How to Set Values and Principles for a Successful Life – Darice Cairns
Darice Cairns
The Art of Finding Truth, One Man's Journey Through Love, Life, Grief and Joy

What are principles and values?

Why are they so important?

If your life is chaotic, has too many ups and downs, or you feel lost, then you could be suffering from not living by a solid set of values and principles.

This blog explores why knowing your values and principles is the foundation to a successful and fulfilled life, AND if you don’t know what they are, then read on and let’s get you thinking about them.

Why Values and Principles (V & P’s) are SO Important

I wish I knew the importance of knowing my values and principles much earlier in life. Knowing them is the foundation for future success and wellbeing.

Honestly, do you know yours? Are you clear on what they are?

Schools, for example, impose the V & P’s of the school system onto students. Our society and political systems make sure everyone knows its rules, BUT there’s NO conversation about what values and principles individuals need for themsevles. It is something many of us figure out along the way, but it shouldn’t be that way!

Read on, your self confidence and inner strength depends on it.

Why Children Need Help in Developing Values and Principles.

You will have a harder time defining what you need and want in life if you don’t establish a solid understanding of what your values and principles are. Without them, you will likely make many mistakes and learn the hard way through trial and error what is right and wrong for you.

Why make life harder than it needs to be for your children, students and yourself?

A mother and father, with their two children, a toddler and baby are together laying on the bed, laughing and enjoying life.
Discussing values and principles starts within families. Image by 460273 from Pixabay

Young people need to practice setting healthy values and principles for THEMSELVES. And parents need to respect a child’s developing values, guide them, nurture the conversation, discuss it with them, rather than dictating what their child should believe.

Imposing YOUR values and principles on someone else is not actually helping them define theirs. Instead, show others your values and principles by living by yours every day. Be a pillar of your own truth, that will shine more brightly than preaching, or forcing your values onto others.

Helping your child develop their own V & P’s will reinforce the importance of taking ownership of their life. It also opens the way for children to define better what is important to them, to have a fulfilling and meaningful life in society.

Teaching V & P’s in School and in Families

I’ve taught lower elementary students for nearly 20 years now, and this is something that teachers should be openly discussing with their students. If we start the conversation early, by the time young learners leave school, they will have a solid foundation in knowing what they stand for and the rules THEY feel are important for them to be successful in life.

Essentially, they will have their values and principles solidly in place by the time they leave school.

As a parent, don’t assume your child’s teacher will establish values and principles for your child; YOU need to help them practice these skills at home.

A view of a young boy and his father form the waist down, walking along a road with autumn leaves all around.
It is you responsibility to discuss values and principles with your children. Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay

Not knowing your values and principles can leave you vulnerable to being deceived, taken advantage of, easily swayed by other people, lacking inner strength and integrity, feeling lost, lacking confidence, addictive behaviour, needy, and or unfulfilled. People with no solid internal anchor in their life tend to be less successful because they don’t know what is important to them. It is like going through life without an internal compass.

What are Values?

Values are qualities or standards of behaviour we live by.

They are qualities or standards that govern the behaviour of a person.

Values help to form principles and are not as stern as principles. They act as the first point of discussion, which will then lead to establishing principles.

Value first, principles second.

A yellow sign display the words right and wrong with a blue sky behind it.
Know how you define what is right and wrong. Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

What are Principles?

Principles are rules or beliefs that govern your actions. They help you know what is right and wrong. They are what you stand for in life.

Principles are based on one’s values. They are like having ‘rules’ for yourself. Rules that will help you to have a happy, safe and secure life.

Different people have different values and principles; they are unique to each person. Still, some core principles are almost universally agreed upon. For example, most people agree that it is wrong to murder someone.

Can Principles Change?

If a principle isn’t working for you, you might feel guilt and regret. There is no point wallowing in your guilt; instead, learn from it and rethink the principle you are struggling with.

A white board with grey arrows pointing to the left, and a man drawing one black arrow pointing to the right.
Sometimes your values or principles might go against the grain. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Your principles may change over time, and that is ok. I’m not referring to massive changes every week, but over time, why not. Adapting and adjusting your principles allows you to tweak them as you mature and accumulate more experiences in life.

Many hardcore principles come from society or our parents. Some are universally agreed upon. For example, to murder someone is wrong. Few people would disagree with this principle. Meanwhile other principles may not be so universally accepted yet they are powerful to many people. For example, children raised in a strict religious environment may later challenge and reject the principles they were raised by.

The idea here is NOT to bang people over the head with your values and principles, nor is it wise to feel you can never change them. Values and principles should be made and adapted FOR YOU, to ‘guide’ you on a course throughout your life that makes you a functional and successful member of society, while also establishing your safety and wellbeing.

Examples of Some Common Principles

I don’t lend money to friends.

I won’t go into a business with a friend.

Treat others as you expect to be treated.

When I make a promise to someone – I keep it no matter what.

I ‘m on time for all appointments and I expect the same in return.

Honesty is important to me. I cannot be close to someone who lies to me often.

I can not be with anyone who puts me down and doesn’t accept me for who I am.

I can’t be in an intimate relationship with someone who hates dogs.

A small dog or puppy lying on a small towel among plants, and has fluffy black and white fur.
Pets can be a deal-breaker for many people; know this BEFORE cohabitating! Image by suphanclick from Pixabay

I have zero tolerance for being with anyone who smokes, even if it is a cigarette a week.

My children are my priority in life, so before I go into a relationship, I will be sure that person fits into ‘our’ lifestyle, not ‘us’ fitting into theirs.

Harmonious Relationships

If more couples knew their partner’s values and principles BEFORE they got married, I believe there would be fewer divorces. In fact, discussing your values and principles with a partner in life is a conversation you want to have long before marriage is even suggested.

The sooner you know someone’s values and principles, the sooner you will get to the core of who they are and whether you would be compatible in a long-term serious relationship. The same holds for business partners.

Interracial Relationships

Discussing your values and principles in interracial relationships is especially important BEFORE getting too serious. In interracial relationships, two cultures with vastly different sets of values come together. If you are not aware of the new values your partner and their family hold, it can be a recipe for disaster if you rush into the relationship ‘unaware’.

The closed hands of a black man and a white woman, with wedding rings, held together.
Know your partners values and principles BEFORE committing to them.Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

If someone doesn’t know their values or principles, then that is a great conversation to explore and think about BEFORE you get too serious in a relationship. It is never too early or late to define your V & P’s.

Last thoughts

Know your values and your principles.

If you are a parent, teacher, guardian, leader… support others in defining their values and principles by being a role model for others.

Lastly, live and breath your V & P’s and be strong in the wisdom that comes from knowing what you stand for and why!

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