Posted by: Edward | March 23, 2009

Operating Principles for Life

I try not to base my existence around beliefs, or content layer descriptions of reality, rather I find that having a very simple structure for action serves me best. Ultimately life comes down to what you do, not what you believe. So my operating principles are a simple structure to help me choose actions. They are as follows:

What does The Body want?
Can I live with the consequences?
Where do I start?

What does The Body want?

Asks you to think about the outcome you want. You take action because you want to rather than because you should. If you should do something but you don’t truly want to, you will not give it your all. I use the wording, “The Body” both to remind myself to take into account bodily desires and as a holistic concept, the sum total of the situation – the body of reality. It might help to think of it this way, the sum total of the universe that you can perceive and conceive exists in your brain and the brain is in The Body. So, What does the body want?

Can I live with the consequences?

This is the most basic system of morality I can conceive. Every action, every choice has consequences. Whether you do what you want or not that choice leads to results. This question asks you to seriously consider possible results of your decisions. Think about the obvious outcomes and about the unknowns. If you can accept full responsibility for the consequences of your actions then you should do them. But if deep down your feelings tell you that you couldn’t live with the consequences of a course of action it isn’t a good action for you. It isn’t really what you want.

Where do I start?

When you know what you want, or why you are acting, and you’ve decided you can live with the consequences, it is time to decide on an action. This question asks you to think about how you will get to your goal and where you are now in relation to it. You don’t need to plan the entire path from where you are now to your goal, often that is impossible in the beginning. Better to pick an action pointing at your target and get going. As your understanding improves you can revisit this question. No matter how close or far from your goal, whenever you take action you are just starting.


Now that you know what you want, that you can live with the consequences and where to start, START. This principle isn’t a question as you’ve already answered the necessary questions, this is a suggestion in how to proceed. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Once you know what action you are taking, focus on it and throw yourself into the activity. If you are taking action towards something that you truly want there is no point in doing it half-assed.

Putting it all together

These operating principles are nested, each one rests on the one above it. If you get stuck in the action phase of 0-60 or you complete the action, go back up and ask, “Where do I start?” If you find you have emotional resistance to what you are doing, check it against, “can I live with the consequences?” If you find yourself unmotivated or you’ve reached your goal, it is time to reconnect with, “What does The Body want?”

I hope these principles serve you as well as they serve me.


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