My personal effectiveness depends on me focusing and accomplishing my highest priorities. Charles R. Hobbs referred to the highest priorities of life as unifying principles. Hyrum Smith calls them values. Covey, well, he dances around the same concept and sort of combines the two ideas. Benjamin Franklin is remembered among us time management geeks for his 13 Virtues and the little black book in which he recorded his progress.
Regardless of what you call it, having a good handle on who you are and what essential truths or values drive you is important to your effectiveness. They become the filter through which you view your roles in life and by which your measure your personal progress. The highest form of self fulfillment is when your performance is in line with your priorities.
So how does one go about identifying and clarifying these principles? Hobbs suggests that you search for the highest truths in life. A good place to start might be the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He further states that you can look to literature of various types to help you hone in on those golden nuggets of truth.
“Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River , or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24: 14-15
I naturally go to the Bible as a starting point in my identification and search for universal truths. Your background and experience will lead you to where you might search and find your principles. Some find truth in literature such as Steinbeck, Hemingway, Alcott, et. al.
Here are some of my ideas for my unifying principles. I’ve been working on refining them for around 35 years and remarkably, they have remained relatively consistent over that time. Some have taken on higher priorities at different seasons of life and some are much newer as my experience brings me closer to who I am becoming.
- Love God with heart, soul and mind
- Be an outstanding husband and father
- Spend wisely and save prudently
- Be humble
- Live sober
- Commit to solitude daily
- Be a man of integrity
- Develop myself intellectually
- Optimize personal management and productivity
In my daily and weekly planning, I use these 9 unifying principles to guide the direction of my priorities. I do have several paragraphs of clarifying and affirming thoughts that I’ve written over time that help me understand even more about my values.
Am I there yet? Not even close, but I try to focus my attention on 1 of these per week and do what I can to get closer to having my performance in line with it. Over the course of each year, I’ll spend about 6 weeks on some aspect of applying each of these principles to my life.
What gets really exciting, at least for me, is when I build goals and projects and actions with these unifying principles as an overarching filter. This gives me the tools to try and be as consistent as possible with my governing values. It is an extremely powerful feeling when I accomplish something that is fully in line with what I know to be the truth. When what I do is in harmony with what I believe, then I experience what Hobbs calls self unification. This gives me that solid base on which personal effectiveness can be built.
What do you think? Are you living your life in line with what you hold to be the most important things in your life? Are you doing the things you need to in order to be consistent with your values?