When we recently sought advice for our youngest daughter’s sore knee, the physiotherapist instructed her not to play sport for two weeks. My daughter did not receive this news well. She loves sport, and she loves being with her friends. So when her friends wanted to play badminton one lunchtime, my daughter searched for a loophole.

And that is how “Standing Still Badminton” was invented.

My daughter explained that all players in standing still badminton can move, except the player who has instructions from their physio to not play sport. This person must stand still because if they don’t, they are breaking the physio’s rules. They must also play at the back of the court, to minimise risk. Genius, you might say.

There is, however, one oversight in the creation of this loophole-embracing game. When a player is standing still, it is difficult to see and avoid danger in the form of other moving players with badminton racquets taking massive shots, especially from behind the standing still player.

And that is how my daughter ended up with concussion, a visit to hospital, two days off school, and stern instructions from a doctor to play no sport, especially standing still badminton, for at least two more weeks. It is also how standing still badminton was struck off the world’s greatest ideas list.

Rule-follower, rule-bender or rule-breaker?

The innovation (and danger) that is standing still badminton came about because my daughter, while not prepared to break the rules at that moment, was also not prepared to accept a rule that she felt didn’t serve her. She became curious about what she could create to enable the rule to work for her. She then set about creating it. The rule, although a boundary, became a rubber boundary than a concrete boundary. Thus, standing still badminton became a thing for at least a short time. My daughter, at that moment, became a rule-bender and an innovator.

Some of us would never have invented standing still badminton. We would have followed the rules, even when it meant sacrificing ourselves to do so. In the context of the physio’s rule, we would have been the rule-followers. There are others who would have simply played badminton and ignored the advice from the physio. They would have done whatever they felt served them in that moment, and dealt with the consequences later. They would have shown up as rule-breakers.

At any point in life, we can choose whether to be a rule-follower, a rule-bender or a rule-breaker. There is no right or wrong approach. Instead, it comes down to what serves us in each moment. Just as rule-following can help us or limit us, so too can rule-bending or rule-breaking.

Each of us has our own life rules

When we think of rules, we tend to think of the rules imposed on us by society. However, we also live by rules that are imposed on us by ourselves. Throughout our life, each of us has learnt ways of interacting with life. These “ways” become our rules. Sometimes, we don’t even know our rules exist. We just live them without paying a lot of attention to them.

As an example, a rule I learnt very early in my life was to always consider others before considering myself. This is a rule I lived by for much of my life, and for most of that time, this rule served me well.

Sometimes, our rules can get in the way. Like that time I was going home from university to visit my parents for the first time in weeks and my friend wanted to borrow my car. I rescheduled the trip because my rules had taught me to put others before myself. Looking back, it is easy for me to say that my rule was no longer serving me. At the time, I just assumed this was how life was meant to be.

Sometimes sticking to the rules is important. However, rules can also prevent us from creating the life we want, and sometimes the life we want is more important.

Our way of being informs how we respond to our rules

Each of us approaches the various rules of life from a way of being.

Our way of being is made up of the stories we are telling ourselves, the moods and emotions informing our stories, and the way in which our body holds those stories, moods and emotions. Our way of being helps us interpret and take action in the context of the world we live in, including the rules we live by. It is our way of being that is directly informing our actions, creating us as a rule-follower, a rule-bender or a rule-breaker in each moment.

If our stories, moods and emotions and body can combine to inform how we respond to our rules, then it seems we can see rules differently from different ways of being. My daughter may have been a rule-bender in her badminton game, but she doesn’t have to wear that label forever and always. She can be whatever her way of being allows her to be. She was a rule-bender while inventing standing still badminton. In class, she is more of a rule-follower. At home, she will give rule-breaking a go if she thinks it will serve her.

Different situations, different ways of being, and different approaches to the rules. Each of us can shift our way of being to see our rules in whatever way will serve us in any moment.

Our life rules don’t have to be unbreakable or

We often judge ourselves based on how we follow the rules. This can appear as guilt or shame – guilt when we feel we haven’t followed our own rules, and shame when we feel we haven’t followed the rules of our community. When we experience guilt and shame, we can sometimes fall into a cycle of blaming ourselves for not doing what we currently see as right. However, what if the rule are no longer useful for us?

When I cancelled my weekend with family so my friend could borrow my car, I was sacrificing my own needs for my friend. I realised I was fine with that for one weekend, but it was not something I wanted to do forever. The rule that had served me for my childhood learning about how to interact with others was no longer serving me in adulthood. It was time to discover new rules that would help me hold myself as legitimate while also being someone who held others as legitimate.

The first step in re-valuating our rules and how we want to us them to create the future we are aiming for is to understand the way of being that sits behind our rules:

  • What am I saying to myself about the rule?
  • What emotions have I attached to my stories about this rule?
  • How are my stories and emotions presenting themselves in my body?
  • How is this rule helping or limiting me in achieving the future I want to achieve?

When we understand our answers to these questions, we can explore how we want to be in our future. Do we want to live our rules more closely in future? Do we want to give ourselves permission to break or bend the rules occasionally? Or do we want to remove the rule as one that is no longer serving us? The following questions can be useful in determining how to proceed:

  • What stories would help me in moving in my chosen direction?
  • What emotions will support my stories and direction?
  • How would it be useful for me to hold these stories and emotions in my body?
  • What am I going to do differently to achieve the future I want to achieve?

Sometimes, our approach to our rules is the difference between growth or innovation and the status quo. It is up to us to decide which of these is most likely to serve us. I would suggest, however, that neither growth, innovation nor the status quo should include standing still badminton. It’s a dangerous game.

About Deanne Duncombe

I am a qualified ontological coach and facilitator. I focus on emotional literacy and human way of being to help people gain choice in handling the challenges of everyday life.

My first book, Life Doesn’t Come With A Manual: How to stop suffering and start choosing, will be released in mid-2022. Feel free to email me if you would like more information: deanne@leadingandbeingcoach

Feature Image Credit: paulclee | Pixabay

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