The benefits & dangers of rules based on ideals.

I have written this to examine both the negative & positive aspects of holding yourself to an uncompromising personal ideology. Is it smart in today’s society to live inside of a bounding box created by a personal code or should we leave our morality to be flexible, able to adapt to the circumstances confronting us.

Firstly I would like to discuss my personal standing on the issue so not to come across as judging of others. I began creating solid rules during my teenage years that have remained with me *almost completely unbroken. Perhaps it was from growing up with a deep appreciation of martial arts that I developed a sense of honor & felt there was importance in living by a personal code. What more serious code is there than the warrior code of the samurai – Bushido. Any deviation from Bushido & the warrior would have to commit Seppuku, or ritual suicide. Seppuku involves painfully disemboweling yourself whilst kneeling before a friend of yours who would then precisely remove your head in a fashion that it was still attached to the suprasternal notch, falling in such a way that it appeared that you were embracing your own severed head. These are the people I grew up idolizing. No wonder I am fucked up!

Now that we have my personal viewpoint out of the way let’s take an objective look at the subject together. First I would like to start with what I see as the positives of this lifestyle choice.

I wrote in one of my previous articles (Everything is not amazing) that in order for us to be truly happy as human beings we need to be working towards our goals & personal ideals. But what if you don’t have ideals to live by? I think there is a deep sense of satisfaction if, at the metaphorical end of the day you can say “I lived the way I wanted too”. By holding ourselves to higher standards we allow ourselves the ability to derive additional happiness from the choices that we make. Can we truly have inner peace without knowing that we lived a life true to the individual?

The strongest reason for making your own rules in my opinion is that without rules based on ideologies to keep you in line, what safeguards do we have to stop us from making the wrong decision or potentially causing yourself more harm? We are not always in the best headspace to make good life choices, or to listen to the opinion of someone with a better view of the situation. An “ideal” can be based on logical thoughts & experiences, not just emotion or intuition. How many people have been in relationships where they say “I will never make that mistake again”. Of those people, how many relapse & find themselves in the exact same position. I will relate this point to a personal choice.

I made a decision as a young adult that no matter what the circumstance I would never go back with a partner if we had decided to separate. I had witnessed too many relationships in which there would be a separation, a quick reconciliation before all the drama re-ignited at which point the cycle would begin again. On top of this, if the relationship had ended then how could you be right for each other? As I have grown in maturity I have began to understand that things are very rarely this black & white. Nevertheless, despite feeling every fiber of my body screaming for me to go back to someone, I have never reneged on that rule I set when I was a teenage boy. Was it the correct thing to do? In my opinion yes. Love really does cloud judgement.

Something I would consider to be a negative is the lack of flexibility available. If you are genuinely serious about sticking to a self imposed rule-set then your options are rigid and black or white, which is always a dangerous thing. A key to survival is the ability to adapt. Taking away choices constricts your ability to change. What if the right option isn’t the one you select because you wanted to maintain your integrity? Was there a chance that people I have loved truly were the ones for me & we just needed to try to work out it? It is certainly a question that I have asked myself numerous times. It seems that living blinded by ideals can lead to missed opportunities.

The above point can lead to the very opposite of that sense of satisfaction I spoke about earlier. If we are unhappy about the choices that we have made, or opportunities missed then this will lead us down a path of regret. Knowing that you were stubborn when you could have made a better decision is a quick shortcut to having a shitty time! Regret and dissatisfaction are things we want to keep out of our life as much as possible because they are poison for the mind & soul.

So, in today’s world is it necessary to form concrete boundaries or do we require a more adaptive approach in modern society?

If there is one piece of advice I can offer it is this: Nobody who is alive today knows more about living than any other individual does. Do not judge yourself negatively because you think you are not “normal”. We should take comfort in the fact that there is no right or wrong way to live your life, all we can do is try to be true to ourselves.

-Troy H

 * I made a quite serious pact with myself when I was 16 that I would never watch the notebook with a woman. Despite many attempts I maintained that for more than 7 years. I was charmed into watching the second half of the film with my last girlfriend. I am honestly so disappointed in myself that I ever broke one of my rules I take them that seriously. It has been a constant source of anxiety since it happened.