We all have things that guide us and our decision-making, both tangible and intangible. 

A big contributor to the intangible camp is the way we think. What we think of a situation is sure to influence how we move forward in that situation. 

But, human thinking is anything but fool-proof. That’s where principles come in. While principles can’t necessarily give us the final answers for all the questions in our lives, they can save us from knee-jerk reactions, contradiction, and our egos. 

Principles are like ground rules

Principles provide a mode of operation for engaging in a wide variety of life situations. Simply put, principles help solve problems. Not sure what to do next? Look to your principles. Not sure how to respond in a given situation? Look to your principles. 

Principles don’t determine behavior, but they determine kinds of behavior.

Principles, like “don’t cheat” or “family first” for examples, are cut and dry. They provide you both a starting point and an intention for your decision-making. In doing so, they make decision-making more straightforward. That’s because principles usually remove courses of action from the equation, rather than adding them. They don’t tell you what to do, they tell you what not to do 

Principles draw out core insights

Principles like “don’t cheat” are generated from a combination of experiences, memories, and insights. When you make a principle for yourself or borrow one from a value system like Christianity, essentially what you’re doing is taking the core insight from all of your or your ancestors’ memories, experiences, and insights and adopting them as a rule going forward. 

Time and repeated use of your principles will only hone them more, making your decision-making sharper and more consistent.

Principles give us a sense of stability

If you live as a principled person, you can rest assured in the knowledge that your principles won’t be changing situation to situation. 

Day to day life can serve us any number of unknowns and for those who hold few to no principles it can be a slog, as they’re constantly having to measure things according to their immediate self-interest.
Principles remind us of our place in the world and why we are here and so helps us to find the narrow path through any given situation.

Moreover, principles are a tool that help ensure we are constantly evolving, improving, and if you’re looking for one reason to live by them, consider that every modern civilization has made it urgent work to codify and celebrate them. The fact is, civilization just doesn’t work without them and, as it happens, people don’t typically either.