The Importance of Principles

2 minutes  ▪  by Luis M Oros

I was once asked, "What is something you fundamentally believe to be true that most people would disagree with you on?" Some of you may recognize this question which I later stumbled upon in Peter Theil's books Zero To One.

What do you believe? If someone asked you to write down all the things that you believe to be true in this world what would they be? How long would it take you to write them? If asked why could you defend them? Would you even believe yourself?

I believe that having principles is essential for getting what we want out of life. I also believe that clearly defining and frequently challenging your principles is both an amazing reflective exercise as well as a means to achieve self-love. Borrowing from Ray Dalio's Principles:

What are principles?

Your values are what you consider important. Principles, therefore, are what allow you to live a life consistent with those values. Principles connect your values to your actions; they are beacons that guide your actions, and help you successfully navigate the world around you.

Why are principles important?

Without principles, you are forced to react to circumstances that come at you without considering what you value most and how to make choices to get what you want. This will prevent you from making the most of your life.

Where do principles come from?

Sometimes we forge our own principles and sometimes we accept others' principles. While it isn't necessarily a bad thing to use others' principles, it is difficult to come up with your own, and often much wisdom has gone into those already created, adopting pre-packaged principles without much thought exposes you to the risk of inconsistency with your true values. Holding incompatible principles can lead to conflict between values and actions. Your principles need to reflect values you really believe in.

Do you have principles that you live your life by? What are they?

Your principles will determine your standards of behavior. When you enter into relationships with other people, your and and their principles will determine how you interact. People who have shared values and principles get along. People who don't will suffer through constant misunderstanding and conflict with one another. Too often in relationships, people's principles are unclear. Think about the people with whom you are closest. Are their values aligned with yours?

You will have to answer these questions for yourself. Those principles that are most valuable will come from your own experiences and your reflections on those experiences. Every time we face hard choices, we refine our principles by asking ourselves difficult questions.