My friend Sam is an avid golfer. He plays every chance he gets. He also makes a practice of working out at the gym on weekends, and prefers to get an early start there.
One Saturday, the forecast called for a warm and sunny morning with heavy rain developing by noon. Still, Sam kept to his usual schedule and worked out in the morning, knowing his afternoon golf game would get rained out. When I asked him why he didn't play golf first, he shrugged and said, "I never work out in the afternoon."
"Seriously?" I asked. "You are allowed to break your own rules, you know."
I suspect many of us have rules, or habits, that we follow without giving any thought to why we adhere to them. Rules bring order to life. They give us permission to do the things we want to do, and excuses not to do the things we don't. They are handy. And sometimes very limiting.
Simple rules, like "I need my morning coffee in order to be productive" or "I always pay my bills on time," are fine. Others, like "I never make plans that I can't break if I get a better offer" or "I need a couple drinks to unwind after work," can be destructive.
Many of us also adhere to rules that jeopardize success at work. Examples:
Bad Rule No. 1: I always eat lunch at my desk to save money and get more work done. Break this one right now! Find another way to economize, and jump at the chance to network and hear the latest scoop on what is happening around the company. It needn't be an everyday event — but shoot for once or twice a week.
Bad Rule No. 2: I don't need to talk up my accomplishments; I'm sure my boss and everyone else knows what I'm capable of doing. You can take credit without bragging. Own your work, and be proud of it. Keep your boss, or whomever you are working with, up to date with e-mails or meeting updates. And if someone else takes credit for your efforts, be gracious but firm in reminding that person that you shared responsibility for the success.
Bad Rule No. 3: I never disagree with my boss; I go along with whatever he or she says. If you have information or a different idea that would make a project work better, share it. Your boss may or may not act on your suggestion, but you have demonstrated your willingness to step up when needed.
Bad Rule No. 4: I wait to be asked to join committees or take on extra work. Break this rule ASAP! Jump on opportunities to stretch your limits or showcase your talents.
Bad Rule No. 5: I never mix business with pleasure. That's like denying that you work with other people. Your work time is a big part of your life, and it should bring you pleasure. Getting together with co-workers away from the office is a great way to forge stronger relationships. It's important to have friends outside your work life, but it is also important to see other dimensions of those you spend so many hours with.
Bad Rule No. 6: I take myself very seriously. Please, please, please break this rule immediately. You can take your work seriously. You can take problems seriously. You can take your boss seriously. But you have to be able to laugh at yourself. You will do yourself a great favor by letting go of the need to be in control.
Review the rules you have imposed upon yourself and evaluate whether they are useful or destructive. You could actually be sabotaging your own success by adhering to bad rules.
Let me suggest a couple rules for your consideration. First, I will take risks and stretch beyond my comfort zone to grow in my profession. Second, I will accept new challenges and responsibilities that benefit myself and my company. And third, I will never blame anyone but myself if I break these rules.
Mackay's Moral: Play by the right rules if you want to be a winner.
Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.