Read time: 4 minutes. Click here to watch my video on the topic.
Guiding principles can help with daily decision making. We are the sum of all our small decisions and having some principles to fall back on can be helpful. Principles can also help guide larger life decisions. I created a list of guiding principles for myself back in 2016 and it’s evolved into what you see below over the years with some refinement.
Sometimes I’ll fall off the track of applying these principles but I do work to find my way back. I should really review them more often. Although I feel as if they’re ingrained in me. After all these principles came about through self-reflection. I have oversimplified all of the complexities of life with the principles and that is why they’re only a guide. They serve as a starting point for me. They’re not absolute and they will change over time.
I’d encourage you to write a preliminary list of your own principles before continuing to read this post. There are no guidelines or rules for developing your own. The only characteristic of your guiding principles that matters, in my view, is that they are true to you.
My Guiding Principles
1. Stay Healthy: I’ve only got this body.
Protect your health because it’s the most important quality you have as a human body. A lot of the determining factors for health are outside your control, but guard any actions within your control that help you stay healthy. This includes actions around stress, sleep, nutrition, hydration, mobility, and movement.
2. Stay Present: I’ve only got this moment.
There is only one time that you can live and it is this moment. The mind will take you into the future or past but make a habit of doing your best to keep your focus in the present. If you don’t you’ll miss a lot of moments. Presence brings flow.
3. Be Kind: Leave what I find better than I found it.
To go far we must go together. The ripple effects of kindness extend far beyond the initial kind action. Kindness compounds over time. Being kind is making an impact for others.
4. Be Impactful: Contribute and engage to make a lasting impact.
Purpose is for others and passion is for self. Help others through your contributions and you’ll leave a lasting impact. In search for purpose look outside of yourself and where you can be impactful.
5. Be Authentic: Stay true to myself no matter the consequences.
You’ll be happier. It’s easier, although it may not feel that way in certain moments. Find the strength to be authentic. It takes practice and there are slip ups but it’s well worth it. Protect your authenticity.
6. Be Curious: Use it to learn and create.
Curiosity is the driving force behind learning and creating. All new action starts with interest in the unknown and a search for some understanding. Turning that curiosity into creativity can lead to contributions that make a lasting impact.
7. Be Open Minded: Develop new perspectives through exploration.
The world changes fast and if you’re not able to welcome in change you’ll be left behind and resentful. There is humility in being open minded because you are welcoming in the opportunity of being “wrong” and changing your beliefs. I am wrong a lot so I change my mind a lot.
8. Find Focus: I can do anything but I can’t do everything therefore decide.
Time alive in finite so you have to choose what you’re going to do. While I can’t really “do anything”, I like the idea of giving myself the freedom to at least try. Focus helps you go far and maximize impact. Don’t spread yourself too thin with lack of focus.
9. Find Joy: Do what I want to do and do what I said I would do.
Have fun. Joyful experiences tend to be energizing. If you can’t find joy in what you’re doing then it’s an energy leech and it’s time to look for something else or change your perspective. Life’s too short not to find your joy.
10. Find Positivity: Nothing is as serious as I think it is.
Look on the brighter side of life. However, there are dark and tragic days that are unavoidable. Positivity can be challenging at times and too much can be detrimental. Find the balance with perspective and an understanding that nothing is as serious as you may think.
This is my personal list of guiding principles that I work to put into action. Some of the principles may resonate with you and others may not. These are by no means universal and should not be blindly taken as such. You can use it for some inspiration for your own principles but do not copy it. If you’re looking to make your own list it will be more impactful if your principles come from within yourself through reflection. I ended up with 10 but that was by coincidence and not a requirement. In fact, eventually I may try and refine the list down to less principles but I’m happy with it for now. Your guiding principles are yours to own and you can make it in any way.
By writing down the principles it provides accountability to myself for my actions. I decided on the list and so if I’m doing something against the principles then I’m disrespecting myself. I didn’t write down anything (at this time) that I don’t believe to be important. So, it’s on me to live with the consequences of not following my own guiding principles. And that’s the key. They’re mine to own.