principle centered living


Over the past week, I feel like I’m regaining myself. After a whirlwind year of change, anxiety, growth, and worry, I feel like I’m coming back to my roots.

And it’s not just my metaphorical roots, literally even my hair, which has been progressively highlighted over the year, has returned to it’s normal chestnut color.

Life is good.

What is so amazing about this growing transformation is how little has actually changed physically. My perception and life paradigm is returning back to north. But my circumstances remain largely the same. And I couldn’t be happier.

While re-reading The Seven Habits, I have found where so much of my stress has generated from. I let my center focus on outward influences rather than principles.

As Stephen Covey explains in detail, there are many centers that we can have which will act as a barometer in our life. They become our compasses which help us analyze how we feel and react at any given moment. Centers can be focused on spouse/significant other, family, work, money, friends, self, and even enemies. And each of these centers will guide decisions that we need to make each day.

But each center has specific vulnerabilities which can leave us less effective and more reactive throughout our lives. And several centers can overlap one another and cast all sorts of distorted shadows on our lives and guide us in dizzying circles.

I found myself in this vortex myself this summer.

To be honest, I was centered on work, significant other, self, and enemy. 

Anything that happened, both good or bad with the product lines could cast a shadow on my entire day. Anything that I felt, both good or bad, about Mr. Lively and I could shape my mood. Any thought about getting all of the “stuff” in life that I wanted could cast ridicule on my life’s less perfect areas and make me feel dissatisfied. And any interaction that did not go well with manufacturers (who are certainly not enemies, but shared tense moments when things didn’t go as planned) over the summer could shake me as well.

I was an emotional and reactive mess. And at some point in August I realized so much had changed in the past 11 months of my life, that I almost didn’t recognize myself. I couldn’t connect who I was in August with who I’ve been my whole life.

Heck, even my hair was close to blond.

But coming back to The Seven Habits has retaught me the lesson that I learned several years ago, back in college when I went through a similar bout of doubt, frustration, and anxiety.

I had stopped living by principles.

Principles like excellence, honesty, integrity, potential, patience, dignity, encouragement, and growth had for many years been my guide. But somewhere along the way I had lost that focus. As Covey claims, life simply goes well when principles are followed and centered upon. And from six years of doing so myself, I have lived this and know that it works. In fact, almost all major and lasting religions and spiritual teachings share these common principles. They are timeless and universal.

I had just forgotten to value and look to them as my guide.

Since revisiting this concept, I’ve begun to reintegrate principles as my center. When things happen in my life that I might feel anxious or worried about, I’ve begun to ask myself how I’m doing in the situation? What is the principle that I can call upon? If I know that I have acted with good intention in the best way possible, I have stopped letting myself get upset about small injustices.

Today for example, I’ve chosen not to get upset about the large order that got lost in the US mail and needed to be remade and sent more expensively to the customer even though it was not our fault. Instead, I chose the principle of being patient, and delivering excellent service to our customer. Since I did the best that I could in this situation, I had no reason to get worried or upset at the money lost on this missing order.

However, when I curtly declined an invite to an event today, I didn’t do so with principles in mind. Because our credit card information had been stolen from an order with this company, I acted out of spite and was unkind to people whose system was simply hacked. Going forward, I want to act with kindness and understanding.

Using principles as a compass is helping me recognize that my ability to choose the right path is where my focus should lie, not in what actually happens to me along the way.

As long as I’m acting in a way that I’m proud of, I have no reason not to worry about what other people do or what happens. Sure, I will need to take appropriate actions as things come up, but I don’t need to dwell and let outside influences carry too much weight.

And the best part is, principles lead to peace. Which is what I’ve sought in vain for so long this summer.

It feels great to be peaceful and brunette again.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Cass

    I picked up 7 habits again last weekend after these posts. I’m glad you’re feeling more in check. You are pretty awesome, you know that right?

  2. Jenn

    This is amazing Jess, and just helped something I’ve been really struggling with “click” for me. I’m at a crossroads where I’ve been telling myself I have to make a major decision regarding graduate school within the next month that I don’t feel ready to make, and – if I’m willing to be honest with myself and align what my intuition is telling me – don’t even want to do anyway. But my thinking about it has been clouded by principals and values that are exterior to me. It’s scary to say I am sure I don’t want to do X, but don’t know what I *DO* want to do.

  3. Alicia

    I think it’s time for me to revisit 7 Habits too… Well said, Jess.

  4. Mr. Lively

    Maybe blondes don’t have more fun?
    7 habits really is a great book, I had trouble putting it down.

  5. Susan

    This! This whole post is great. I recently picked up 7 Habits, and have been trying to re-center myself on principles. I can sense myself starting to feel better about things overall. And I’m so happy for you that you’re feeling good and peaceful again!

  6. I listen to the 7 Habits on transit every morning. It helps so much.
    It’s easy to let yourself get angry and frustrated at things happening to you. Sometimes it’s unbelievably hard to let go of those feelings and choose to not let it affect you.
    Consciously working on it every day is making it a little easier every day though. Thanks for writing about your experiences. It gives me strength to know I can do this as well.

  7. Thanks for this post, Jess, I have been sitting here with my tea nodding in agreement 🙂 I started reading The Seven Habits about a month ago, and already I feel so much more peace in my life, in my relationships, and in each small moment in my day. Since my baby was born just over one year ago, I felt frustrated with so many things in my life, basically I was allowing myself to become focused on others perceptions of what I should be doing, how I should be parenting, whether I should be going back to work or not, and on and on. Refocusing on my principles has been sooooo helpful to me. That, and being proactive! I find myself complaining much less, getting more done each day, and generally feeling better about what I am doing.

    Sorry for the rambling response, and thanks for the inspiration…I originally picked up 7 Habits because I remembered you recommended it! xo Laura

  8. megan v

    Somehow I don’t consciously remind myself about what my principles and guides are for my life. I’m sure I have them, deep down, but I don’t think of it on a daily basis and I think that I should start! Even to guide through the little things, conversations, relationships, etc. It would surely help keep me more focused on doing more good in the world!! What an excellent reminder 🙂

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