Principles are universal truths that help us live effective and efficient lives. They are valuable for making the most of our time and energy.
What you value can help you design the best principles for your life. Your personal rules for living can be your personal manifesto.
Principles help us live a useful life. In his book, Principles, Ray Dalio, billionaire investor, hedge fund manager, philanthropist said, “Principles are fundamental truths that serve as the foundations for behaviour that gets you what you want out of life.
They can be applied again and again in similar situations to help you achieve your goals.” Do you have a personal manual of life principles to live by? These are a few principles you can use to refine your personal principles.
1. Live deliberately
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” — Henry David Thoreau
If your 10 years older future self meet you today, would he/she be impressed with where you are headed? Why or why not?
No one can stop the march of time but you can make the most of the time you have right now, take charge of the direction of your life and live deliberately.
Most people settle into the same habits, routines, behaviours and simply live the same year over and over again, waiting for an external force to change their lives.
While you wait for the right moment to live authentically, a career opportunity or the best time to pursue that side project, you forget that life is happening now.
Don’t wait till the end of your life and discover that you did not live. Whilst you have time, and the power of choice, choose to do more of what makes you come alive. Cultivate a life and mind of purpose.
Living deliberately is about purposeful action — choosing to use your time, attention and energy productively. It means being aware of your actions, instead of acting automatically or reacting blindly.
“When living our best life is our goal, we will find little steps along the way that will truly be exquisite, and we’ll keep having more and more of them,” says Robert Puff, PhD, the host and producer of the Happiness Podcast.
2. Pursue your personal true north
“Above all else, I want you to think for yourself, to decide 1) what you want, 2) what is true and 3) what to do about it”, writes Ray Dalio, in his book “Principles”.
What do you want your legacy to be? 10, 20, 50 years from now, what will your name mean to you, your family and the rest of your world?
Fast-forward ten or twenty years. What is the one thing that, if you never pursued, you’d always regret? Starting today, do everything in your power to do more of what makes you come alive.
Find your own way in life. If you can’t, pursue something on the side in your spare time — it can change your perception about life and living it. Your life, your path, your failures and successes should not look like other people’s.
Purpose can give us energy, optimism, and motivation to live our life to the fullest. Forge a path that is unique to you — trust that your path, strange though it will seem to others, is right for you.
3. Live in one time dimension — the present
“If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.” — Anonymous
Life moves in only one direction — forward. Everything is still evolving. You are either becoming a better version of yourself or the worst version of yourself. We all have a choice to live in one of three different time dimensions at all times — the past, present and future.
Most people choose to live in the past or the future but not the present — that’s a recipe for a miserable life.
They spend a lot of time thinking about everything that went wrong their past, what could be going wrong now or the worst thing that can go wrong in the future.
To live life to the fullest, choose to live in real-time — the present.
Living in the moment is not always easy. If you are having a hard time living in the moment, build your awareness skills, learn to redirect your mind when it wanders or incorporate mindful activities. Be mindful of your thoughts and don’t let them consume you.
4. Always be learning
“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” — Anthony J. D’Angelo.
You can never arrive. Life is an experiment in progress — we learn to do more of what works and less of what brings out the worst in us.
Most people are happiest when they are improving and doing the things that suit them naturally. Make life-learning is a life-long process — stay hungry, stay curious.
There will always be people who are better and wiser than you — learn from them. Don’t just copy what works for them. Experiment with the tools and systems of people you admire and keep what works for your personal circumstances.
“Nobody wants to show you the hours and hours of becoming. They’d rather show the highlight of what they’ve become,” says Angela Duckworth, the author of “Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success”
Don’t make learning a chore. If you choose your tools carefully, you are more likely to enjoy the journey.
When you don’t know something, be curious for answers. Feverishly seek the answers. Never let ignorance deter you because the desire to learn is always noble.
5. Stop worrying about things you can’t change
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…” — Epictetus
Most people stress so damn much about things we can do nothing about — the past, the future, people’s perception of us, their decisions, thoughts, their happiness, success, and every natural change around us.
Erma Bombeck once said, “Worry is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”
When you spend your time in “what if” mode, wishing things had been different, you stop living. You get trapped in the past or the future whilst the present is wasting away.
The only thing you have control over is your thoughts, decisions, attitude, and reactions. When you realise what’s within your control, life becomes easier to handle. It’s a brutal truth in life that some people refuse to accept.
“…the more you try to control everything around you, the more anxious you’ll feel. It’s a vicious cycle to break — worry, try to gain control, fail, and worry again.
Repeat,” writes Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.
You can influence people and circumstances but you can’t force change in others. If you find yourself worrying about things you can’t control, focus on changing your behavior or adapting. By putting your effort on what you can impact, you can make a bigger difference.
This article first appeared on Medium.