It was another sunny day in Denver. The Mile High City receives over 300 days of sunshine each year (more than San Diego or Miami), so I was armed with sunglasses, lip balm, and sunscreen as my business partner, Matt Smith, and I walked around picturesque Washington Park.
Matt and I were so deeply engaged in conversation about how to best hire and grow employees that we didn’t even realize we were on our second trip around the 2-mile loop.
That’s when I noticed a man and his son playing soccer. The boy was eager to impress his father, but the dad was more interested in his phone. The boy chased the ball with energy and passed it to his father who would slowly, and without enthusiasm, walk after the ball. As this continued, the boy lost his interest, energy, and momentum.
It reminded me of how my father and I would play catch in the backyard at our farm over thirty years ago. After lunch we would go out into the backyard and throw the baseball around. He gave me his full attention. He talked to me, not to a phone. Of course, cell phones had not yet been invented, but still, I can’t imagine he’d do anything different.
My dad wasn’t perfect, but when he was with me, he was present.
It’s not that hard to do.
“Take the 10 minutes – put the phone down,” says actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, “Make the most of the time that you have. We are all pulled in so many directions, so make sure that, whichever one you are focusing on, you’re present.”
Jim Rohn, the personal development legend who passed away in 2009, once said, “Wherever you are, be there. When you work, work. When you play, play. Don’t mix the two.”
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That’s advice the father in the park should follow.
This man needs rules for his life if he wants to make the most of it. He needs more structure in his days if he wants to achieve the freedom he so likely desires.
He needs boundaries, otherwise there are sure to be more disappointing days and missed memories in his son’s life.
It seems so insignificant, just taking a quick call in the park. It will only take a minute, you think, but to your child, that minute can feel like a lifetime.
Surely you’ve experienced the same when out for coffee with a colleague. Hoping to have a conversation, you’re cut off when they say, “Oh, hold on, let me take this call,”, or worse, when they stop paying attention to you and start texting as though you were not even there.
It hurts. At the very least, it’s annoying.
Now imagine how your spouse and children feel when you do the same.
Of course, texting and taking phone calls in public have become automatic behaviors. There are few of us that no longer give in to this addiction.
However, there are ways to break this bad habit. It starts with setting boundaries on your behavior and setting personal commandments for the way in which you live.
For example, I have a rule that I turn off my phone and do not place it on the table when out with friends for coffee or dinner. Research shows that the sight of a cell phone, even when turned off, distracts your attention.
Creating your rules for your life makes it easier to stick to winning routines and good habits. When you set strong boundaries, you rely less on willpower. This helps you make better decisions with less stress, and ultimately you get more out of life.
The philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that we must all have maxims, a short list of essential rules for living, that should be strictly adhered to and followed for the rest of one’s life.
I created my rules for living over five years ago. Since then my life has been better, my days more productive, my stress levels lower, and I have found freedom in a chaotic world. You can read my rules here.
Don’t be intimidated by my list. Start small. Here are the three most important rules you need to create for your life:
#1 – State what time you go to bed and get up every day.
#2 – Write down your top priority activity for the morning and how long you spend working on it. For example, my rule is to write for 60 minutes in the morning. Your rule might be to spend 20 minutes preparing for meetings, 45 minutes in exercise, 20 minutes in meditation, or 30 minutes working on your investments. Choose the right priority activity for you and dedicate a certain number of minutes towards it.
#3 – Create a simple health rule. Do you need to meditate, exercise, eat better, or sleep more? In your health rule, state what you don’t eat (so that you find it easier to avoid food temptations), when you go to bed, when you meditate or pray, or when and how you exercise.
Once you have those in place and have spent a few weeks perfecting your morning system, take your rules to the next level. Create rules for how you will control your schedule, how you will deal with emails, phone calls, and meetings, how you will limit vices and temptations, and how you will deal with others and the stress they bring to your life.
With these rules, habits, and schedules in place, the morning is yours, the day is won, and you will control your life, no matter how much chaos is thrown at you.
Having rules and taking personal responsibility for your situation in life are what separate the wannabes from the success stories. It takes good planning to be able to stick to your work while others play and waste their lives, but that is your personal responsibility and a requirement for success. Put more Structure into your life today and you will win the Freedom you so desperately seek.