We are governed by many things in our lives: laws (both natural and those created by man and religion), rules (those things that we abide by to maintain a certain level of order), norms (the way most of society acts, including courtesy and manners), and habits (those things that we’ve ingrained in ourselves for one reason or another. Understanding these things more deeply benefits you more than you can imagine, and I’m not talking about social media today. I’m talking about social norms, the way people act, the way YOU act, and what you can do with this knowledge.
Understanding Which Is Which
First, accept and understand that we follow and break human laws all the time. There are several hundred laws written by many hands, for matters of state as well as those of religious leadership. Do you believe that these laws are all there to protect you? Do you believe that they are in your best interest? The answer is often “yes,” or “most of the time.” That’s how we have a functioning society, and in case you’re wondering if I’m pointing you towards anarchy, I’ll save you some reading. No.
We also have rules and norms, which are less formal than laws, but that also guide our actions. For instance, we don’t yell at other people in a grocery store or an office on balance, because it’s not especially appropriate behavior. But there’s no real “law” against it. And sure, some people yell, but it’s the norm that people do not. Follow?
Habits are a little more tricky. Habits come from repeated practice, and some sense of reward (negative or positive) for the actions we take. Self-esteem (the low kind) is partially a system of habits designed to attempt to protect yourself against negative feelings. It’s a faulty system, but it’s the one lots of people install through establishing a series of habits, because it helps us manage our hurt.
The Only Laws That Can’t Be Broken Are Natural
Most of us, and I’ll presume about 99% of the folks who will read this post, live within a very specific paradigm that goes something like this: try to be polite, nice, healthy, do good work, loving, and earn your rewards. Right? That last part is a lot of where the trick comes in, by the way, so watch for it.
I was once told that police don’t exist to protect people: they exist to protect property and the general order of things. (Pause while I say that I greatly admire our law enforcement professionals, and am grateful for their services.) Most of what we do on an airplane is often called “security theater,” because truly, the act of us removing our shoes will not likely save us from anything. The reason we turn our cell phones off is a lot less likely to be because of a potential signal interference, and much more likely because it’s really annoying to have that many loud conversations in an enclosed space.
There are oh so many times in your life where, if you observe it, you’ll note that “the rules” and the laws and the norms and your habits are skewed towards keeping things in a fairly decent order, without a whole deal of racket, and usually without a lot of potential emotional damage.
Once You Realize You Can Impact a System
When was the last time you broke a law? You don’t have to answer, but I bet the answer is much more likely “yesterday” than it is not. What about the rules? Have you broken those lately? Did you text while driving, or fail to wear your seatbelt for a mile or two? When did you skip out on a norm, like not sending thank-you notes? What happened? What REALLY happened?
I’m not recommending that you go out and become lawless anarchists. I said that earlier. And yet, I am suggesting that you look around yourself at the systems by which you’re allowing your life to be governed. Choose how you will obey the laws you obey. Decide how you will interpret the rules and norms of the society where you live and function. And most of all, explore and evaluate all your existing habits, good and bad, and determine whether they are serving you.
And if you do start making changes to how you’re living, if you do re-evaluate WHY you’re doing the things you do, I wonder where it will take you?
Photo credit, Jerine