The power of principle

A principle is akin to a rule for life. When you have a clear principle it guides you as to how you would like to behave in a particular situation. As long as you remain true to your principle, you will know that you are doing the right thing. If you do not adhere to your principle, you are likely to experience guilty, anxiety or even stress. It is not just you who benefits from your principles, others benefit too as they offer them guidelines and policies for how to interact with you. We may not always agree with each other’s principles but when we know each other’s principles, we are better able to manage relationships to ensure that we can work together to our mutual benefit.

When you make your principles known to those whom you interact with regularly, they know how you are likely to react in a particular situation. They won’t ask you to do things which they know are against your principles. For example; I expect to be notified at the earliest opportunity if somebody cannot keep a commitment which they have made with me. If someone is running late, I expect a message or phone call to tell me so. People who fail to inform me know that if they are more than a few minutes late, I may not be there when they arrive. I value my time so I refuse to spend it waiting endlessly for someone who is not prepared to offer me that courtesy. I will send them a message to inform them that I cannot wait any longer and then I move on. This may seem abrupt but few people make this mistake twice.

Some sample principles

The following are 14 of the principles which I endeavour to live and work by. Some of them may seem harsh but I find that each principle has served me well. I present these principles merely for illustrative purposes. You must choose the principles which serve you best.

1. I don’t lend money

Many rarguments start over money. I am not a bank and it is not my role in life to loan money to others. If a good friend or a family member needs a small amount of money and I can afford it, I will just give them the money. I have found that over the years it pretty much evens itself out but I don’t keep score and they don’t keep score. Therefore, there is nothing to fall out about as none of us ever feel that we are owed anything.

 2. I don’t work with people who don’t accept responsibility

If you want to change something about your life, you must first accept responsibility for your life. You must realise that it is you who has the make the necessary changes. Blaming others gets you nowhere, you have to identify what you can change and make those changes. Trying to help somebody who does not want to accept responsibility rarely brings any joy but regularly brings frustration and stress.

 3. Try it yourself before you reach out for help

If you want to learn and grow in any area of life, you need to take on new challenges which lie outside of your comfort zone. When you encounter a problem, it is important to first make an attempt to solve the problem before you reach out for help. With resources such as Google; if you can describe the problem, you can usually find someone who has had to deal with it before. Trying to solve the problem first is something that I expect both of myself and others.

 4. I value my time and allocate it based on importance

Time is my most precious resource and I choose to value it and protect it. If something is not important to me, I do not give it my time. It can seem cruel to some people but I find that I can best help myself and others by focusing my time on the activities which I deem important.

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 5. It’s ok to say ‘No’

Building on the last principle, if you do not deem something to be important, it is ok to say ‘No’. At first, you may fear the response of those whom you say no to but most people are actually very understanding. When people are not understanding of your need to say ‘No’, the problem usually lies with them. If you want to make the most of your life, you must be able to prioritise.

 6. Silence equals agreement

If I disapprove of something, I have an obligation to raise my objection. I cannot expect others to know that I have a problem if I have not made a proper effort to inform them. If I fail to raise my objection, then I must accept that I have given my agreement through my silence. The same goes for other people too. If they do not inform me of their objection, I will assume that they are in agreement.

It should be noted that for this principle to be applied effectively, the previous principle must also be applied i.e. it must be ok for the person to say ‘No’.

Staying silent when you want to say ‘No’ can lead to passive aggressive behaviour which can cause serious issues.

 7. I don’t take work outside of my areas of expertise

I have seen too many people in my profession over the years who have taken on assignments in areas where they have little or no real understanding of the subject matter. In my opinion, that is dishonest and they are doing a disservice to their client. I know that people can be under financial pressure at times but I value honesty and integrity too highly for that.

 8. If I commit to being there, I will be there

This is a principle that I picked up from a friend of mine. It is not just about physically being there, I must be mentally present too. Next time you are at a meeting with a large number of attendees, take a look at how many people are there in body but their mind is elsewhere. They are contributing nothing by their presence.

If you commit to being somewhere, whether it is with one person or many, give it your full attention. Be there 100%.

 9. If I have to renegotiate a commitment, I do it immediately

There are times when we must change our plans or we suffer delays and this can impact on others. This is a natural part of life. What should be equally natural is that we let the affected people know immediately that we have to change our plans.  Renegotiating a commitment is usually understandable but breaking a commitment rarely is.

 10. It’s ok to make mistakes

Making a mistake is generally a sign that somebody is trying to do the right thing. Where this is true, I try to praise the effort and rather than berate the other person, I apply the constructive feedback model to identify how things can be done differently the next time.

 11. Learn something new each day

I love learning. It helps me to feel more enthusiastic about life. Everyday, I try to learn something which I can apply in my life or my business. When you learn a little each day, it soon makes a massive difference. In April 2013, I decided to take my business online despite the fact that I knew nothing about online business or websites. It was a steep learning curve but 11 months later, I have had over 100,000 page views and I am just about to launch my online store. That all came from learning something new each day and applying it.

Small daily goals which help you achieve larger goals are a fantastic way to keep making progress without experiencing overwhelm. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting for more information.

 12. Tomorrow starts today

This principle is absolutely fundamental to me. Whatever life you envision for the future, that life is built with the actions that you start taking today. You are not going to just wake up one day to your dream life; that life is going be built with daily action. The sooner you start to take that action; the sooner that your ideal life will be created. So, start taking that action today.

 13. Treat others as you expect to be treated

It’s an old principle and it is a common principle but sadly it is a principle which is often ignored. I am the first to admit that I have on occasion failed to apply this principle. When I have failed, I have experienced guilt and regret.

14. Seek first to understand

Whether you are trying to offer help, sell a product or service, or solve an argument; it is easier to do if you first take the time to understand the needs of the other person. Listen first, and then you will have a much greater chance of reaching a positive conclusion.

A principle is a guideline for how you wish to behave in a particular situation. Principles allow you to live and work to your best while enabling others to understand the best way to interact with you. When you behave in a manner which is consistent with your principles, you feel confident and empowered. You know that you are being true to who you are. Each person has their own principles and they are likely to differ from the people whom they interact with on a regular basis. There is no right and wrong with principles but if we have the courage to share our principles with each other, we are more likely to enjoy harmonious and mutually beneficial relationships.

Image credit: Roxana Gonzalez