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Almost all of us have been sold stories about who we have the potential to become, what kinds of things are possible to achieve, what kinds of results we can expect, how we need to spend our time, and what the trajectory of our life should look like.
But what if these are all just variations of what Vishen Lakhiani, creator of Mindvalley and author of The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, refers to as “brules” or Bullsh*t Rules?
When we follow the conventional brules of American culture, we may not be aware that they were created to cultivate productive workers who could support the industrialization of a young, developing country.
Most American children have been told that they can be anything they want to be, that they can have the American Dream if only they work hard enough. For a short period of time, that may have been the case for certain members of society.
But along the way, large groups of people were left behind. Others realized that as the economy and policies changed, the future they were striving for no longer existed. As families became nuclear and more isolated, child-rearing responsibilities that had traditionally been shared among generations of women living in a community, dropped squarely on the shoulders of the mothers who were expected to “balance” it all.
Even country music reflected the bind that many modern women were, and still are, caught up in, with Reba McEntire lamenting, “Is There Life Out There?”
Is there life out there
So much she hasn’t done
Is there life beyond
Her family and her home
She’s done what she should
Should she do what she dares
She doesn’t want to leave
She’s just wonderin’
Is there life out there
These lyrics bring up so many questions for me. First, what is it about her current life that doesn’t feel like enough? Why is life only happening “out there?” Does she feel so constrained by motherhood and marriage that she’s lost herself? Is there something wrong with wanting more? Is there no middle ground between staying (while feeling unfulfilled and aching for more) and leaving (abandoning all she loves to pursue a dream)?
Have you ever questioned if you’re fulfilling the roles you’ve been assigned in life, and whether they were assigned by society, your family, or even by your own well-meaning self?
Just how fulfilling are they?
As women, we tend to give ourselves away for free—our time (heaven forbid we turn something down), our energy (giving our support, care, and love to friends and family), and our health (putting everyone else’s needs above our own).
Although this often is our undoing, it’s also our greatest strength.
There is a long history of the feminine being pushed down, dismissed, and subjected to violence, primarily out of fear and the need to dominate and control that which truly cannot (and should not) be controlled. Feminine energy is all that is soft, peaceful, nurturing, and life-giving in this world.
When those qualities get crushed by others, or when we lose sight of them ourselves while we try to be everything to everyone, not only do we suffer, but everyone around us suffers too.
We are quick to snap at our children, we find it difficult to have a balanced relationship with a partner, we don’t take the time to nurture friendships, and we lose the connection to nature that is critical to us as a species.
We find we are spending all of our time indoors, engrossed in Netflix or on our phones. We can’t remember the last time we took a walk just to relax and decompress—and walking from the car to the grocery store or Target does not count.
Pause for a moment to turn your attention inward. Have you taken a single deep breath today, or were you too busy to pause and breathe?
Maybe it’s time to put the brakes on and s-l-o-w down. To notice our surroundings. To notice our life and the trajectory it’s taking.
Did we put our heads down and set out on this path 5, 10, 15, or even 20-plus years ago, never even looking up to see if it’s a path we want to be on anymore?
Maybe now is the time to examine the path, to look forward to see where it’s headed, and to make sure that the ending is a destination that will leave us spent of energy in the best way possible, knowing that we have squeezed every last drop out of a beautifully curated life.
This doesn’t mean everyone else’s version of a beautiful life—this is about finding our version. When authors have asked people on their deathbeds what their biggest regret is, it’s almost universally that they were too afraid to pursue their dreams or passions.
Are we standing on the platform, letting life blow by like a bullet train? What if we stopped blaming ourselves and everyone else for what we haven’t accomplished and went after that dream like it mattered? Like we matter? How would our future change? How would the future change for our children and grandchildren?
Not all of us are moms or will become moms in our lifetimes. But when we rise into our potential and create the most radiant version of ourselves—when we break the “brules”—it gives someone else the thought that maybe they can too.
We’ve done what we should. Should we do what we dare?