We recently built a house that we intentionally left unlandscaped until we were ready, financially and energetically, to tackle that big project. Last fall, we planted two desert willow trees. I read gardening books. I asked the nursery exactly how to care for them and took detailed notes. One direction that was confusing to me was, “…water to a depth of 2 to 3 feet…” How do I know whether I’ve watered to that depth?
Last month, we went to another nursery and purchase dwarf butterfly bushes. The woman who helped us seemed very knowledgeable, so I asked her about it. She told us to use the watering directions as a starting point and to adjust the watering based on how the plants respond. What a novel idea!
I’m so used to following rules and not even thinking about whether they are actually working. I spent a lot of research time looking for rules on how to take care of our new plants, thinking all I had to do was follow the rules and things would work out well.
This got me thinking about the role of rules in my life. If rules are made to be broken, what’s the point of having them? I realized with my plants, if I didn’t have any rules on how to water them, I would be clueless on where to start. With the watering directions, I had my starting point. I would implement the directions and watch to see the outcome. Then I’d adjust the “rules” to bring about the results I want.
I find this works well in other areas of my life too. With art, I learn the rules of design and then later tweak them to create pieces that are pleasing to me. In relationships, I take what I’ve learned in books and trainings, then tweak it to fit what’s right in the moment.
I’ve noticed that the more experience I have in a subject matter, the more I go beyond the rules. And if there’s a topic I don’t want to take the time to dig into, following the rules is a great no-brainer option.
Rules are so helpful as a starting point, but to rigidly stick with them without noticing the results defeats the purpose. And definitely don’t let them limit you!