to follow and obey so that I would be happy. I actually expected other people to behave in a manner that would make me happy! It was true: if someone in my life didn’t follow my rules, I wasn’t happy; and immediately, if not sooner, we had a conflict. Thank God I can reflect back and laugh at how outrageously pompous I used to be.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a male friend of mine who shared a personal story. My friend is a kind, considerate “nice guy”—a nice guy with rules. One of his rules is that when he extends a courtesy, he expects the same type of behavior in return. For example, when Mr. Nice Guy holds the door open for anyone, including a stranger, he expects his “gentlemanly” behavior to be immediately rewarded with a thank-you. If the person neglects to acknowledge his considerate actions, Mr. Nice Guy gets pissed off. He told me that, in his perspective, the absence of immediate recognition is extremely inconsiderate. He expects a thank-you when he holds the door open for anyone.

Side bar: All expectations subtract from your happiness.

In reality, Mr. Nice Guy has expectations of how other people should act. He desperately needs other people to respond to him the way he expects them to or he becomes annoyed or, worse, angry. The problem with this logic is, when you depend on anyone else to behave in a manner you think is appropriate and they disappoint you, you’re actually depending on someone else’s behavior to dictate your own happiness. As hard as you may try—and I’ve tried for decades, you will never be able to control someone else’s response or behavior—ever.

If I choose to extend a favor to someone, I cannot count on, and more importantly, depend on, receiving anything back in return. Not even a thank-you. Years ago, if I had extended a courtesy to someone and they didn’t immediately thank me, I too, would have labeled them inconsiderate. Very inconsiderate. That’s because I had an agenda: I will be nice to you, with expectations of you behaving nicely to me. Let me clarify. It’s nice to receive appreciation for my acts of kindness, however, it’s no longer necessary for someone else to dictate how I’m going to feel based on what they do or what they don’t do. I refuse to give away any of my power.

Today when I decide to extend a courtesy to anyone, I do it because I want to. I have zero expectations of what anyone else does or doesn’t do. When I made a conscious decision to eliminate expectations, agendas, and rules from my life, guess what happened? I became much happier.

Today, thank me or don’t thank me. Either way, I’m going to remain happy because now my happiness solely depends on one person…me. No longer does my happiness depend on what someone else does or doesn’t do. Yes, today my happiness depends on ME and the countless choices I make throughout the moments of my day.

Remember, a guaranteed formula for happiness has only one ingredient—you.

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