Thursday, June 12, 2008

House Rules: How to make them stick!

As we all know, house rules are “rules that only apply to a specific location or organization.” They can be so helpful, because they help us negotiate our way around different situations. Many gourmet restaurants have dress codes. Most companies have organizational “policies” that are expected, and at times, unique, from other organizations. Quite frankly, whether it’s in a restaurant, at work or in social settings, house rules can make life a bit clearer and a bit easier.

But how often do we use them to simplify our own lives? House rules are great for many reasons. They reduce decision making time. For instance, for our youngest kids, we have a house rule that they can not go swimming without us. There is no need for an arbitrary decision about whether or not we feel a parent or public pool is “fit” enough. It is a simple rule. We save endless hours of debate with one simple rule. Our friends understand and the kids know where they stand. House rules also set clear expectations for us and others. Most of us respond pretty well to what is expected. If we know what the rules are, most of us will deliver. Finally, house rules are a great way to keep to our goals. A house rule is really one step toward taking you where you want to go.

Organizations create policy books to minimize questions, reduce confusion and set expected standards. What would happen if we began to build our own personal policy book, complete with house rules reflecting what we wanted in our lives?

Instead of giving to others till there is nothing left, what if we tried saying, “Every Tuesday is my night at home. No commitments. No socializing. Just me.” What if, instead of doing the kid’s laundry till 1am, we decided, “All laundry has to be in the basket by 6 or I will not be responsible for it.” What if we decided to would make one house rule? One rule that will make life easier, that will set expectations and help make goals happen. What if you decided to commit to one house rule this week?

What would it be? What would it feel like to stand your ground? Whether it would be for more time to yourself, more organization, more respect from those you live with, what would it feel like to stand up and make a house rule for your life?

Try it and see what it feels like to take charge of something you want to be different. Think of one change that you want and create a house rule that points you in the direction of that goal. Easier said than done? Not really. Take a peek and see how easy it can be.

Making House Rules Stick

1. Choose wisely. And make it manageable. If you want more time alone, make a house rule that moves you in that direction. For example, “9:30 to 10pm will be my time alone every night” might be a better house rule than “Every weekend, I will have Saturday all to myself.”

2. Make it real. Mention it. Write it down. Put it in your planner, on your fridge, at your desk. Make the commitment real by telling others and keeping it front and center.

3. Stand your ground. At first it will be hard to commit. Remind yourself of your goal. Prioritize what you want and remember not to sacrifice it. Consider it one of your personal policies and treat it as such.

4. Congratulate/Console yourself. Congratulate yourself every time you honor your house rule and console yourself when you slip up. (Beating yourself up will not help you continue.)

Make sure your rule is reasonable. Make it real. Tell others about it. Be firm and stand your ground when you are tested. Talk your way through it! There was a time when I was nervous telling others about our “swimming rule,” but once I got the hang of it, it became so easy. Save some time, know where you stand and what you want. All with creating some house rules. Try it, see how it feels, and, have fun.

Got an inspirational house rules story of your own? Send it to me by the contact page on this site. I will try and share some of your stories in my e-letter! Have a great week!


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