Principles work in our lives the way the First and Second Law of Thermodynamics work in science. They are both explanatory (explaining what the scientist sees right in front of them) and predictive (helping them anticipate and, to a degree predict outcomes). Likewise, adherence to or violation of these universal principles is also both explanatory (helping explain who and where we are today) and predictive (helping predict who you will become and ultimately what you achieve tomorrow). Principles like balance, honor, faith, hope, courage, consistency and compassion, when adhered to, can forge a life of extraordinary success and profound meaning; when violated, they often lead to both personal and professional devastation.

Let’s take the simple principle of balance. Balance works wherever it’s applied: A balanced exercise program is better than an unbalanced one. A balanced nutritional program is better than an unbalanced one. A balanced portfolio is better than an unbalanced one. Often, principles work together to help you achieve the desired outcome. We have all heard the old maxim, “Sow a habit, you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”

Our Top 20 Principles Governing Success, Failure and Fulfillment

  1. Balance: Overextension can turn many virtues to vices.
  2. CANI: Life is dynamic and ever-changing and without Constant and Never-Ending Improvement (“CANI”), you will never keep up.
  3. Congruence: While people may not always listen to you (especially children) they are always watching you (especially children).
  4. Consistency: Once the commitment is made the course is constant.
  5. Courage: The courageous don’t lack fear; they act in spite of it.
  6. Discipline: All profound change begins with discipline.
  7. Energy: Without physiological energy, nothing happens.
  8. Empathy: Understanding people’s struggles but continuing to lead, challenge and inspire.
  9. Forgiveness: In the gap between human nature and the perfect outcome rides forgiveness.
  10. Generosity: If you want more, give more.
  11. Habit: First you forge your habits, and then your habits forge your destiny.
  12. Honor: You mean what you say, and say what you mean…kindly.
  13. Humility: Pride cometh before the fall.
  14. Humor: Life is a challenge; without a sense of humor it will overwhelm you.
  15. Imagination: If you do what everyone else does, you will become a commodity.
  16. Justice: Between ethical relativity and moral rigidity lies justice.
  17. Optimism: Where most see problems, they see opportunities.
  18. Passion: Talent and skills are ignited by passion.
  19. Resilience: It’s not how many times you get knocked down; it’s how many times you get back up.
  20. Warmth: No matter what your attributes, without warmth no one will help you…voluntarily.

Applying Principles to Your Own Life

Think back over your life and see if you can isolate the principles you adhered to when you succeeded and those you violated when you underperformed or failed. Our Transformational Leadership Toolkit has the steps to help identify these principals.

Principles: Friend or Foe?

Notice the subtle yet powerful influence these principles have over what we accomplish and who we become; that the same principles we adhered to in order to achieve our successes, were often the same ones we violated that brought about our failures.

We can choose to ignore them but, much like gravity, they tend to remind us of their ubiquity at the worst possible moment. Make them your ally or they will surely become your adversary.

Download the complete Transformational Leadership Toolkit for actionable resources to execute on these insights.