Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Principle-Driven Life

A note from for Monday April 27 2009

Good day there folks and welcome to this brand new week.

This week we end 1/3 rd of the year 2009, and it begs the usual questions.

1. Are you on track to achieve your goals and intentions for the year?

2. If not, why not?

3. If not, what are you going to do about it?

4. What must you "stop" doing to get yourself on track?

Boy, that should be enough to keep you busy for a while. However, you don't get off that easy.

We went to our friend Philip asking for insights that would help in getting us on track, and keeping us there. He un-hesitatingly directed us to living....

The Principle-Driven Life
by Philip Humbert

I'm convinced that much of the frustration and lack of achievement in life comes from fuzzy thinking about our core principles and our first priorities.

This week I read a little manifesto by author and conservative talk-radio personality, Mark R. Levin. The book, Liberty and Tyranny, criticizes President Obama from a conservative point of view and offers alternatives Levin believes would work better. This reader isn't about politics and I'm not going into it here, but his argument that policies and action must be based upon principle did ring a bell for me.

Very few of us routinely re-examine our core beliefs or write down the principles that guide our lives. Think about it for a moment. How often are you challenged to explain your guiding principles? How often do you write out your basic beliefs, or explain them to a friend or loved one? How often do we even think about where we're going in life or what we absolutely, positively stand for?

My grandmother used to say that if we "don't stand for something, we'll fall for anything." I think she was right. It's vital not only to "do" stuff--our world encourages lots of work, busy-ness and activity!--but to think clearly about what it all means.

It's long been known that under stress we all have a tendency to narrow our focus until we miss even the most essential things in life. When distracted and stressed by a small glitch or anomaly, airline pilots have even forgotten to lower their landing gear! Perhaps a more common example is being so busy we forget to eat lunch or being so stressed we forget to tell our children we love them. How much easier is it to compromise our basic principles in the push to make a sale?

Too often we "major in minor things" or as my friend, Michael Angier says, we "get lost in the thick of thin things." I love that phrase and hate the results!

In a world filled with hundreds of requests to spend our time, our money, our energy and our talents on other people's preferences, it is vital that we stay anchored and focused on the life we choose. I love the story that on a particularly hectic day Mahatma Gandhi once said, "I have so much to do today that I must spend twice as much time in meditation." I think he understood something we often miss.

Here are some steps that can help:

1. Define your fundamentals. If you haven't done so in a while, take time to affirm the things you know to be true. If you have a particular religious faith, what are it's core tenants? How do you see the world and your place in it? What would you fight for? What would you die to defend or stand up for at all costs? Know your fundamentals, the principles that guide your life.

2. Review them with a friend or loved one. At least once a quarter, explain your principles to a skilled listener. Invite a friendly, respectful and compassionate debate. Test your beliefs to see if they stand up to questions and if you can defend them reasonably and clearly. If you can't explain them to a child, perhaps you don't understand them as well as you think you do.

3. Keep a daily journal. I'm a huge fan of writing out our core principles as often as possible. It need not be lengthy or elaborate, but periodically take note of what you believe and how you live it in your daily life. Note where you've gone astray or violated a core value. Be honest with yourself and get back on track as soon as possible. I think it helps.

4. Match your schedule to your values. Periodically review your schedule, your checkbook and your commitments to see if they reflect your principles. Do your core values show up in the time you spend with your family? Do they show up in how you spend money and in the commitments you make to your work? If not, you want to quickly notice when you are off course, while minor adjustments are still possible.

For thousands of years, sailors have known the value of keeping an eye on the north star. They keep their hands on the tiller and check their course often. In modern life, we are rarely encouraged to do the same and it's easy to be led astray. We get so busy with our daily tasks that we easily lose our way.

Don't let that happen to you!

Know your guiding principles and stick to them.

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