If someone asked me to define how I live my life, the picture below is the first thing I would show them. It shows the principles that guide my daily decisions and long-term priorities. I’ve learnt that when I live by them, my life becomes extraordinary.
If you want the freedom to live the life you want, you’ll need to limit yourself first. Paradoxical as it may seem, this is because what you do daily becomes what you do weekly, becomes what you do monthly... becomes your life in the long-term. If you allow yourself to do whatever in the moment – eating unhealthily, spending a lot of time on your phone, or binge-watching Netflix – you won’t reach important goals (such as being in good health, connecting deeply with loved ones or living a very fulfilling life). By constraining yourself in daily moments, then, you gain the freedom to live the life you want in the future. Principles are what guide those daily constraints.
Without principles, we are like a ship at sea, thrown around randomly by the waves of life. We have no way to reach our destination but luck. With principles, as our map, we can raise our sails and navigate through the waves. Sure, the waves might push us off course at times, but we’ll remain the captains, in control of our ship. Principles help us stay true to who we are; they reduce the influence that the world around us has on our decisions and our future. Following principles takes discipline, but as Jocko Willink, former Navy Seal commander, says, “discipline equals freedom.”
By giving us a course, principles aid our growth over time. For instance, it has taken me five years of regular self-reflection (that’s Principle 2) and experimentation (Principle 3) to become aware of how I truly want to live my life. Before that, I was bought into wanting things ‘society’ had put in my head – like a stable job at a prestigious company, or a nice house. There’s nothing wrong with that, but focusing only on these things would have led to me living a life not even half as fulfilling as the one I live now.
Maybe you know the saying ‘change is the only constant’. It goes for people too; we change over time. This makes living an extraordinary life a continuous journey. With the pace of change these days it’s even more critical to keep up. If you don’t, you risk being left behind. That’s why Principle 11 exists. You could see change as a problem – or you could see it as a challenge and adapt.
These are some examples of why I’ve developed principles. A lot of thinking and testing has gone into every single one of them, so be sure to check out the rest. Remember, though: while many of these 12 principles are fundamental human needs grounded in science, they were created based on my experiences. That means they reflect my personal beliefs, and not all of them may resonate with you.
What you can do next is look over the principles, see which ones do resonate with you, and implement them for yourself. Start with just one and build your way up from there. You’ll soon find your life to hold extraordinary treasures.