What Are Your Guiding Principles? (Part II)

In November 2008, trucker Ronnie Sanders, 38, was hauling a heavy load of tractors and forklifts from Georgia to Independence when  on I-75 in Kentucky, traffic in front of him stopped abruptly.  Directly in front of him was a Grand Caravan, and he saw kids in the back seat.  Ronnie was bearing down hard, and he knew that the truck’s bulk would probably protect him from any injury – but that the people in the van would be crushed.  Without taking time to think about it, he jerked the wheel to the right and flew off the road into a 60 foot ravine.

Ronnie Sanders was guided by his principles – in this case, protect lives whenever possible, even at the possible expense of his own.

Self Actualization is the state of being clear on your principles and living by them.  When you achieve this state, you don’t need to agonize over moral decisions, and you don’t need to wrestle with balance your self-interest against your values.  The wrestling has already been done, and your decisions have already been made.

Let’s work through four steps to help you clarify and solidify your principles:

  1. If you were nearing the end of your days and your family and friends were throwing a part y in your honor, what would you want them to say about you?  What comments would be most meaningful?  You were a hard worker?  You knew how to get what you wanted?  You were there for your kids?  You handled challenges with grace?  You were a fighter?
  2. In the same scenario, what would you want them to say they had learned from you?  To never give up?  To serve others?  To refrain from complaining?  To listen when children talk?  To ruthlessly do what needs to be done?
  3. Expect to spend some time on this next step.  It’s worth working on this until you’re satisfied.  Develop the first two steps into a set of guiding principles that you feel are the most important in defining your personal conduct.  Prioritize them and describe what each one “would look like.”  For example:  “Being a loving person is a top principle for me.   I want to make sure that I tell my family that I love them, and I want to show it in my actions.  For me this means not letting my busy-ness and tiredness stop me from being there when my kids need help with homework or when my parents want to see me  . . . “
  4. Finally, summarize all of your principles into a credo.  This is another step that might take some time, but it’s a valuable process in attaining self actualization.  What is a credo?  www.credosquare.com has a terrific description:  “A credo is a statement of belief. It is what you think is important, what you think is true. It is your code, your compass, your gauge to measure the rightness of your path. A credo is what you stand for. A credo is your personal observation…the way you see it.”

If Ronnie Sanders, from the example above, had needed to stop and think about his decision, or agonize over the choice to end his own life to preserve others’, everyone in that Grand Caravan would have probably died.  But he was already clear on his personal credo.  His tractor-trailer rolled 60 feet down the embankment, tearing open its fuel tank en route, and came to rest in a ravine, where it burst into flames.  Sanders was trapped, tangled in his seat belt, and his legs were on fire.

He would have died, but for another person who shared the same credo – fellow trucker Steve Cooper.  Steve and his wife Kim were taking turns driving when Kim spotted flames and pulled over.  Kim helped another driver get their car clear of the flames while Steve bolted down the hill and climbed into the burning cab to rescue Ronnie – thinking all the while, “I do not want to be here.”  He managed to get Ronnie free and 20 feet clear of the truck before it exploded.  Both men were left with long-term health concerns as a result of their heroism, but both came out of the adventure with no regrets.  They had lived according to their credos.

Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation, leadership, and teams. His tools and methods have helped hundreds of businesses and tens of thousands of people transform the ways they work and live. To learn more, visit www.theheroschoice.com.


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