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My Core Principles For 2022

The 2020s have not been a great time for anyone. For my personally, I went on my own downward spiral over the previous four years due to an inflexibility to change with the times, a series of past traumas not appropriately addressed at the time of the event and an inability to put my own needs first.

As I moved to Brisbane from Melbourne towards the end of 2021, I used the time to put the tools down on my work on focus back on my personal health. That meant both physical and mental, and so I embarked on a journey of health and self-discovery over the end of 2021 to do what Tim Ferriss would refer to as a "Past year review".

My focuses on the review were to recursively ask "why?", based on the 5 Why's technique developed by Sakichi Toyoda. The technique itself requires you to delve deeper. As I answered the "why" behind things that went wrong (and right), I would then ask a further "why?" to dig deeper into the origins of the problem.

The exercise churned out some exquisite ideas behind the real core issues that kept wearing me down as well as the deep reasons behind the things that went right.

As a final exercise, I decided to focus on some foundational principles that look to both address and encourage characteristics to put me back onto the correct path.

The foundational principles that I landed on for 2022 are as follows:

  1. Seek clarity.
  2. Generate energy.
  3. Raise the stakes.
  4. Accept humanism.
  5. Asking for help means not giving up.
  6. Display selfless courage.
  7. Acknowledge your blind spots.
  8. Kill the "self".
  9. There is meaning in suffering.
  10. Assume formlessness.
  11. Mood follows action.
  12. No shortcuts.
  13. The compound effect.
  14. You are always choosing.
  15. You are 100% responsible for your own happiness.
  16. Strength through diversity.

As the year progresses, I will be looking to add to the list as I see fit but I thought I would also spend some time speaking to each of these and why I chose them as a principle.

1. Seek clarity

This particularly principle features across a number of books and I consider it synonymous to the work principle, "Seek to understand".

I have had great difficultly over the previous years clearly understanding what it is that I really want. Part of that was due to the fuzziness that came with rapid change over the pandemic, but even decisions made with confidence have sometimes turned out to be some of my biggest mistakes.

Seeking clarity for me will be constant revision of my principles, my goals and a requirement for thoughtful pause before committing to action.

2. Generate energy

A personal gripe that I have had over the recent years is the reliance on caffeine to push myself forward.

In turn, my sleep patterns have hit an all-time low in terms of both quality and quantity and I will be looking to normalize this over the next few years.

Generating energy means both to generate excitement and drive from what I am doing as well as to regulate my natural energy by lowering the caffeine intake and putting a focus back on physical health.

3. Raise the stakes

As I grow older, my likelihood of taking risks is slowly diminishing.

Raising the stakes will equate to me stepping out of my comfort zone and into the unknown. Taking bolder risks and demonstrating courage (spoken about later).

4. Accept humanism

This principle is to accept humans for what we are: flawed.

Humans are capable of amazing things, yet we all make mistakes.

When it comes to relationships and how my proverbial village changes around me, I will be looking to change what I can, accept what I cannot and learn to be okay with it.

5. Asking for help means not giving up

Since high school, I believe I have been on a downward trajectory in terms of my willingness to reach out for help.

Reflection on this tells me that there are three reasons for this:

  1. Pride.
  2. Lack of communication tooling to explain my feelings.
  3. Fearing the vulnerability to do so.

I am looking to rectify this over the coming year and redefine what it means to reach out and ask for support.

6. Display selfless courage

The idea of selfless courage came about when listening to an episode of The Psychology Podcast featuring Ryan Holiday.

Ryan, in his most recent book, explored what it means to be courageous.

During the podcast, he spoke about courage as a virtue on its own can be dangerous. You can be courageous while still being selfish.

Selfless courage means to be brave and do things for the greater good that are beyond your own personal rights and interests (vaccination, anyone?).

7. Acknowledge your blind spots

One of my most dangerous attributes over the years has been my inability to understand my weaknesses and how to manage them.

For me, this has left me baffled in situations that seem strikingly outrageous to me while the opposite has occurred where I have taken actions that ended up hurting others.

Moving into this year, I have invested plenty of time reflecting upon what it is that makes me tick, why that can cause issues and how I can overcome them (or at least better understand the decisions that I making and re-enforce the why).

8. Kill the "self"

Ego is the enemy. One of the biggest challenges as I grow older has been managing the problem of "imposter syndrome".

Imposter syndrome is the idea of feeling like an imposter in a field that you consider yourself to be knowledgeable.

For me, personally, this principle speaks to three core ideas:

  1. Maintain humility.
  2. Remain curious.
  3. Diversify the identity.

While the first two are self-explanatory, the third requires a bit more explanation.

The more your strongly identify with specific things, the more likely you are to feel threatened when others in those fields seemingly prove to "outdo you" in areas related to that identity (eg. if you only identify as an engineer and find "better" engineers, you will question your sense of self).

The solution to this for me is to invest time across many fields and expanding the what I identify as "what I do". We are the sum of parts and cannot be defined by a small minority of aspects that make up our lives.

9. There is meaning in suffering

I am looking to make a paradigm shift in how I have been approaching things in this area.

Instead of looking to shelter myself, I will be pushing my boundaries.

A great example of this is generating serotonin through physical effort and building that mental fortitude.

In addition to what has been mentioned, this principle also speaks strongly to the idea that "failure is the way forward".

10. Assume formlessness

This concept comes directly as the 48th law from Robert Greene's book, "The 48 Laws of Power".

To be formless means to be flexible, fluid and unpredictable. While the book itself can speak to the darker sides of the human psyche, my interpretation of this law is to keep my cards close and that action speaks louder than words.

11. Mood follows action

A combination of a few different core ideas that I heard around emotion and motivation, "mood follows action" speaks to the idea that we can alter our feelings by taking action.

I aim to be more proactive in my actions and to be more mindful of my emotions in order to better direct how I feel at any given time.

12. No shortcuts

Simple enough. I am aiming to stop looking for that magic pill and accepting the power of focused effort over the long-term.

13. The compound effect

This works directly with the above principle.

The compound effect can be summed up as, "Each small action that we choose to take will compound over time."

For me, this means putting in small efforts in a lot of areas to reap the rewards in years to come. While this is easiest to understand financially, for me it also speaks to my physical health as well as skill set.

14. You are always choosing

One of the hardest things to come to terms with for how my last four years went is accepting the fact that every choice that has been made (for better or worse) is just that: a choice.

We are constantly making choices and those decisions continue to impact our immediately life. This speaks to the idea of being more mindful and intentional and choices made going forward.

15. You are 100% responsible for your own happiness

Accepting responsibility of my past has been the first step towards meaningful change.

To understand that no one else is responsible for you own happiness (or lack thereof) is a necessary pill to swallow in order to understand how to live life in a more positive way.

16. Strength through diversity

This principle comes directly from the school motto during my first year of high school.

It has been a core principle that continues to stand out to me to this day and in fact has only grown more in meaning as the years go by.

Tangentially related to some of the other principles, the sense of diversity that I speak to in this principle is that of what I consider my own unique qualities.

Are you a lawyer? Or are you also a surfer, a father, a linguist? The aim is to explore the interests and become more than my title.

Summary

Those are the core principles that will become my guide over the year (and beyond).

All the principles outlined speak volumes to the questions I have raised during my reflection and will help me to realize the definition of the person that I wish to become.

As the journey continues forward, I will reference these principles daily and look forward to adding to this core set as more realizations present themselves.

Photo credit: joannakosinska

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Dennis O'Keeffe

@dennisokeeffe92
  • Melbourne, Australia

Hi, I am a professional Software Engineer. Formerly of Culture Amp, UsabilityHub, Present Company and NightGuru.
I am currently working on workingoutloud.dev, Den Dribbles and LandPad .

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