Uncovering Your Core Principles
Several years ago, I interviewed for a large strategic planning contract with a Fortune 100 company. I had a preliminary meeting with the steering committee that went great—I made them laugh throughout the meeting, and by the end we were carrying on like old friends. As I was walking out the door, they gave me one piece of advice. They told me that when I did my demo with the team the next day I should not use humor. My jaw nearly dropped to the floor. Me, Bob Faw, not use humor? Did I hear that right? I struggled to mask how stunned I was by this request. I explained to them the brain science behind the use of humor and how it helps people relax and be more productive, but they held fast—no jokes for the big guys.
That night I had a conundrum to work through. Would I stay true to my style or would I adapt their style to get this project? If I had won that contract, it could have doubled my income that year. But I had to decide if I wanted to spend that much time violating my core principles. In the end, I decided to be me. I did my demo to a room full of laughter and interaction, and … I did not get the project.
(Ironically the VP of HR pulled me into her office afterward and wanted me to do conflict management with her senior team. So humor is good for conflict but not for strategic planning? But that’s a story for another time …)
To be honest, I have never regretted that decision. I would much rather spend my time working with people who line up with my principles. It’s much easier to be your best authentic self when you feel like you’re living true to the best of you.
Just because something looks like “the life” from the outside doesn’t mean that it’s a really a good life. Trying to force yourself into a situation that doesn’t align with who you are hurts you on the inside and can lead to so many negative things over time. Take rock stars and movie stars for example. They are usually not the happiest people in the world, despite having plenty of money and adoring fans around them. This is because many are constantly trying to be what other people want them to be.
And this leads us right into the next email in the Best DNA series: Principles.
Principles are guidelines that help you make good career and life decisions. The goal here is to uncover the Core Principles that you just cannot live without. These are part of your identity: they shape your thinking and how you express yourself in the world.
Principles are usually qualities. For example, freedom, learning, growth, honesty, health, charity, etc. My own core principles are “learn, grow, and have fun.” They help guide me in determining the jobs and volunteer roles I take on, and even the kind of people I like to hang out with.
When you are conscious of these Principles, you hate violating them. And when you do violate them, it’s uncomfortable, or even devastating. That itself is a great indicator of what might be getting in the way of your fulfillment. One thing is for sure: If you violate your core principles for long enough, you will eventually burn out.
On the other hand, when you stay true to these principles you will feel a sense of integrity, higher self esteem, peace of mind, and more enjoyment in your career and life. Don’t get me wrong, survival and taking care of your family may force us to sometimes take work that violates our principles. However, whenever you have the choice, use these as your guide.
After doing this activity, I have seen many people have an “ah-ha” moment where they suddenly pinpoint the exact reason behind not liking a job, or why they end up arguing with that one person every time they speak, or why some groups feel so right to be part of.
So try it out!
- Choose 7-9 Principles you value from the list below. You can also choose principles that are not on the list, or adapt any of these to fit you better.
- Go through the list and pick your top 3 Core Principles that you want more of in your life. Think quickly. Don’t overanalyze or take too much time. Listen to your heart here.
- Finally, rank these 3 in order so you have a crystal clear sense of what your top priorities are.
(Why do we choose only our top 3? Because 3 is a magic number that makes it easy for your brain to remember. And the components of your Best DNA can only guide you if you remember them!)
Now you should have 3 words that give you both clarity and motivation. Everything here is meant to generate an image in your mind of the best of who you are, and who you can become more of—Your Best DNA!
Stay tuned next month as we explore Purpose! Until then, I would love to hear your feedback on Principles. Just comment below. And don’t forget to connect with me on social media!
If you have missed them, over the past few months we’ve completed the Passion Brainstorm, the Strengths Brainstorm, and the Value Add Brainstorm, which are all worth taking a few minutes to complete as you work toward discovering your Best DNA.
Check out BestDNA.com if you’d like to be guided through discovering your Best DNA and learn how to live into the best of who you are. Use the coupon code “principles” by the end of July for 50% off.