To comply or not to comply

“The speed limit is 40!” I said out loud. “What’s wrong with people?”

“While complying can be an effective strategy for physical survival, it’s a lousy one for personal fulfillment.”

— Daniel H. Pink, American author, journalist and speech writer

“The speed limit is 40!” I said out loud. “What’s wrong with people?”

I was crossing a bridge that was under construction. Signs clearly informed drivers that the speed limit while passing workers was 40 km/h.

Another sign alerted drivers that speed fines doubled within the designated area.

I began to wonder why some people complied with posted speed limits while others ignored them completely.

Did these people in the last group perceive choice and consequence differently than me?

Did they see themselves as bound by a different set of rules?

I began to wonder if these renegades knew something that I didn’t.

Compliance refers to a response — specifically, abidance or obedience — made in reaction to a particular request.

We can choose to comply with laws, to comply with company guidelines, to comply with the established rules of right and wrong — or not.

Someone told me once that I was highly compliant. I thought I was being offered a compliment, but that was not the intent.

The individual told me that I appeared willing to accept whatever rules and regulations the company rolled out no matter how absurd they might be. At the time, I didn’t fully comprehend the comment. To my way of thinking, the company set out the expectations and — as they were signing my paycheque — I had no option but to comply if I wished to remain employed.

The person shook his head and sighed.

This upset me greatly, especially when he began referring to me as the obedient soldier. I had been taught since childhood to follow the rules — to do what was expected of me — and I seldom ever stepped outside boundaries once they had been firmly established.

In fact, I resented people who flouted the boundaries and did as they pleased. I thought of them as undisciplined renegades.

Many of us likely shared a similar upbringing where boundaries were strictly enforced and the consequence of colouring outside the lines was painful.

There were times when the lines seemed to shift or apply in different ways for different people and that created much stress and anxiety for me.

I wanted to stay within the boundaries of what was expected as it appeared the safest place to be. I began to anticipate the needs and demands of others, which placed me in the regrettable position of being a perpetual people pleaser.

To make matters worse, my perceptions were blurred by an obsessive, almost compulsive need for acceptance and approval.

I became convinced that the only way to achieve either was to follow the letter of the law — no exceptions. It was no wonder then that I preferred a structured work and home environment where rules were clear and boundaries well defined and upheld. It was easy to stay compliant.

Years later, when I began managing people in a business setting, I demanded compliance to all of my many rules and grew angry and frustrated when faced with opposition.

Over time, I realized that demanding compliance was not the best or most effective way to manage and motivate people. If we do not feel empowered we are more likely to feel constricted and less inclined to participate and share.

Feeling empowered (in whatever the situation) allows us to keep our objectivity and feel confident in standing up for what is right and appropriate. It also allows us to better manage expectations and respond appropriately.

Think about people you know, especially those at work. No doubt you have the upholders who are entirely compliant, the complainers who are only grudgingly compliant and the renegades who are always pushing the boundaries and demanding change.

I’m not suggesting that we discard our common sense and become belligerent, combative and non-compliant.

Rules are in place for a reason, but a strict adherence to rules without question can stifle creativity and eliminate opportunities for change and improvement.

The empowered individual is one who recognizes the difference between rational and irrational authority and has the wherewithal to comply when appropriate and stand up when necessary.

All of us are more motivated and energized in activities where we feel that we have genuine choice.

Our goal should not be to become submissive, obedient automatons but rather to nurture within ourselves an attitude of responsibility and self-discipline — to look for those opportunities to make realistic choices, offer feedback, respectfully question authority and to challenge the status quo.

When we exercise personal control within the parameters of compassion, empathy and responsibility, we often bring about deep change on both an internal and external level.

Like me, you may have been taught that obedience (compliance) is a virtue and disobedience a vice, but (as with many things) this is by no means an all-encompassing truth.

I read once that when someone demands blind obedience from you, it’s best to take a peek.

Don’t let your desire to be a good soldier stand in the way of offering an alternative or challenging an injustice.

Wise individuals will not blindly comply nor will they dismiss the potential consequences of non-compliance, believing the rules don’t apply to them. Instead, they will strive to see the big picture and make choices that are well considered and appropriate.

We are fortunate to live in a democratic society where we are free to express concerns and opinions. Living an enjoyable and empowered life requires more than simply meeting the demands of those in control.

It requires a balance: little compliance and a little engagement to ensure that we are moving forward and responding to all that life has to offer.

For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer team punches ticket to 2020 Cheerleading World Championships

A Red Deer cheer team is hoping to become the best in… Continue reading

Ponoka RCMP bust yields crystal meth and brass knuckles

Two men and two women facing drug trafficking charges

UPDATED: Westerner Park faces financial challenges

City of Red Deer assumes temporary financial oversight

Westerner Park asks City of Red Deer for financial help

Westerner Park says it needs city financial support

Country music fans enjoy free concert at Red Deer mall, ahead of ACMA awards

Fans like to get up close and personal and that’s exactly what… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Feb. 1 A Jump Rope Competition will be held at the Abbey… Continue reading

David Marsden: Let’s see success at Westerner Park

It’s encouraging that Westerner Park has admitted it needs the support of… Continue reading

City council in Prince Albert, Sask., votes to give plastic bags the boot

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — A city in northern Saskatchewan is believed to… Continue reading

Alberta’s climate plan part of cabinet decision on new oilsands mine: Wilkinson

OTTAWA — Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says cabinet’s decision on a massive… Continue reading

Magnitude 7.7 earthquake hits between Cuba and Jamaica

HAVANA — A powerful magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck in the Caribbean Sea… Continue reading

RDC Queens curling advance to ACAC Championships

RDC set to host the championships from Feb. 28 to March 1

Virus in China affects sports events, Olympic qualifiers

GENEVA — Amid growing concern at the spread of a new virus… Continue reading

Ottawa 67’s boss Andre Tourigny gets call to coach Canada’s junior team

CALGARY — After serving as an assistant coach this year for Canada’s… Continue reading

Most Read