Reconnecting with “True North” Principles


Last summer I wrote a post about  Stephen Covey’s “First Things First.” One of the big takeaways I got from the book was the idea of “true north” principles, which are ageless principles such as kindness, fairness, and respect. They can be seen throughout history in almost every religious and spiritual tradition, as well as in the behaviors of the world’s most influential individuals. Covey suggests that the only way to have a truly fulfilling life is through acting in accordance with these principles.

Recent events in my life have inspired me to take a step back and reflect on the last few months. Have I been acting like the man I want to be? What principles have been governing my actions?

In truth, I can hardly identify the principles I’ve been following lately, though they certainly weren’t any of the true north principles that Covey talks about. While I made a lot of progress towards my goals since moving to Seville, my motivations weren’t too healthy. I was seeking a lot of validation and instant gratification. I was focused more on the results I wanted than the process of taking action. I even let impatience and selfishness affect some of my personal relationships.

Overall, I’d say my actions in the past few months were far more ego-based than principle-based. I want to start correcting that.

The first step is simply identifying the true north principles I want to live my life by. The ones that immediately come to mind are:

  • Presence
  • Patience
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Calmness
  • Gratitude
  • Positivity
  • Giving
  • Self-Reliance
  • Perseverance
  • Forgiveness
  • Openness
  • Process-Orientation

That’s a pretty steep list, but everything on it seems to be intertwined. Presence breeds calmness, compassion begets giving, gratitude helps cultivate positivity, etc. They all fall under the umbrella of what I would describe as “goodness.” Not only do these principles produce better results in the long-term, they produce a happier internal state as well.

This all seems like common sense, right? Of course you want to live according to principles that promote happiness and well-being. Yet actually living by them is much easier said than done. My mission now is finding reliable ways to keep those principles at the top of my mind. Here are a few ideas I have for that:

  • Reviewing them twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed
  • Taking time for daily reflection. This means sitting down and really considering whether or not my actions were based on true north principles.
  • More in-depth weekly and monthly reflections
  • Keeping my list of principles nearby and visible throughout the day
  • Read more books based on true north principles. Two that come to mind are “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius and the “Tao Te Ching.”

Of course, the most important thing I can do is make a commitment to living a principle-based life. I don’t expect myself to be perfect in this, but I think just making a consistent effort in this area will bring me a lot of fulfillment.



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