Principles for Life
by Walter McIntyre
I have personal operating principles that help me have a happy and fulfilled life. I guess you would say that this helps me lead a principle centered life. These principles, when followed, even when it is not convenient, help me move through my life with happiness and peace of mind. I am not advocating what is morally right or wrong, only that you need to understand “your” right and wrong to have a stable map for your life to follow.
These are my principles:
Being honest, especially when you believe that others either will not, or cannot find out the truth, is a measure of your character. I don’t know too many people who want to be known as really good liars. The truth of the matter is that when you are dishonest, people know. Typically, the first person fooled by your dishonesty is you.
On the other hand, being known as an honest person will open doors for you. As Stephen Covey put it, to be trusted, you must first be trustworthy. It also provides a low stress, positive feeling in your core when you know you are being honest.
I am the first person to know it when I lie and I don’t like the feeling. I am better that that. These are important questions for me. What do I know about my honesty? What would the people in the wake of my life say about my honesty? What do I want them to say?
Integrity is related to honesty, but runs deeper, getting into your morality, character, and sincerity. Unfortunately, we currently live in a culture were telling half-truths (half lies) and cheating is not only accepted, it is expected. We rationalize our behavior from a win/lose perspective. As long as I win, it’s OK, right? Have you ever met a person who wants to win the argument, even when they know they are wrong or misleading?
Seeing an opportunity to cheat or undermine others, but not taking advantage of it, is a characteristic of a high integrity person. Trust me, people know more about your integrity than you think.
Life is a marathon not a short sprint. It is more important that I finish the race well, not that I won a sprint today that cost me the race in my life. I like the feeling of doing the right things for the right reasons. I also want others in the wake of my life to see me as a person with integrity.
See the potential in yourself, others and situations. This involves seeing past the obvious. Bear in mind that this involves seeing both the potential upside and downside. Many times, potential is evident in the contextual information surrounding people and situations.
What this really involves is taking the long view on things, instead of being short sited. Life is an evolution not an event. Everything and everyone is moving toward a destiny. Were we are today, no matter what we do or say, is not where we will eventually wind up.
Did you know that when you trample on someone’s dignity, you trample on your own at the same time? If you have ever watched someone attack someone else’s dignity, you know what I mean. What did you think about the aggressor?
This is the root of the bullying dilemma. The bully is actually the one with the low self-esteem and they need to tear down someone else to feel better about themselves. Seeking a win/lose victory is hollow when a win/win victory is possible.
On the other hand, how do you feel when you preserve someone else’s dignity? I recently witnessed an elderly lady wondering a grocery store parking lot looking for her car. A young man came up to her and said “Are you having trouble finding your car, sweet heart”. She replied that this was so and the young man helped her find the vehicle and gave her a hug. I asked him if he knew her and he said that he didn’t. He also said that he had a grandmother that age and hoped that someone would help her if she were in a similar situation. I told him I was proud of him.
Like the young man in the story above, I hope that paying it forward is a real possibility some day for me. What would the people in the wake of your life say about your concern for the dignity of others? What do you want them to say about you?
This is the difference between being independent or interdependent. We are better when we walk together than when we walk alone. We are meant to connect with others. Interdependent people are nearly always happier and more effective than independent people.
It is easy to connect with those who agree with us on current issues, but we must also connect with those with whom we disagree. We are all in this together. Look up “The Pale Blue Dot” on the internet. This is an enlightening perspective on our collective humanity.
Are you driftwood, simply floating along with the currents of life? Or, are you a person of purpose, who is moving toward something. It is important to know where you want to go in life. I have heard it said, and I have experienced it, that when you are exposed to purpose, nothing will be the same in your life.
Purpose also drives your approach to every criterion listed here. People with purpose are driven to compliance with their values. When you have purpose, decisions are easier to make because you have a map to follow.
You might call this “keeping the main thing, the main thing”. For example, if you intend to save money for your children’s education or your retirement. If that is a purpose for you, then it makes it easier to answer the question of whether I need a new car, or just want one. That decision can make a $30,000 – $50,000 difference in your finances over a 5-7 year period, at today’s car prices.
A purpose driven life is where effort is valued. It is about the journey. How to live intentionally, with purpose, requires you to know what you value and what you want to be the result of your life. These are difficult questions to answer with honesty and certainty, which is why so many are blindly pushed and pulled along with the masses. Having no purpose of your own, allows others to use you for their purposes.
Know what you believe in and understand why you believe it. If you cannot explain your beliefs, you may be vulnerable to drifting away from your purpose. Try talking directly to the person in your mirror. If that person has difficulty understanding your beliefs, or is doubtful, you have some growing to do.
Relevant questions might be: Are your religious beliefs yours or your parent’s? Is your political party affiliation yours or what others have told you to believe? Are your beliefs in alignment with your purpose? What is the most important role in your life? There is no clear right or wrong set of beliefs. Only that your beliefs are in alignment with your purpose and what you value.
Try creating a 30 second elevator speech that tells who you are and where you are going in life. Be honest. Remember you are the only one who will be fooled if you don’t. Your beliefs and your embracement to them become the lubrication that helps you through difficult situations in your life. I want my belief system to stand the test of time and trouble. My beliefs will not evaporate like a fair-weather friend when the going gets tough.
The above is a picture of my personal philosophy. It is my sincere hope that it defines my actions when I am measured against who I want to be.