In life it is the decisions you make which will shape your future. But when faced with a difficult decision, how do you decide which course of action to take? Personally, I have a set of principles that guide the actions in my life. If something I am doing doesn’t fit in with one of these principles then it needs to be cut.
Think of yourself as a ship sailing on a foggy day with low visibility. The principles are the map and compass that you use to plot your course and avoid danger when you have a hard time seeing where to go. Some decisions are easy. Many times it is obvious if something will be good or bad for you. If it fits in with your life or not. Others it is hard, and especially in these times, it is useful to have some concepts to run things by.
The guiding principles that I am using in my life are as follows:
- Set Long Term Goals
Having goals and a long term focus is crucial. This is the load baring structure that enables the framework of principles to grow strong. In economics we are taught, “in the long run, everything is variable”, meaning anything can happen. Having 100% flexibility to set your goals is an empowering one. It means you can aim for anything, and over a long time frame it can be possible. It gives you time to compound your learning and for you to grow via small daily actions into the thing you want.
Making $1m in a day or a week is not easy, doing it in 25 years is very simple (It is only $3.4k a month)! Focus on making smart long term decisions and over time it will help form your daily actions to line up with them.
- Showing up every day (be consistent)
Nothing is more important than consistency. If you have long term goals then there is nothing more powerful than showing up every day and getting it done. Being good every day is far more powerful than being great occasionally. A small amount of progress multiplied of many many years will be far more effective than one leap forward at a specific point in time.
Moreover, being consistent also means embodying your goals. If your aim is to run a marathon then on day one you probably one, wont be able to do it, and two wont identify as an athlete. But if you put on your shoes and train a little every day then over time you will become “athletic”. Your friends will see you as someone who trains every day, you will know that, and over time you will become to embody the athlete who trains. Then, like magic, you’ll be able to dedicate yourself to the goal and run that marathon.
It is how you perform on your bad days, not your good ones, which will dictate how far you go.
- Be Resilient
There will be setbacks in life and one of the biggest defines of your success will be how you respond. The classic John Lennon quote “life is what happens when you are busy making other plans” applies here. Things will happen in life and we must react. Perhaps John meant that you shouldn’t spend your whole life making plans, but I choose to see that you must be ready to react when life comes to you.
Whatever your goal, things will happen around you and stand in your way. The pandemic, illness, injury, stock market crashes and a host of other unforeseen things. They will happen and they will knock you out of your stride. But how you get back in the groove is what really matters. How will you respond?
- Be Resourceful
We aren’t all born into ideal circumstances with $100m in the bank and all the opportunity in the world, therefore, to get around this we must learn to be resourceful. To be resourceful means to look for alternative solutions, it is the gorilla warfare of thinking. When you can’t win in a direct conflict, you must reframe the battle to your terms and drag others into it.
When I was starting LNC I didn’t have the money to hire carpenters to build furniture for our stores, so I bought the wood and made things myself. I didn’t have the money to hire programmers so I learnt basic code and built the website myself. I didn’t have money for full time staff so I worked 12h a day in the store myself. Hell I didn’t even have enough money to pay for a reform on the space we rented, so I made deals with the landlord that we could pay at a later date. I reframed every battle to my terms and made things happen. That is what being resourceful is all about.
- Growth Mindset
To have a growth mindset is very simple. It is very similar to the idea of long term goals, everything is variable. In a growth mindset there is nothing you can’t learn or improve on. Everything we do can be done better if we simply strive for improvement.
A growth mindset lets you appreciate the power of books and the learnings of others that you can then apply to your own life. Every single step along the road is a learning opportunity and you are going to get the most out of it that you can.
Have a growth mindset, believe that you can take the next step and if you are struggling with something, know that you can learn your way through it.
- Build Good Habits
I like to describe building good habits as the shortcut to growth. Others call people with habits “disciplined” when in reality it is just an automated process that you have set up. The quote goes “you are what you do every day”, and it is true, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.
Life is nothing more than a series of flows. We finish X task and move on to Y action. I brush my teeth, I shower, I dress, I go to work. Habits let you add to these routines so that you can alter them to suit your long term goals. I wake, I put the coffee on, I journal, I write, then I brush my teeth, shower etc. I have simply added some automatic steps to the routine. I am not disciplined, I just know that before I can clean my teeth I must write. Once I finish writing I know I clean my teeth, it is automatic.
Building good habits is locking in desired behaviours which require no mental discipline to initiate. See “consistency” for the idea of showing up everyday being the most powerful, well, what if you could automate the most difficult part of showing up. A powerful recipe!
- Share With Others
The rest of my principles on this list are self-focussed, but this one is external. Focus on the people around you and sharing in their lives. Whilst the previous goals will enable you to get the things you want out of life, the one thing you should really want is to form meaningful relationships, and the basis of meaningful relationships is communication and openness.
Sharing your life with others and sharing in there’s is a fundamental for human happiness. We are all too focussed on our own goals to look up and partake in the lives of the people we care about most, so make it a priority in your life to build the relationships around you. I promise you, no one on their death bed has every said “I wish I worked a few more hours”. Nurture the people you care about and it will bring you 1000x more happiness than everything else on this list combined.