Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty. – Henry Martyn Robert
What does that mean?
This quote is from the guy who wrote Robert’s Rules of Order. It was patterned after the way Congress was run, but adapted for use by every day, ordinary people. It stresses that where there is no law, even when everyone does what they think is right, only the tiniest bit of actual liberty will exist.
This is because some will exert more influence than others, and opinions as to what is right will vary from person to person. This will lead, at best to a benevolent dictatorship, and at worst, chaos incarnate. And that’s just talking about meetings, not whole systems of governance!
The argument is that some set of rules is necessary, so that all may know their place, and get their turn. This helps to keep things moving smoothly, and reduces the shouting matches to the topic at hand, rather than on the process of the meeting. At least when one group isn’t trying to cheat, because that’s the right thing to do if they can win, in their eyes.
Why is order important?
Order is a tricky thing. Like so much in life, you can have too much, and you can have too little. Going back to the quote, everyone sees what the ‘right’ amount is through their own eyes, and few people see exactly eye to eye. As you might guess, the people who tend to like the most rules, also want to write and enforce them. That usually leads to problems, right?
Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, you have the people who like few rules busy doing their own thing, when they want, with little regard to the other people. This also leads to friction and other problems. There has to be a happy medium, and that’s what Robert’s Rules of Order try to accomplish.
A group of people get together, read over the highlights, and select the parts that make sense for their group, and discard those things which do not. There may be some give-and-take as the group comes to a consensus, but at least they have ground rules for all their future meetings.
I imagine you can see how the quote applies to a small group of people, and can probably imagine how much more complex it can become when you get 435 people in one room, all trying to get something done (but rarely the exact same thing, unless it’s time to go home, as a motion to adjourn is always in order).
Where can I apply this in my life?
We will assume you’re not a member of a governing body of any substantial size or power, and that your concern is more about day to day life. Where is your life a little to chaotic or a little too rigid? Where do you have too little order, or too much order? While technically we are the masters of our fate, and the captains of our souls, we also have responsibilities.
Just because cooking breakfast for the family is a very tightly timed thing, doesn’t mean you can just drop it. Enlisting others to help might be a more reasonable solution. This would allow a little less order at breakfast, without dropping all responsibility, right?
What else is either too chaotic or too strictly ordered? Perhaps in you grabbed some paper and took them one at a time, it would be a little easier. Let’s start with chaos. For me, that’s the kid’s schedules. While there is some loose order to it (which day is Scouts, which day is dance, etc), the exact timing always seems different due to the minor details, like having to be somewhere early, staying a little late, or having to take a ‘brief’ detour to fetch something.
How about too strictly ordered? Write a few of these down as well. For me, that’s my schedule. In the morning, before taking them to school, that hour and a half is completely scheduled down to the minute. My evenings are almost as full, after the kids are in bed. It’s blocked out for over two and a half hours solid. Whew!
How did your list turn out? Hopefully you came up with a few items on each list. Now comes the tricky part. How do you introduce a little more order into the chaotic portions of your life, and add a little chaos to the more strictly ordered areas?
What I have been trying to do for the overly ordered portions is staying up a little later at night to give myself a little free time at the end of the day. Soon I’ll also be getting up about a half hour earlier to get a little more exercise into my schedule. I’m also looking to see what I can do to tighten up the middle of my day so that I don’t lose so much sleep.
What I have been trying to do with the overly chaotic portions is delegation. The kids are being given a little more to do, so that they learn to manage some portions of their life. I’ve also been laying down the law. If they don’t give me enough warning, it simply doesn’t get done. Each of them have messed up on that one and didn’t get to do what they wanted, chaos averted.
What can you do to shake things up a little, or get a little structure back into your life? It won’t be easy, and responsibilities take their toll, but you should be able to create for yourself a little latitude, if you’re willing to make the trade-offs.
From: Twitter, @AllysonDixon2
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/h/henrymarty312131.html and http://www.constitution.org/rror/rror–03.htm, which is the preface to the book.
Photo by Ed Yourdon
Happy Birthday to Brigadier General Henry M. Robert, born on 2 May, 1837.