9 Unwritten rules for life which reduce stress and boost performance

As you progress through life you will constantly learn lessons and develop your own rules and principles. These rules and principles allow you to take shortcuts in your life because you have learned from experience. That does not mean that you can avoid doing the things which really need to be done but you can definitely avoid repeating the same mistake. Your intuition can be your greatest advisor, if you listen carefully to it. From your experiences, you will have developed unwritten rules for your life and these rules help your intuition to guide you and prevent you from straying down the wrong path. When your intuition notices that you are in danger of breaking one of these rules, it gives you a warning; often in the form of a gut feeling that something is wrong. I find that when I trust my intuition, I get better results.

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9 Unwritten rules for life

Your unwritten rules for life will be dependent on the life you lead, your purpose, values and principles. However, there are some rules which I have found to be consistent across the lives of most people. I have not written them in the strictest sense of a rule but they should help to give you some guidance.

1. You wouldn’t give more to someone who doesn’t appreciate it


It is human instinct to want to help others. We don’t do it for the need to feel important or to receive thanks and praise but it is still important to know that someone appreciates your efforts. If somebody fails to appreciate your assistance the first time you help them out, you are likely to ignore it and move on. If they consistently fail to appreciate your efforts, you will begin to wonder why you are bothering to help them at all; especially if it puts you out in anyway. Truth be told, people won’t get very far in life without the assistance of others and if they consistently fail to show appreciation, they will soon find that they are short of people to help them.

This rule does not just apply to others. If someone helps you out, you should take the time to appreciate it. This is more than just saying ‘thank you’, though that does go a long way. Take the time to appreciate how you benefit from their assistance. You can even choose to share this with them. In all my years of coaching, I have never heard anyone complain about being appreciated too much so don’t be shy about letting others know how you appreciate them.

In addition, taking the time to appreciate the good things in your life helps you to attract more of the good stuff into your life. You become more positive and more focused. You start to notice opportunities that you had previously missed and others are keener to help you. So, obey the first unwritten rule for life and take a few minutes each day to appreciate; whether you express it to others, write it down or just say it out loud.


For more on the importance of gratitude, check out my article Top 11 Ways that Gratitude Enhances Your Life..

2. Most stress comes from inaction


When you think of stress you think of people who are burnt out from doing too much and, in many cases this may be right. However, just because you are doing too much, it does not mean that you are doing the right things. Most people who are busy are busy because of poor organisation rather than having too much important work to do.

If you find that you are feeling burnt out from doing too much; ask yourself if you are actually doing the right things. When deciding what to do, you should be focusing on the important stuff. If you get a few important tasks completed each day, you will achieve far more than if you completed 100 tasks which are not very important.

Ultimately the stress does not really come from working too much. It comes from leaving yourself with too little time to complete the important tasks because you are spending too much time on stuff that does not really matter. It is the knowledge that you have not taken sufficient action on your key objectives which leads to the stress so rather than trying to find more time, empty your schedule and start again; giving priority to your more important task. Then, you can use your remaining time for the less important stuff.

3. Peace of mind comes from action


When you think about peace of mind, you tend to think about sitting back, doing nothing with no worries on your mind. That is a blissful form of relaxation which certainly qualifies as peace of mind but to achieve this requires action. The reason that you can sit back and relax, worry free, is that you are confident that all of your commitments are under control. You have taken the important actions which you need to take so that you can then enjoy your time off without having to think about things that you should be doing.


Discover more authentic sources of peace of mind, and happiness, check out my article - 7 Authentic Sources of Happiness

4. You teach others how to treat you


Answer the following question ‘Do you respect yourself?’ If you don’t respect yourself, and you don’t demonstrate that you respect yourself the truth is that many people will not respect you either. Respecting yourself is not about shoving your opinions down the throats of others or forcing others to agree with you. It is about knowing your rights and respecting them. It is about standing up for yourself and expecting to be treated in the same respectful manner that you treat others.

It is a core unwritten rule for life that as soon as you start to show more respect to yourself, others will follow suit. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. So, if you feel that you do not get the respect that you deserve, start by asking yourself how you can show more respect to yourself.


For more on teaching others how to treat you, check out my article, Teach People How to Treat You.

5. It’s harder to find help on the way down


I vividly remember the day when an old friend told me ‘Thanks Buck, you are always there for me when I need you’. You might think that I was delighted with the comment but the opposite was true. I was upset by it because I knew the truth was that this person only ever wanted to know me when he had a problem that I could help with. Despite my knowing this, our friendship went on for many more years until eventually I stopped answering the phone when he would ring. Nowadays, he has gotten the message that I am no longer there when he has a problem and needless to say, I never hear from him.

We all experience people like that and I want to be truly honest and say that I am confident that I have behaved that way too. I am sure that I have used people until they eventually wanted nothing to do with me either.

However, we must eventually grow out of this and realise that proper relationships are built on mutual respect and mutual support. It is the relationships that we build during our good times that will help us through the tough times. As adults, we have more competing interests and we are more selective with our time. We are far less inclined to help those who are never there for us.

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6. Toxic takers are a terrible torment


As an extension from the previous point, I can assure you that one of the biggest sources of stress in many peoples’ lives is their efforts to maintain relationships with people whom they do not trust. Even when they are telling you the truth, you are wondering what the ulterior motive is.

These people are toxic and they only want to take from you while adding nothing of value to your life. The best thing you can do is accept that there is no benefit to maintaining the relationship. Cut your ties and move on.

7. A liar is someone who never believes anyone else


I don’t know who first made this statement but I first encountered it in a U2 video. It was like a Eureka moment. Our worst behaviours are usually a reflection of ourselves i.e. if you struggle to trust others; it is usually because you don’t believe that you are trustworthy.

In most cases, the people who doubt you or don’t trust you are not a major problem but if you are dealing with something important and the other person is giving you a tough time; I would advise you to start looking for what they are hiding from you or, walk away. When I encounter someone like this, I just don’t do business with them as they will eventually become a major source of stress, even if they don’t burn me.


I have made a few points about problematic people but I want to stress that the vast majority of people in this world are wonderful people. These problematic people are only a very small percentage of the people you will meet but if not dealt with properly, they cause a large percentage of your problems.

8. You’re unlikely to be the first


Everyone likes to think that they are original but no matter what you want to do, it is likely that somebody else will have done it, or something similar, before you. This is not a negative thing. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn from their experiences and improve your chances of success.

Thankfully, these people usually share their experiences via books, training or blogs so when you take on a new challenge, take the time to research the experiences of others. A little daily learning from the experience of others will help you grow and develop much faster.

9. You are not that important


At first that may seem negative but it is one of the most positive of the unwritten rules for life. When you understand that you are not that important, you realise that you have the freedom to pursue your own goals and dreams without sacrificing them for others.

10 years ago I left Ireland to travel. I spent the next few years in New Zealand, Australia, England and Scotland. When I returned, I saw that my friends and family had kept moving forwards with their lives. My absence hadn’t caused any major problems for anybody; not that I thought it would. I knew then that there was no reason for me not to pursue my goals. People are resilient and as much as we like to think that we are important, we must realise that if we were gone tomorrow, life would keep going. People would adapt and move on.

Therefore, if your goals require some adjustments to your relationships, people will cope. The world won’t come to and end. Too often, people use others as an excuse not to pursue their dreams but it is rarely a valid reason. Sure, you may have to adapt your plan a little e.g. you may have to take a course at a different University or online. But, there is rarely justification for not moving forward with your goal.

Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting

Before you can achieve great goals and change, you must set effective goals which challenge and inspire you to take the consistent action.

For more great advice to set and pursue great goals, check out 'Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting'.


Many of the rules we have for life are unwritten rules but that does not stop them from shaping our life. They influence our intuition to give us guidance. When you listen to your intuition you are more likely to stick to the correct path for you. It is your inner compass and it will rarely fail you. However, it is important to know the unwritten rules which are shaping and guiding your life. Over the years, my experience has lead to me adopting many unwritten rules. I have shared many of them above. You don’t have to accept them or adopt them. However, I hope they have given you reason to reflect and consider the unwritten rules which impact your life.