Maybe before getting into what yours are we should back up and take a look at what guiding principles are and why it may serve us well to have some.
I work for a large corporation. We have 11 maxims. These maxims, or guiding principles, are easy to remember phrases that help us make decisions for the company. It’s not exactly fool-proof and because there are so many sometimes they can contradict depending on one’s interpretation, perspective, and (quite honestly) ones agenda. However, in spite of that, I think the notion of guiding principles is a brilliant way to develop a solid base and guide for making decisions.
Guiding principles are simple phrases that serve as a basis for reasoning and action. They are a personal code of conduct that leads, shows the way, and directs the movements of your life. They are guides to keep you on track and when communicated to others helps others make better decisions on your behalf when necessary.
Although I no longer manage people, when I did in addition to the companies maxims I had a few of my own guiding principles. They were…
Keep everyone working…on my stuff. I am responsible to achieving certain goals which often means working through other people. How do I ensure people have what they need in a timely basis so they can help me achieve the objective?
Teach vs Do. Educate and train people to do things correctly. This can mean significant time out of my day initially, but the back-end pay off is huge. In a way I am cloning aspects of myself so I can delegate then focus on other areas of the business.
Everyone needs a cheerleader. In my experience people are more motivated to work and push themselves when someone is cheering them on.
In your own personal or professional life what are your guiding principles? They probably already exist, even if you have not truly identified them. If you have spiritual practices, your guiding principles may be found in that literature or practice.
If you think guiding principles could create more stability in your life, try the below exercise over the next few days:
Step 1: Identify
• Identify the guiding principles from your spiritual practices and literature.
• Identify your personal (or professional) standards and life (or work) theories.
• When are decisions easy to make? Why? What guides you when making these decisions?
Step 2: Evaluate
• What decision-making situation will each principle help you with?
• When are decisions difficult for you? What theory or principle will help you in these situations?
• Of all the principles you’ve identified, which one feels yummy and which ones just don’t feel right? Keep those that feel good. Discard or tweak those that don’t quite fit.
Step 3: Clarify
• Why did you select each principle? In which situations will they be helpful?
• Can you build a foundation for your decision-making with these guiding principles?
• For each principle turn it into a memorable phrase and write out an explanation.
You did it! Congratulations! If you followed the above steps you have a set of guiding principles. Try these out for a while. Adjust them as necessary until you have a set of guiding principles that you can clearly communicate to others and base your decisions on.