My 6 guiding principles


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Takeaway: You probably have guiding principles, whether you realize it or not. Capturing them can help you make better decisions. If you’re curious, mine are listed below! 

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 52s.

A work strategy group I’m part of recently had a curious meeting topic: what core principles guide our actions? On first reflection, I honestly didn’t think I had any. I don’t live by some creed or code, I mostly just try to make decisions that feel like the right ones. But when I sat down with a notepad, to my surprise, six principles almost immediately came to mind—ideas that guide my decisions and actions in work and in life. The whole activity took just a couple of minutes. 

I’d wager a guess that you’re the same way. We rarely take the time to capture these guiding principles—even though recognizing them can help steer our actions, lead us to better decisions, and let us live more in alignment with who we are. 

If you’re curious, here are my six: 

  1. Don’t do anything unless I’m going to do it right.
  2. Only associate with nice people—and be kind to others in turn. (As a rule, I refuse to work with people who are unkind, even if doing so costs me money or work. Life’s too short to work with toxic people, particularly when given the choice.)
  3. Try to uncover my weaknesses—especially ones that exist in my blind spots—then either fix or compensate for them.
  4. Trust in karma. (People talk and actions matter.) 
  5. Surround myself with people who talk about ideas—not events or people. 
  6. Remember that happiness is nothing more than coming to terms with how things change. Remind myself of this every day through meditation. 

Writing out these core principles—most of which have been deep in my mind for quite some time—got me reflecting on how helpful these principles are in practice. They’re true to who I am and each lead me to feel good about how I’m spending my time. I’m sure there’s more I haven’t realized yet. 

If you had the time to read this article, you probably also have a few minutes to capture your own list of principles. Grab a pen and a sheet of paper and write down what comes to mind, paying special attention to ideas that have helped guide you in the past. 

You may be surprised by how quickly they come to mind.

(If you do end up creating a guiding principles list, I’d love to read them! Shoot me a quick email—I might even steal one or two for myself.)

Written by

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity, and is the author of two books: Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in 20 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site, and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive, without hating the process.

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