Entry 5 Are rules really meant to be broken?

Consideration    Speed

Reframing fun – Pulled over for speeding

                Chance to be a statistic

                Opportunity for creative excuse making

                Chance to practice your acting skills, “Was I speeding? Really?”

                Opportunity to locate your insurance card

                Realize the consequences of putting off getting insurance

                Chance to support local government

                Chance to make a new friend.  Offer the officer a hit on what you have been smoking.

Does anyone actually believe that rules are made so that people have something to violate?  What is factual is that compliance with rules is influenced by a person’s perspective.  The recent pandemic provides an illustration on the disparity for how we react to rules like social distancing, face coverings, and sheltering in.  Reactions range from faithful adherence, to begrudging compliance, to complete rebellion.  Our degree of compliance with a rule is dependent on our perspective of the value of the rule and the consequences which are associated with a rule.  Let’s consider “speed limits.”

Are the signs along the roadside speed limits or “speed suggestions?”  Is the outside lane on a highway really intended to be the “fast lane?”  Why wouldn’t it be called the “cheater lane?”  If we come upon someone driving the speed limit in the far-left lane, is your reaction admiration for being a rule follower or overwhelming distain for them being an idiot who is prohibiting you from violating the rule?  What perspective allows a driver to be content with driving 70 mph in a 60-mph zone and then become discontent with 70 mph when the limit changes from 60 to 70?

Rules provide a framework, a stimulus, for us to react to.  Our perspective towards the rule influences how we react.  How are perspectives toward rules formulated?  To explore this question let’s go back to the beginning.  Not the beginning of time, the beginning of life.

We are born into this world completely dependent on the care and nurturing of others.  Between the ages of 1 and 2 toddlers naturally become mobile and begin to explore the environment without awareness of risk.  To protect them from risks, caregivers begin to set limits (boundaries) on their toddler’s behavior.  As toddlers test the limits, caregivers respond by reinforcing the boundaries.  Toddlers don’t give up their independence easily, that’s why the word “no” becomes part of their initial vocabulary.  “No, leave that alone! No, don’t’ touch that!  No, get out of there! No! No! No!” 

Humans naturally test limits.  It is a necessary part of the process of survival and learning.  Teaching children the skill of self-control starts early and is a work in progress throughout life, referred to a socialization.  If you are interested in how personality develops check out my interpretation of Erik Erikson’s Epigenetic Principle in David and my book On Generational Differences in the Workplace.  For the purpose of this entry please recognize that challenging limits is an innate component of human nature.

The toddler in us wants to do whatever we want to do whenever we want to do it.  Like toddlers we need boundaries (rules) to help us navigate the risks and challenges of daily living.  What is your perception of rules?  Love rules, hate rules, tolerate rules, other people should follow the rules, necessary evil, unfair, made to be broken.  Our perspective on rules varies according to circumstances.  Rules provide for a sense of order.  While the level of compliance varies when it comes to speed limits, overall most drivers travel in a predictable range.  Consider the chaos and potential danger if drivers covered the full range form 20mph to 120 mph on the same highway.  Think about how easy it is for most of us to drive under the speed limit is a driving rain storm.


Create a list of influencers in your decision for selecting a speed when driving.  This exercise is easier to accomplish if you are using a speed control device in your vehicle.  What speed do you select for your speed control and why do you select that number?  To help, allow me to present a common perspective on speed.

“What can I get away with?  How fast can I go without getting pulled over for a ticket?”

Perspective analysis – Are you really in that big of a hurry?  Have you calculated how much time you save?  If you set your speed control for 10 mph over the limit and you are traveling across country, it probably adds up.  If you are headed across town, the time difference is insignificant.  And finally, if you went out of your way to buy a radar detection device so you could risk your well-being, I sure hope you had a really good reason.

Many who have raised children have pondered why they push the envelope when they know there is a good chance of getting caught and disciplined.  Those same caregivers rarely ask themselves why they act in the same manner as their children.  What I find particularly interesting is adult resentment of the consequences when we know that we were purposely breaking the rule.  Can you guess where kids came up with this same response to consequences?

If you have decided to follow my blog journey you recognize that I do not seek to pass judgement.  When it comes to speed, count me among the “responsible” cheaters.  Purposelessly going 8 miles over the speed limit for no good reason because folk wisdom says the police won’t pull you over to give the ticket that you have earned.

Perspective management is a tool that can be used to turn the purposeless into the purposeful.  If you want to break a rule or test the limits of a rule, be intentional.  Go for it.  Just be prepared to accept the consequences of your choice.  If you choose to speed and you receive a ticket, accept it graciously and pay it promptly.  You receive what you deserve.  For the most part rules and compliance is a cat and mouse game – dance on the edge and hope you don’t fall off.  The odds of being pulled over for speeding are miniscule.  Like children, if we break a rule and get away with it what’s our conclusion?  If I break the rule again I can expect the same result.  All’s well under the hammer comes down, then we pout and blame the hammer or whoever is holding it.

What about rules we make for ourselves like diets, budgets, exercise routines?  Why is difficult for so many to follow the rules they set for their personal well-being?  What gets in the way of holding ourselves accountable for the choices we make?  Great questions that I will address in my next entry – “rules and consequences: a recipe for change.”

Keith Neuber                                     www.ikan2.com                               keith@ikan2.com

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