Do you follow the rules?

There are always rules to be followed in life.  Most rules were put in place by well-meaning people who felt they were needed to right a wrong, protect from injury, or create agreement between two or more parties.

Over time, we can forget the wise words of Franklin D. Roosevelt who said, “Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are.”

I call the principles the “Why’s” behind the rules.

But we need more than just the rules. Without the wisdom of why the rules were made – understanding of their intent, and knowledge of when to apply them – we rely on their strict wording instead of the spirit of the rules.

Now, I am all for rules in the right circumstances.  I like being confident that the car coming down the road isn’t going to keep driving right through the red light and hit my car broadside just as much as the next guy. But, many rules are not that simple.

No one can possibly think of every nuance when writing rules and we can be fooled into letting the rules rule our lives and stop using good judgment to make good decisions.

“If moral behavior were simply following rules, we could program a computer to be moral.”                                                                                          – Samuel P. Ginder, American Navy Aviator

Without understanding the “Why’s” behind the rules, the individual settles on “Because I…”

Because I always follow the rules

Because I was taught to do it this way

Because I was told to do it this way

Because I don’t want to change the way I have always done it

Because I am not responsible for the outcome, just for following the rules

Because I am not the expert, someone else is

What can we do when we understand the “Why’s” behind the rules?

We can see the vision – It’s easier to be motivated to accomplish a grand vision then a task

We can support the vision – It’s easier to encourage others toward a common vision

We can successfully achieve the vision – It’s easier to get back on track when you see the big picture

So, understanding the “Why’s” of the rules in our lives is important.  What steps can each person take to gain that wisdom?  Who is responsible for making sure that the principles behind the rules are understood?  Let me know what you think.

4 Responses to Do you follow the rules?
  1. James

    Understanding and encouraging investigation of the why’s, or principles, is critical to leadership because it is a foundation of sound decision making. Six Sigma methodology has integrated this concept into the foundation of project management. I will say that for a leader both finding the why’s and creating / changing the rules is extremely rewarding and seeking jobs that allow for that can be well worth the effort.

    Great post Denis!

    • admin

      Thanks James. Great reference to Six Sigma.

  2. Elizabeth Snyder

    Within work and home environments I tend to be more inclined to analyze the rules, decide what is and is not working, and create flexible guidelines for behavior. So in short I tend to not follow the rules.

    • admin

      Elizabeth, thank you for your comment,it is right on. When you understand the intent of the rules you can sometimes achieve the intent in a better way.