How can one live by their own rules

apple eye asks: If we want to lead our life in a my way style but others oppose it, then what should we do? Rebel? Or shut up?!

Hi apple eye –

I want to turn your question around, to make a point:  How can a person know that they’re living in a ‘my way’ style?  The answer, of course, is that they’re doing what other people oppose!

If Handsome takes me on a walk, and I heel, sit, stay, and come every time he says to; if I pay a lot more attention to where he is than the squirrel down the street or the dog barking from behind that nearby window; if I don’t jump on the person he stops to chat with – I might be living my way.  But if I pull on the leash all the time, ignore everything Handsome says, bark at other dogs, try to get away to chase that squirrel, and jump right up our neighbor’s dress, I, and everyone else, know I’m living by my own rules, and not his.

Living ‘my way’ probably means obeying the rules some of the time, even most of the time.  But it’s pretty definitely got to mean disobeying them sometimes too.  And that means disappointing, hurting, or even angering others (after all, most rules are made by people!).


There’s a whole philosophy based on this, called Existentialism.  It says you can’t really know you exist unless you act in ways that aren’t what others want.

Now this belief can get you into a lot of trouble!  If you walk into a library and punch a stranger, just to be sure you exist, you’re probably going to spend some time in a jail cell.  But everyone who’s ever accomplished anything big you’ve ever heard of, everyone who’s ever been really important, has decided that, yes, they needed to live in a different way than was expected.


So your question about whether to rebel or shut up is really asking whether you truly want to live ‘my way’ or by the will of others.  And it sounds like you want the former.  So here’s my question to you – in certain cases, is there a third choice?

For example, let’s say your family has given you piano lessons for ten years, and you’re great at playing the classical music they love.  But you want to play in a rock band instead.  Well, you could rebel, refuse to practice Chopin and Liszt, kick your teacher in the shins, and yell a lot.  Or you could just keep your mouth shut and play those etudes you’re supposed to.

Or you could sit down with your parents, explain what you’re feeling, and maybe negotiate a way that you could play the rock music you want, with their support and encouragement.  You’d still be living your way, but you’d actually gain more than you would by either rebelling or shutting up.

I’m sure you’ve studied in your history class about leaders who found that they accomplished more by peaceful resistance than through active violent rebellion – Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela come to mind.  Now were they rebels?  Oh yeah!  And did they rebel?  Ohhhhh yeah!  And did they live their way?  So much so!!!


Now as you probably know, I’m a great lover of great songs.  So there’s no way I’m going to let this discussion of “My Way” go without a quote or two!   So as you decide how to run your life, just let these thoughts run around your head a few times:


Regrets, I’ve had a few

But then again too few to mention

I did what I had to do

And saw it through without exemption


I planned each charted course

Each careful step along the byway

And more, much more than this

I did it my way


Yes there were times I’m sure you knew

When I bit off more than I could chew

But through it all when there was doubt

I ate it up and spit it out,

I faced it all

And I stood tall and did it my way


For what is a man what has he got

If not himself then he has not

To say the things he truly feels

And not the words of one who kneels

The record shows I took the blows

And did it my way


Good Luck!



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