Quite often, we find ourselves in jobs or roles that don’t make sense to us. It could be because they aren’t defined or because the definition always seems to change. How can you thrive if you don’t know how to succeed? One way you can change that is to define the principles you hold as you pursue excellence.
For a very long time, “principles” was one of those words without much of a clear definition. It sat in the company of other vague words like values or professional. I’m going to put forward a way I think about principles that I will use for this article.
Principles act as guides towards a better result or outcome. How you live up to a principle depends on the circumstance. You can judge how you applied a principle on a specific occasion, but you can not check them off a list.
An example might help at this point. When I coach people, I have a principle of, “Do no harm.” It is a phrase I use to remind me that no matter what is happening, I want to be aware of the potential harm I may cause a client and avoid it. I can’t say that I successfully executed that principle, but I can look back and say that I did better or worse in various circumstances.
Why not just go about doing the obvious thing and defining your role explicitly? There is nothing wrong with that, and there are cases where that is one thing to do. However, without principles, you suffer the chance of debating each item as needed, nice-to-have, or not required. Principles will help guide that and take a stand when you need to discuss those points with others.
Another thing to consider is that principles, at least as I’m using them in this article, are unique to you. In other words, you can start by defining something that is under your control. A solid footing in yourself will help you collaborate with others on a complete role definition later.
Start With 3-5
Alright, when it comes down to it, you can create principles for just about anything. So to start, think about your role and pick 3-5 principles to begin.
You may find that you are identifying other areas of your career and life that need them, and that’s great. Focus on your first 3-5, and then try some more.
I suggest 3-5 because it isn’t so many that it will be too much work, and it is also something you can easily remember. Since these principles are guides to future excellence, it helps to remind yourself of them frequently. It can be easy to forget what leads you to success when a high-pressure situation hits.
With all that said, think about these questions. They will help you write your first principles. Write any short word or phrase that reminds you of what good is as a principle develops in your mind.
- If you wake up tomorrow and you’ve achieved perfection in your role, what changed?
- How would your better self handle a recent frustrating situation?
- What do people lean on you for, and what leads you to success there?
- When other people talk about you, what do they say and what do they notice about you?
Give it a shot and see what you come up with. With these principles in tow, you can gain some confidence in handling yourself in the mess of the job ahead. You may also find that people gravitate towards you more. A side-effect is that while others are reacting to a situation, you will be able to apply your principles rapidly and move ahead. Good luck!