As a matter of principle

The current uncertainty, unpredictability, and chaos we are experiencing on the planet are clear indicators that we are undergoing an evolutionary shift. Many of us find it hard to cope with that. It is a bewildering experience, and it is just natural in times like these that we would look for answers and guidance from sources we can trust. We need well-informed opinions about complex issues so that we can take appropriate action. Unfortunately, in the past few months we have become aware of just how confusing such an exercise is. As much as we need well-informed opinions, it appears that those who used to be trustworthy experts and institutions — from journalists to academics to politicians — have shown themselves to be essentially unreliable in an acute emergency like this. This is very alarming because it leaves us with the nagging question, who then can we trust to guide us through the transition?

This may be the perfect opportunity for us to find ourselves a trustworthy compass. In his influential book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey suggests we use certain principles to direct our lives. He calls these principles lighthouses. They are rules or laws that are permanent, unchanging, and universal in nature. For Covey, principles are self-evident and — as part of most traditions and philosophies over the ages — they’ve been woven into the fabric of societies throughout human history. Fairness, integrity, respect, and honesty would be examples of such principles. They are lighthouses because, without them guiding our behaviour, the world would be chaotic. A principle compass is particularly useful whenever we are in doubt or whenever we need to take a stand or evaluate any particular view, opportunity, behaviour, or situation.

Principles are not to be confused with values. Values are beliefs and opinions that people hold regarding specific issues or ideas; they are ultimately internal, subjective, and malleable. They may change as new information becomes available or as demands or needs change. Principles, in contrast, do not change, but we can and probably should build our personal value system based on them.

As we are going through this volatile evolutionary shift on the planet, it will serve us well to align ourselves with some core principles again, and to allow these to guide us. Imagine what the world would look like if our natural inclination was to ensure that, whenever we interact with each other, the principles of love, fairness, integrity, respect, honesty, and truth direct our behaviour.

I believe that a life of integrity is the most fundamental source of personal worth. I do not agree with the popular success literature that says that self-esteem is primarily a matter of mind set, of attitude – that you can psych yourself into peace of mind. Peace of mind comes when your life is in harmony with true principles and values and in no other way.

Stephen Covey