Bright-Line Rules

First of all, I hope you all had a great weekend and a good Father’s Day!!  I loved looking at all the pictures on Facebook and had fun celebrating all the fathers in my life.  Rich had to work until 1:00 ,but then we went out for sushi and he opened his ice cream maker!! Yum!!  Bella hung out with her dad and we both got to talk to Andrew.

Such a good day.

Today’s post is gonna be a little like talking about your uncle’s sister’s brother-in-law’s cousin’s hairdresser.  But hang in there, there is a point.

I love the blog of Darya Rose.  It is called Summer Tomato and it is a healthy foodist kind of site.  Every Friday she does a post that is full of articles that she found interesting and it is called “For the Love of Food”.  I highly recommend her site.  Anyway, on Friday June 12th she linked to an article called “Inside the Mind of a Mad Scientist: The Incredible Importance of Personal Science” by blogger James Clear. It talks about doing small experiments on yourself to discover some truths:

Personal science refers to the idea of executing small experiments on your own with the intention of discovering new ways to solve problems and get results in your life. While typical studies are conducted on a large scale and published in academic journals, personal science experiments involve a single patient (you) and are focused on delivering highly practical and useful pieces of information.

This was a very interesting article, but while reading that article it linked to another article by Clear called “How to Declutter Your Mind and Unleash Your Willpower by Using “Bright-Line” Rules”  This is the article that really caused me to think…a lot.  As you know when I think…a lot. I blog about it. So here is my take on this subject.

James Clear states:

A bright-line rule refers to a clearly defined rule or standard. It is a rule with clear interpretation and very little wiggle room. It establishes a bright line for what the rule is saying and what it is not saying

When you want to create habits in your life or break bad habits it seems to take a lot of willpower, as you may or may not know, willpower is something that we really can’t depend on for a lot of stuff. Clear promotes the idea of a bright line rule so that you don’t have to depend on willpower to achieve something.  I’ll give you an example, something that is near and dear to my heart, eating healthy.  If one of your goals is to eat healthier what exactly does that mean…it is a little vague.  OK…eat sweets in moderation…vague.  Drink alcohol in moderation…vague.  Eat good food mostly…vague.  So he promotes setting bright line rules that relate to your goals.  This way your mind doesn’t have to think about it; there is no grey area.  These rules have to be achievable and you can experiment with them. (This is how the bright line rule article tied into the personal science one).  These rules are ones you can try for a week and then reevaluate to see how they work for you.  Unlike going on that “diet” restricting your calories to 1200 and failing and then giving up all together and gaining 25 pound because your bright line rule was too general and unrealistic, and gave you no room for reflection.  James Clear states that vague promises will never lead to clear results.  He also thinks that those bright line rules should be progressive.  So, start a little broad and get more specific.  I have created some bright line rules and I’ll show you what I mean.  My broad goal was to just feel better.  So my bright line rules are to help me feel better.

  1. Get up every weekday at 5:00 am.  Very specific, not vague at all. The point of this one is to exercise.  However, I was afraid that if I put…get up every day and exercise…that would be unrealistic.  But if I make my bright line rule just to simply get up at 5:00 am more than likely I am going to exercise.  I can progressively get more specific later on to say…get up every day and exercise…but I will have had some practice at just getting up.  What is the worst thing that can happen if I try this for a week…I’ll be tired one or two days a week?…big deal.  I can reevaluate this rule if it really didn’t help me reach my goal of feeling better, but come to find out it really has.
  2. Eat at least 5 fruits or vegetables each day. Very specific, not vague at all.  This one is to promote healthier eating.  A very doable rule.  I was broad in my idea of fruits or vegetables because it is easier for me to eat fruit as they take very little prep, so I might get more specific later with the division of fruits and veggies. What is the worst thing that can happen…I have to eat an apple for dinner when I realize that I haven’t gotten my 5 in?  I have found in my personal experimentation  I do feel SO much better when I focus on fruits and veggies in my daily diet.
  3. No food between 4:00 pm and dinner. Very specific, just don’t eat between 4:00 and dinner.  I found that, especially when I am at work, I get home and head right towards the refrigerator.  I am tired, and am looking to get some food comfort.  I find that when I do snack before dinner I feel yucky and not hungry for dinner.  This rule makes that habit, in my mind, a no-no and will make me eat a good healthy dinner, which I have planned. What is the worse thing that can happen…I might be hungry for a couple of hours?  This means that I also need to plan for a good snack in the early afternoon so that doesn’t happen.  So far this rule has been awesome.
  4. No sugar at home unless it is homemade. Very specific, unless I make it I won’t eat any sugar in my house.  Too much sugar makes me feel like crap, but I like sugar…duh.  So this bright line rule forces me to cut down on my sugar intake with out saying that I can never have it.  Never having it takes willpower, this rule takes none.  If I want sugar I have to take the time to bake something, or get in my car.  I am eating less sugar and feel so much better.
  5. No food after dinner unless we are out. Very specific and leaves some room.  I feel like crap when I go to bed with a full stomach. However, the wording of this rule makes exceptions for the date night, or if the family is out for a special event.  If I am home and want something after dinner it usually is not because I am hungry, so I will put it aside and eat it the next day.   More than likely I won’t eat it the next day.  What is the worst thing that can happen…I go to bed hungry a couple of nights?  If I find that is happening in my personal experimentation I will eat a little bigger dinner, or eat dinner a little later.  So far this has been great and I have slept better.

I really can’t fail with these rules, and if I find that they are not working out for me I can change them.  I stick to the rule no matter what for a week and then reevaluate. There is no willpower involved because they are hard and fast, no grey area.  I highly recommend reading the article because he talks about so many more areas like saving money, getting away from technology, and drinking.  I hope to continue to add more of bright line rules to other areas of my life and maybe even in my classroom.  For now I am feeling better and that is my goal.

I hope you try to put into force at least one bright line rule this week and see how it makes you feel.

I also hope you have a great week!!

More Later


One thought on “Bright-Line Rules

  1. This is such a good idea! I’ve been trying to eliminate artificial sweetener from my diet, and once I manage that I’ll tackle real sugar. I’m gonna think about my rules now…

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