I touched on principles and their power in creating a foundation as part of an earlier article you can read here. I will elaborate on the process of building strong principles and how they can help drive you towards becoming the best version of yourself.
Beginning With the End.
Full disclaimer, you will hear me say this at least a dozen more times if you read my articles. It is impossible for me to stress the point of planning enough. As I have heard more or less a thousand times, failing to plan is planning to fail. If you don’t begin with the end in mind the probability of you reaching your goals drops to virtually ZERO. This is due to the fact that one, you do not have a goal to obtain, and two, if you did happen to land in a spot that you were satisfied with the value of the journey would be diminished.
Even if by some miracle you happen to have no plan at all and end up with a favorable outcome, you will not have the pride and honor associated with working diligently and ethically that the vast majority of successful people know.
If you’ve ever read or watched Dave Ramsey, you know that nobody wakes up a millionaire and wonders “How did that happen?”. Becoming successful in any endeavor is the result of clear goals and relentless pursuit of those goals. It is 20% knowing how to get there, and 80% having the burning, unquenchable desire to succeed in the plan you have made.
The easiest way to find your center is to look to the end. Take a moment to think about what you want from life, the people around you, your career, yourself. It is easy to find the core of yourself, your principles, when you understand that you make an impression on everyone in your life. Imagine your funeral, your friends, family, your spouse. Write down a few of the things you believe they might say about your life as it stands, and then write down the things you want them to say about you, what you want your legacy to be.
To Be Good to Others, First Learn to Be Good to Yourself!
(Insert content about being the best version of yourself, being about your business, improving constantly, refining your principles)
Generosity plays a major role in living a full and complete life. Giving to others and helping them along their journey is more important today than at any other time because of the specialized nature of modern life. In the modern world we are fortunate to have the opportunity to take on specific roles of our choosing, parts that include manufacturing, public welfare, transportation, and banking. With the rise of technology we are less dependent on our own ability to produce food and provide clean sources of water.
This is not an invitation to become completely dependent on others. It is to remind you of the strength that comes from unity, from all the gears ticking in unison. Understanding what it means to be independent, and then to use that independence to foster the growth of interdependence, is the core of generosity. Being generous does not mean that you bleed yourself dry for the sake of others, it means being strong enough that you can give without hurting yourself or the people for which you are responsible.
In short, the best way to be kind to others is to first be kind to yourself, to improve yourself, and then once you have mastered your own talents you can use them to benefit those around you, who will in turn use their mastery to benefit your life.
Finding Your Center – The Engine of Motivation
To understand the best way to become a good person, it helps to understand the things that drive you, and therefore what you are most capable of contributing to the people around you. Knowing what drives you can be as simple as “Why do you get out of bed every morning?”.
Below is a list of basic motivators known as “The Big Ten”, they are commonly used by therapists throughout the world to help understand the core values of individuals. (Pg 46 Tactical Guide to Women, needs proper citation)
1. Career: Its pretty self-explanatory but this is something that I feel needs a small amount of clarification. Everyone wants to chase their passion, and if you can do that while still supporting yourself financially, there’s no issue with that. The problem comes when you are scraping by following your dream and lose focus on what you love because of the pressing financial concerns hovering over your head. The solution is like most other things in life, simple, but difficult to execute. Find a job that keeps your head above water, and with the time you aren’t working, figure out what you love and pursue it relentlessly until you can do what you love for a living.
2. R&R: Leisure time is more important to some than others, but even the most battle-hardened workaholic can use a day off once in a while. If you’re the type of person that lives for the weekend, success will be a carrot and stick process for you. Keep your eye on the prize and the end in mind, and you will have all the free time you can imagine!
3. Caregiving: This is one of my personal motivators, and it is an excellent tool to carry with you throughout life. Helping others help themselves will benefit the whole of the system. One of the best tidbits of advice I’ve ever been given is that if you want to make a billion dollars, all you have to do is solve a problem for a billion people, and make a dollar of profit per person. Of course money is only part of the equation, inspiring others and helping them achieve their goals benefits everyone.
Every manager inspired to care for their workers, every spouse instilled with the wisdom to understand their partner, and every individual given the strength to solve their own problems, so that they can serve others, is one person closer to having a world of excellent people pursuing greatness.
4. Community: Not something I personally have done outside of the basic community service, but from the few I have seen who truly care about the community they live in, I have found some of the greatest and most caring people. This requires an extreme level of empathy, to understand the needs of the many and to appropriately distribute your efforts to their greatest benefit. If you love your community there are few limits to what you can accomplish.
5. Physical/Mental Health: Being a good person and giving to others should never mean neglecting your own personal journey to greatness. Keeping yourself physically fit is important to make sure that you can fulfill your duties, whether they be to family, friends, your community, or your partner. Mental health is equally important to maintaining healthy relationships and forming new bonds, and having the wisdom to avoid problems is a vital tool in achieving greatness.
6. Friendship: Friends, the people you keep close, but not as close as your enemies. No matter how informed you are, the people you associate with will eventually rub off on you. While it is important to find people you want to emulate, and to find people who are similar to you, one of the worst situations you can find yourself in is one where you are surrounded by people who don’t know how to tell you no. You are only as good as the company you keep, and that works both ways.
Being a better version of yourself will gradually improve the people you involve yourself with, and vice versa. That is why it is important to find people who understand their weaknesses and for everyone in the group to improve themselves as much as they encourage others to improve.
7. Family: If you consider yourself a family man/woman, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that a family can be one of the greatest experiences of your life, the bad news is that it can also be the worst. You might be perfect for the family lifestyle, but your partner might be a nightmare. The full discussion is enough for a post of its own, and I’ll be sure to link it here when I’m finished.
8. Intimate Relationships: Similar to family in that it can be the best or worst decision that you will ever make. Having an intimate partner to share your success and failures with can vastly improve the satisfaction of those accomplishments. Men often earn more money as a result of healthy close relationships, and women on average work and spend less (shocker I know). Business Insider wrote an article going into more detail about the phenomona of marriage that you can read here.
9. Personal Growth: This is the big one. Mastery of yourself is the root of everything else you do. It is impossible to help others until you learn to help yourself. In short, the more you focus on yourself, the more you have to offer to those who have not taken the steps you have, and to guide them to become the best version of themselves.
10. Religion/Spirituality: Religion and spirituality are like the dark matter of your character. Having a desire that burns inside of you, driving you forward and keeping your world from falling apart. It doesn’t matter which religion or brand of spirituality you choose, or even if you choose to rely on your own personal ambition and purpose, as long as you are concrete in your principles and honest about the path you walk you are VERY likely to succeed.
Some of these have more of an effect your ability to become a healthy, stable, giving person than others, but as I have found, having principles and hierarchies of importance when making decisions can improve the clarity needed to make the most of your contributions. As Steven Covey mentions in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, a man who lives his life on principle has 99% of his decisions already made.
Taking a minute to filter out the most and least importance of each value is something that will almost always change as you grow and mature, as you can imagine family will become exponentially more important once you have one of your own. The easiest method for finding the highest value center for yourself is to take out a handful of flashcards, and place the least important in the stack into a pile. Once you have reached the end you will have all of your values in roughly the correct order from top to bottom, most valuable to least. You can always change your mind later if you feel that they have changed.
I’m always interested in hearing about what other people think when they decide to become the best version of themselves, and what it means to be a “good person”. Whether you’ve already lived your success story or just starting, let me know how it has made you feel to invest in yourself in the comments!