Recently, I was chatting about life principles with a friend. I believe that a person’s life principles really reflect a lot about the person. And I have much room to learn from others.
But I was caught off guard when my friend asked me about my principles instead.
All the while I thought I had memorized them. I mean, I live by my principles to the point I no longer need to memorize them as they are already ingrained in my daily actions. But at that moment I was tongue-tied. I could not recite my principles off the top of my head.
That was when I realize I have a handful of principles to share. And I thought, why not list them down?
So here it is. But it won’t all be in one post. Because for each of my principles, there is a set of considerations behind it. I want to explain each principle clearly and not let them be misunderstood.
In this article, I will share my first principle. This principle is what set me out to search for more principles and since then decision making has become very easy and clear for me.
My first principle is that a person is made up of a pyramid.
At the very top, it is our character. However, our character is merely a symptom of who we are. It is what others see us as but they do not represent who we are.
At the bottommost, it is our principles. Our principles are the foundation of our being.
Our principles will affect our values.
Our values affect our emotions.
Our emotions affect our thoughts.
Our thoughts affect our actions.
Repeated actions create habits.
And multiple habits form a character.
For example, my emotion will differ from a vegan when we witness someone eating meat excessively. This is because our values are different.
Likewise, some might see stealing from the rich as acceptable. Some might not. Such differences in emotions and thoughts are the result of different life values.
These differences in emotions of anger, happiness, or envy can very naturally result in a very different course of actions.
As a consistent and sane person, witnessing the same event with the same set of principles will result in the same emotion. And thus, the same actions.
Selecting my principles
Therefore, I thought to myself, if principles are what shape us, then I’d better have the right principles!
That is when I realize there are different types of principles. Some principles are very specific. Some principles can have a more significant effect than the others. For example, some live by the rule that they should be frugal.
I do not like such principles because “being frugal” is not very applicable. It simply means to spend as little as possible and cut what is unnecessary.
Such principles are only applicable in specific situations. In the case of “being frugal”, it only applies when we are making a purchase decision.
I also dislike principles that are formed with little considerations. Principles like what is being promoted on social media such as “always be happy” and “work hard”.
Not that I don’t want to be happy nor am I lazy, but these are merely sound-good phrases that don’t embrace the reality nor cater to the desire of each person.
At this point, I thought it would be good to insert a note about leadership since this concept of a pyramid applies to others too.
A leader is someone who can get a group of people to meet a certain objective. A simple command from a superior to ask a group of people to carry a box can easily qualify as a leader.
Except, in real-world situations, the tasks are often more complicated than just carrying a box.
To do a one-off task, perhaps a simple order from an authoritative position will get the job done – That is influencing their actions directly.
However, to achieve an efficient team that will tirelessly do their best work, we have to influence something more fundamental than actions. Remember, thoughts are what leads to actions. This means anyone who is thrown into a leadership position for more than a day should do something about the mindset of their team.
And of course, the more fundamental the alignment is, the more consistent the results. So, a good leader will attempt to affect something even more fundamental than the mindset such as the emotion layer and the values layer.
Interestingly, some other definitions of leadership such as “to motivate” becomes very close to this understanding.
A journey of self-improvement
Back to the topic, with all these in mind, I have set out to search for principles that can apply to a wide array of situations and have a significant impact in my life.
I pick my principles mainly from self-reflection and people I admire.
However, my experience tells me that my principles are not perfect. So, I am constantly refining and reflecting on my principles.
I also make it a point to ingrain principles into my daily actions. Else, that would defeat the purpose.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge that principles are something that is very personal. Generally, the more fundamental layers in the pyramid are more resistant to change. So, you don’t have to change your principles to suit mine. But I think it is worth the time if sharing my principles with you has helped you for your reference.
Look forward to my other principles!