If you feel lost, or as though you don’t know where you want your life to go next, or worse, fear that everything you have built could come crashing down, you don’t need more inspiration. You don’t need more positive thinking. You do not need more Pinterest photos or aspirational quotes.
When you have money problems, you need money principles.
When you have relationship problems, you need relationship principles.
When you have work problems, you need work principles.
When you have life problems, you need life principles.
More money does not solve money problems. Different relationships do not solve relationship problems. New work does not solve work problems. Your future life will not solve your life problems.
This is because money does not make you good with money. Love does not make you love yourself. Relationships don’t make you good at relationships. Work doesn’t make you good at your job, or capable of work/life balance.
Problems don’t inherently make you a stronger person unless you change and adapt. The variable here is you. The common denominator is whether or not you shift your foundational perspective on the world, and how you behave within it.
Let’s be very clear: Someone who makes $500K can be as seriously in debt and struggling as someone who makes $50K, and in fact, this happens more often than you would ever think. People who make less money are required to learn how to manage it better, and people who make more think they can eschew principles because of the quantity they are attaining.
You can screw up your dream relationship just as quickly as you can a hookup, because the way you relate to others is an issue with you, not something that shifts depending on whether or not you meet the most perfect person you never triggers or annoys you and relates to you with unconditional positive regard.
You can be just as unhappy in your ideal job, with your perfect hours, at your most desired pay rate, if you don’t know how to ration your time, or relate to others in your workplace, or move your career forward. People who are “living their dreams” and “following their passion” can be just as unhappy as people who are not.
If you don’t have principles, your life is not going to get better just because you envision and then try to create a new one. Those problems are only going to follow you, and get bigger as your life does.
The good things that happen to us in life are like a magnifier. They show us where we still need to grow. True love shows us to ourselves. Money shows us to ourselves. Dream jobs show us to ourselves. The good, the bad, the desperately-needs-to-change-right-now.
If you don’t have principles now, you won’t have them later. If you don’t have the money principle of living beneath your means, you won’t be able to do it when you have more money.
If you don’t have the relationship principle of not relying on others for your sense of self, it won’t magically resolve itself when you meet the “right person,” you’ll just sabotage that relationship, too.
What is a principle?
A principle is a fundamental truth that you can use to build the foundation of your life. A principle is not an opinion, or a belief. A principle is a matter of cause and effect.
Principles can become personal guidelines.
Some examples of money principles are the following: keep overhead costs low, get out and stay out of debt, live beneath your means, save for a rainy day.
Many financial experts advocate to prioritize debt repayment as the beginning of financial health. This is because one day of accrued interest probably own’t impact you that much. But 20 years will, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.
In the same way, one day of gained interest in investments won’t make a big difference. But 20 years will, to an even more significant margin.
The point of having principles is that it shifts you from short-term survival to long-term thriving.
Most things in our lives are governed by principles. Stephen Covey explains this well:
Principles are a natural law like gravity. It’s different than a value. Values are subjective; principles are objective. Gravity… if you drop something, gravity controls.
What this means is that if we are committed to the principle of eating good food each day, we will inevitably reap the benefit of better or improved health. If we write a sentence each day, we will inevitably write a book. If we commit to paying off a portion of our debts each month, we will inevitably pay them off. If we invest consistently and wisely, we will eventually see a return.
Our lives are governed by principles, as Benjamin Hardy explains:
Most people cram for tests while in college. But can you cram if you’re a farmer? Can you forget to plant in the spring, slack-off all summer, and then work hard during the fall? Of course not. A farm is a natural system governed by principles.
So are you.
The law of the harvest is always in effect. What you plant, you must harvest. Furthermore, what you plant consistently overtime eventually yields a compounded or exponential harvest.
You often don’t experience the consequences of your actions immediately, which can be deceiving. If you smoked one cigarette, you probably wouldn’t get cancer. If you spent $10 on coffee just one day, it probably wouldn’t affect your financial life. However, overtime, these habits have drastic outcomes. It turns out, $10 daily over 50 years at 5% compounding interest becomes $816,000.
When you make an investment, you don’t expect to see a return that day. In the same way, you can go to sleep feeling accomplished knowing that you chipped away at your future, just by adhering to your principles.
Little things, done repeatedly and over time, become the big things.
Why is inspiration ineffective here?
Inspiration can be misleading. Big dreams not backed by strategized plans are big flops waiting to happen.
Inspiration means you take a feeling and elaborate on it. You allow your mind to wander, you piece together pretty pictures and create an image of how you’d like your life to feel.
Principles are boring. They aren’t inspiring. They are the laws of nature.
Principles are not immediately gratifying.
They do not make us feel better right away.
That’s why we often reach for inspiration, but find it to be ineffective. This is because we get our minds and hearts set on a vague idea of what we think we want, without ever really evaluating whether or not we want to engage in the daily work and effort it would take to get there.
When we don’t pair inspiration with the principles it takes to achieve those dreams, we become more lost and disappointed than ever before.
How do I start developing my own principles?
Nobody is born with excellent principles, they are something that you learn.
However, there are many different principles in life, and really, some may contradict one another. That’s why it’s important to adopt your own, that fit your goals and your life.
Begin with this:
- What do you value?
- What do you want to experience in your life?
- What makes you uneasy or gives you anxiety?
The answers could be something like this:
I value relationships, and so by principle, I am going to prioritize them when given the opportunity. Alternatively, by principle, I value honest and positive relationships, so I’m not going to be in dating limbo anymore, unless someone commits within a reasonable amount of time, I will regard their hesitation as a “no.”
Perhaps you value financial freedom, and so by principle, you are going to put your extra cash toward repaying debt or building savings or investments. Perhaps you value travel and freedom, and so by principle, you are going to start working for yourself and always prioritize being able to work remotely or make your own schedule.
When you are clear on what your principles are, you can build your life from a really genuine, healthy place. You can start working toward goals that support what you do and do not want to experience, that will make you the calmest and happiest version of yourself.
A good life is built from the inside out, and is based on a foundation of self-conduct and prioritization. It’s not as dreamy as a vision board, but it’s a lot more effective.