I know it's been while, we’ll find some consistency with this clarity soon. Also shifting back to true form, I’d rather write longer blogs infrequently that shorter ones that provide less depth. Today we’re hitting principles.
Previously we hammered action, thought, and emotion as what make up behavior and habits and we will continue to. Identifying foundational aspects of behavior is as important as recognizing the frequency, intensity, and intention of behaviors.
Alignment of these creates consistency, and consistency is the foundation of confidence and clarity. Lacking consistency across these behaviors can create distress. Without clarity and confidence it becomes much easier to lose our sense of direction and motivation. When life seems to be spiraling out of control, we feel lost, stuck, or unmotivated. If we dig a little those feelings may only be at the surface and stem from a deeper uncertainty or clashing of our identities.
When our lives are disrupted by trauma, chaos, or stagnancy, we question our safety and the certainty of what we know. In these moments we have to connect back to the core of who we are, assuming control and place ourselves in order. To do this, we start with what we know. The layers of ourselves and things in our lives we are sure of serve as the grounding point. Start by building clarity there. These are the major pieces we have gone over like how we identify ourselves, our actions, thoughts, and feelings from above.
All that said know we can only control what we can. The things outside of us, we have no influence over. So, to devote energy toward or allow ourselves to be consumed by the things we cannot control is time and effort wasted. A more effective approach is to maintain patience, meeting yourself where you are and your environment with acceptance.
The reality is we won’t have it all together, nor are we expected to. It is just as valuable to be able to say, ‘my shit isn’t together’ as step one. Admitting this alone can offer some relief to our psyche. As humans there will be times we feel inconsistent and contradictory, because parts of us are making adjustments for who we are trying to become, other parts feel stuck, and we’re more comfortable with some parts not changing. These adjustments are preparing us for what we asked for, because something has to change for something to change. Or in other words, nothing changes if nothing changes. How can you expect to do more if you aren’t doing more?
So, embrace the temporary misalignment and inconsistencies, mine yourself and get to the core. Anger, frustration, and other negative emotions are part of this process, I encourage you to embrace them. Choose patience and perseverance with yourself as you take control.
If all of who we are is subject to change through time and experience and we force more changes through personal growth, then which part of us is stable enough to be the anchor while every other part shifts? What is the concrete foundation we build and piece ourselves together on? The easy answer is our principles, or values, morals, ethics or whichever word you like to use. The hard thing is we must define those too. I know these terms can have slightly different definitions. I will primarily speak to principles and values as we continue.
Principles: Intrinsic beliefs that create rules governing behavior, not universally agreed upon.
First note, they are intrinsic, meaning these come from within you. Everyone will not agree. Principles are the hard lines we are unwilling to cross based on our steadfast beliefs. They hold us accountable to who we say we are, what we do, the thoughts we have and emotions we feel. Is the way you identify yourself consistent with your actions, and are those consistent with your principles? What about the goals you intend to achieve? For example, if you believe money is the root of evil, it is unlikely you will become wealthy (unless you also believe you’re a bad person). People likely agree that taking a human life is wrong, but opinions change quickly based on the circumstance or by defining what is a life. Or what about a more intangible idea, loyalty. What is loyalty? What it is to you probably isn’t what it is for everyone else. And people execute loyalty on their own terms. I’ve had debates with my friends on how we interpret loyalty and other intangible terms (e.g. integrity, honesty, love). I was surprised on how much we do not agree.
We can have friends without the same principles as us and can even develop deeper relationships with them when we are transparent about our differences in beliefs. People don’t think like you. Like your own, the opinions of others are very nuanced and may not make sense to you. And know their opinions do not have to; it isn’t really for you to understand. If they think or feel it makes sense to them, then treat it with the same respect that you want your opinions to be received with. If you have difficulty doing this, acceptance may be a practice you can work on. Regardless of whether you agree or not, meet people where they are. On your own principles, be clear when the topic comes up in any form. Our niceness to someone else doesn’t do us any good if it comes at the expense of our boundaries are crossed. Because then we are hurt for not speaking up. Your principles are yours to live and stand by not theirs. And the same, vice versa.
Let’s break down an example -- relationships. We all have some list of dealbreakers, or things we won’t put up with in any type of relationship (intimate, friends, mentor). Some topics that fall on the dealbreaker line are open relationships, gender roles, parenting, and crossing lines of religion/race/orientation. But we’ve all heard ranges of what people are willing to accept in relationships and may be baffled by some of these. I know you have a few brewing in your head. Often, we cannot fathom the idea of bending on our hard line until the scenario hits home, either ourselves or someone close to us. We said we would be unwavering in our principles, but the perfect storm has us convincing ourselves to change and backpedaling to make it work. This perfect storm could be as simple as getting older and wanting a companion as far as relationships are concerned, or you really like someone and think they are different. This isn’t an excuse to bend, it just may be one reason we allow ourselves to fold and create the illusion that we didn’t go back on what we said or believed.
Some people will be proud to coach their friends to better relationships, but will remain in shitty ones themselves? Why not do for yourself what you do for others and have the same conversation with yourself? There shouldn’t be two standards, if you’re preaching, or in this case coaching, then practice. Relationships are an easy example, but this goes for all principles. My intention is to encourage careful thought and consistency in things that matter to you. For example, one of my principles is “do what you say you’re going to do”, no ifs, ands, or but’s about it. I make every effort to come through even on the smallest tasks. If I say I am going to do it, then I am.
Think of your principles and values as your demands. You should meet your own standards and require others to meet them too when they concern how they interact with you. Ironically though, note how quickly you are willing to sacrifice them. For yourself and for others. What about your momentary desires? Because you’re tired? To avoid sadness? To attain happiness?
Bending is not all bad, there are times to bend. There are certain times you allow yourself to bend because maybe acting away from principle is to your benefit or because our human experience has altered the way we think about a situation. We are malleable and subject to change. However, it is key to find consistency and be intentional about our decision to bend. Our principles are like our own ground rules carefully thought out and they serve as a great base.
The lessons we learn shape us, altering our behaviors and habits. Sometimes the lesson will resonate enough to change a principle, or stand even more rigidly on it. I have principles that have faltered and needed to be revamped, as well as others that withstood. Another of my principles is consistent with The Four Agreements in addition to do what you say you’re going to do. It is: it’s not about you. In the book it is titled take nothing personally. This one stood the test of time, when something does not go my way, I don’t consider an attack on me. People have a million things happening. Conversely, when I make an error, I let them know it was not about them.
By concretizing (that’s a good word, right? It means: ‘to make concrete’) principles sooner, we can effectively demand what we want from ourselves, other individuals, and life itself. Principles keep us consistent on the days we’re more inclined to act based on how we feel or what we think in that moment. We’ve all said yes because we were happy, no because we were upset, or yelled because we were angry. Emotions are fleeting, but impactful. In retrospect, most times there could have been a more balanced decision to be made. Our principles keep us steady in times when emotions consume us and emotions level us to ensure there is passionate belief behind the logic. We perform at our best when logic and emotion complement each other, this is the true source of our power. When we are operating drastically from one space or the other, we are missing out and may be compensating for some other experience of our past. Emotionality and logic are equally crucial to the decision-making process.
We should develop principles with a clear mind and careful thought. Our principles are made logically, but the passionate belief we have about them is a driver. Be consistent operating from a space that is true to what you believe. Identify your principles and lean into your emotionality as well. Create the balance between them. This takes practice, but start there.
Challenge: Consider some of your principles. Define what they mean to you before you qualify yourself as following them or not. An easy place to start defining your principles are intangible characteristics like loyalty, truth, or dependability, tolerance. You could also come up with a deal-breaking scenario and dig into what makes it a deal-breaker.
From there, consider other layers of you (defining who you are, feelings, thoughts, and action) and determine what would cause you to override your principles, if anything. Think heavy on emotionality for a lot of us this is where contradictory feelings start to arise, like having happiness or pleasure and avoiding pain (there’s a term for this and it’s called hedonism, look into it) or sadness. May be even regret for sticking to, or not sticking to your principles.
Your thoughts can create focus and they could steer you in different direction causing you to act in a way that does not align with your principles. As you consider your principles use your own definition and check yourself. Do you fit the bill? If you don’t, why? Understand others may flat out disagree with you or their definition may be different, causing a disconnect. That’s fine, these are yours. And you only need to be in alignment with yourself.
Remember. You are already whole. We create and reconfigure by mining ourselves. Mining like you mine for diamonds, dig into you and tap into the parts that are essential. These are your principles. How do you get there? Spend time with you. Please do not neglect this part of the process. Realignment comes from reflection and growth (ARA). It can be done some with others, but you will make greater leaps alone in isolation. This is the space of core change to create alignment and know this process is ongoing. Our perception and understanding of who we are and our behaviors and habits is essential to direction of growth.