During the 1980's, my company sent me, along with several other employees, to an off-site time management course. The instructor issued a surprising assignment. He wanted each of us, overnight, to write down our personal "governing principles," the equivalent of a personal constitution. Initially, I missed the connection between the assignment and time management. But the idea is that if you are spending time doing something other than supporting your governing principles, you are either hiding, trying to escape or you haven't done a good job identifying those principles. For example, if I have a difficult situation at work or at home, I may not yet have summoned the courage to confront it. I may instead bury myself in an alternate activity. I am procrastinating. I found that reflecting on these principles from time to time would often flush out this problem.
Over the last 30 years, I have reviewed this list several times, most often when I hit some sort of a crisis or obstacle in my life. On only two occasions did I add a new principle. I never removed one. I believe one addition had to do with closing the door on envy and the other, refusing to be ignored.
While some of these principles might sound like boilerplate affirmations heard elsewhere, I can assure you that these came from my own heart with no cheatsheet or prompting from any other source.
My principles follow. What are yours?
GOVERNING PRINCIPLES OF MICHAEL HAGAN
I will strive above all to do the right thing.
I will fulfill my responsibilities to "stay at the helm", regardless of personal consequences, whenever there is a clear choice between right and wrong.
I will approach strangers with trust, but cautiously observe behavior in order to avoid difficulties that might develop from associations with exploitive or negative people.
I will make a positive contribution to the world. I will have an impact. I refuse to let myself be ignored by those with whom I require cooperation in order to preserve and enhance my life and the lives of members of my family.
I will seek and achieve personal growth for myself, each member of my family and each person with whom I associate at work or within the community.
I will enjoy my work, seek and find both challenge and achievement. I will win, not at the expense of others, but with others.
I will not allow myself to be exploited, coerced or bullied by anyone, at anytime; nor will I allow this to occur to any member of my family.
I will choose the positive attitude, instead of the negative, the optimistic, instead of the pessimistic. I will choose to give others the benefit of the doubt and think well of them whenever possible.
I will be open to new people, new ideas and new experiences.
I will not accept the idea that I have any personal limitations, from myself or anyone else except as dictated by common sense and I will work actively to overcome difficulties and improve skills that might be holding me back.
I believe that one must have personal goals and work toward them -- these might include a 5-year plan, a 1-year plan, a monthly goal and a weekly goal. I believe that with each goal, one must visualize a personal payoff -- a positive, meaningful reward.
I must take reasonable risks to achieve the results I seek.
I will stand up to and confront my fears every day.
I will achieve the confidence that comes with financial security so that money will not be an obstacle to everyday living, my children's education or a comfortable retirement for my wife and myself.
I will live and work within my physical limitations. I will take care to exercise regularly, eat and drink moderately, get a good night's sleep and practice mental hygiene strategies.
I will address and resolve conditions that cause me anxiety. I will take responsibility for my own happiness.
I will not allow additive substances such as alcohol to control me.
I will close the door on envy and hatred in the same way that I close the door on fear.