Our Personal Principles, which are similar to values, can be THE deciding factor as to whether we succeed or fail with a change.
What’s really interesting, is that most of us glide through life semi-aware of our principles and the role that they play in our mindset and personal choices, with little to no understanding of the great influence they have over our lives.
Now I realize these are bold statements, but time and again I have witnessed, both personally and professionally, just how big of a role our Personal Principles play in our lives and the reasons behind our perceptions and actions.
If we have been promoted to a first time management position, for example, understanding our perspectives around leading and managing others can help us to determine the kind of leader and manager we want to be. Without doing this, we run the risk of doing what we think we ‘should’ for the position, which offers all kinds of opportunities for values clashes to occur.
Even understanding why we pursued and/or accepted the position can help to uncover any hidden perceptions and beliefs about managerial positions that we otherwise might not have known.
Perceptions become beliefs, and beliefs point to our Personal Principles, so the more exploring we can do when change arises, the more prepared we are, and authentic we will be.
What are Personal Principles?
I wish I had a quick and easy way to uncover our Personal Principles, but, alas, I do not. There are a wide-variety of tools available to help us discover our values, but from my perspective, they are way too shallow to point to our core values. I just don’t believe we can sort through a deck of cards to determine such deeply rooted beliefs.
I take on the perspective that Personal Principles, which represent the code by which we live, and are usually hidden well beneath our conscious thinking, are contextual.
Whereas core values - those key beliefs that drive most of our behaviors and strongly influence our Personal Principles - tend to be even more hidden than our Personal Principles. Yet they show up in various ways through our behavior, how we interpret our experiences, and how we identify and relate to our world.
I mentioned that I believe Personal Principles are contextual, which is, in my view, what shows up when we sort through cards to identify our values. When we do this without a context, we just choose what surfaces in the moment. But that might not be what guides us in different situations.
For example, I might have a strong value towards loyalty, but that varies dramatically as a consumer than as a friend. I also value safety, which shows up in a big way as a Mom, but in a much different and smaller way as an author, where other values surface that don't show up in my Mom context.
Increasing our awareness.
Even though I haven’t yet created a tool for surfacing core values, I am working on one to discover those contextual principles that, in time, help us to discover our Personal Principles.
In the mean time though, I’ve developed a tool that is helpful to better understand our mindset in order to shift it to more closely align with change.
In addition, understanding the way we filter our experiences through perceptions and beliefs helps us to more accurately identify those principles and values that influence us the most, and under what circumstances.
This tool, called the Mindset Feedback Loop looks at many of the components mentioned earlier: Experience, Perceptions, Beliefs and Behaviors, as well as how we Identify with and Relate to a given situation.
Here’s how it works:
There’s more to this exercise, but for now these are the important questions to ask.
How we identify with and relate to our world is the next step, but that won’t be covered here in the interest of time. To learn more about this part of the model, check out this post, or sign up to receive the PDF version of this topic, which will include greater detail about this exercise as one of the bonuses.
Noticing our own mindset feedback loops.
After running through the questions above several times, you might have noticed how your perceptions and beliefs have become reinforced, forming a feedback loop.
Here are some things to consider:
For example, if we are in a good mood and feeling confident, we might talk with more people at a party and laugh more often. But if we felt depressed and just want to be alone, we’ll likely get what we ‘want’ at the party, and leave having had a horrible time.
But we can also shift our beliefs by changing our behavior. This is where the term, fake it til you make it, comes from. The hitch is that we actually have to BELIEVE that we WILL make it. This belief relates to how we identify with our situation, and the way we identify affects how we relate to others/our world.
The upside is that it is easier to shift beliefs when we’re aware of the problem, than to try to change them without that awareness.
Gaining clarity can be difficult, but is worth the effort.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to get a clear understanding of our internal drivers and how they influence our thoughts and behaviors.
The more we pay attention to the elements of our feedback loops, the closer we come to clarity about our Personal Principles and core values. Paying attention to our individual patterns can help us to this point as well.
I realize the tone of this post may make doing this work sound simple, but I assure you, it isn't. If anybody said it was easy, they lied. Not only can it be difficult at times, but it isn't all that comfortable either.
What it is, though, is an investment. In yourself and your long-term happiness. The more you understand yourself and what drives the way you perceive, identify, believe, relate and experience your world, the more of a conscious role you are able to play in it.
Committing to change is a choice... Your choice.
As we're in the process of preparing for change, it ultimately comes down to your having to make a choice. Do you:
This may sound harsh, but it really does come down to whether or not you are willing to make the commitment to the next step in your change process.
If you really want things to be different than they are right now, or if you want to find a way to move on from a less than desirable situation in a way that limits the potential for the situation to repeat, then you have to fully and completely commit to it. Deciding that now is not the time for such a commitment is a choice too. And the more intentional we are with our choices, the more aligned we become, and authentic we feel.
Coming up in January...
If you choose to commit to change, stay tuned for our first topic of the new year: How To Fully Step-Into Your Change.
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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