Rules – All You Need To Know

In this post, we’ll unpack all you need to know about Rules, defining exactly what they are, how they impact us,

What Are Rules?

Rules determine when we experience pain and when we experience pleasure based on whether we have met one of our values. They are unique “laws” that profoundly influence our behaviour.

The Ultimate Judge & Jury

Rules are the ultimate judge and jury about what leads to pain and what leads to pleasure. They also determine our decisions about which behaviour to utilise in order to achieve our values

For example, if I ask you “Do you have a great body?”, your response will be based on a set of criteria (rules) that you have created based on what you believe constitutes having a great body.

Whether you realise it or not, consciously or unconsciously, your rules run your entire life. For better or worse, they are influencing your decisions and how you respond to experiences.

How Your Rules Influence Your State

Our rules determine what makes us happy and what makes us sad ― when X = Y I’m happy. However, the more rules we create about what needs to happen for us to be happy, the less happy we’re going to be. In fact, the truth is, nothing has to happen in order for us to feel good. You can feel good at any moment.

For example, let’s imagine you make £1million. The £1million isn’t what makes you happy. What makes you happy is the rule you created that said “When I hit £1million I will give myself permission to be happy.”

When you reach that goal, you send a signal to your brain that creates the biochemistry necessary to cultivate the experience you call “happiness” (pleasure).

Similarly, we all have a set of rules for how we define success. For one person, their definition of success is to be a millionaire. For another person, their definition of success is simply being alive. Who do you think is going to experience more pleasure?

The Science

There is a part of your brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS) that acts as a filter so that only information that supports and validates your rules is delivered to your conscious mind. In other words, you are only aware of the things that are consistent with your rules.

Depending on what your rules are, they can either help or hinder you based on what you’re filtering in and out from your experience.

The Evolution Of Rules

The most impressionable years of our life are between birth and the age of seven ― a period where we haven’t yet developed our conscious analytical mind. It is during these years, when we are young, naive and powerless, that we create whatever rules are necessary to satisfy our needs ― more simply, to survive.

As we grow older, we continue to develop our rules as a result of our experiences and what we associate with pain and pleasure. Therefore, how we interpret pain and pleasure while growing up, will often influence the rules that we are likely to abide by as an adult.

The problem is, our rules, particularly those created during early childhood, are often based on inaccurate interpretations of our experiences and since they are mostly created unconsciously, they are rarely, if ever, evaluated or updated.

How To Leverage Rules

The key to leveraging Rules is to create Rules that align with your your goals and the life you desire. Doing so will empower you to make choices and decisions that will help you achieve what you want.

You must also ensure that you create rules that are achievable based on things you can control. You want to make it incredibly easy to experience pleasure and incredibly difficult to experience pain.

Finally, it’s important to understand that your rules will evolve throughout your life. What may have served you during childhood may no longer serve you in adulthood.

You can also take things a step further by uncovering the rules of others so you know what you need to do so they experience pleasure and what you need to avoid so they don’t experience pain.

“We can let circumstances rule us, or we can take charge and rule our lives from within.” ― Earl Nightingale


Rules operate as shortcuts so our brain can quickly and efficiently determine the consequences of our actions ― what leads to pain and what leads to pleasure.

The key to making rules work for us instead of against us is to create rules that make it easy to experience pleasure and difficult to experience pain and ensuring that they align with our values, our goals and the life we desire.