I’m not a smart person. I remember struggling as I was going through school. I struggled with all sorts of subjects: Math, Physics, Chemistry, History, you name it. There were just a lot of facts and formulas, and I could never remember them all. I struggled to know when to apply which formula, or what theory to apply to which situation.
To cope with this, throughout my entire schooling (which includes grade schools and two graduate degrees), I was being very selective with what I need to remember. I chose a few simple formulas, theories, facts to remember and came up with how to derive the rest. For examples: to calculate the distance between two points, I use Pythagorean theorem which shows us how to calculate the length of any side of a square triangle. To do multiplication, I only need to remember the multiples of 2, 5, 9 and 10, then count either forward or backward for the rest of the multiplication table. When I studied electrical engineering, Ohm Law was my best friend. If you remember and understand how Ohm Law works, you can figure out a whole lots of other complicated equations.
A few years ago, I had an opportunity to listen to a teaching by John C. Maxwell. He taught that leadership ability is the lid of a person’s and an organization’s potentials. How much a person can do or how successful an organization can become is determined by his/her or the organization’s leadership level. Listening to his teaching, I set out looking to learn all I could about leadership. I wanted to raise my leadership level. I must have found, scanned, and read hundreds of books on the subject of leadership. They were all good and beneficial one way or another. But, something was not right. I didn’t remember most of what I read, and as a result, didn’t apply the lessons. To grow our ability, we need to not only read and learn, but also must apply what we learn. Many leadership books focus on teaching the techniques that can be applied in specific circumstances or scenarios or how to deal with specific types of individuals. I’m not a smart person, so to remember hundreds of techniques is not a good option. I may just as well not read about any of those.
Luckily for me, during that same period, I came across several books by John Maxwell, Ken Blanchard, Stephen R. Covey, Benjamin Franklin, and the Bible. Those books introduced me to the idea of spiritual principles.
What are spiritual principles:
If you stop reading now, and do a search on the internet about spiritual principles, you’ll come across many webpages on that topic. In my definition, spiritual principles are the timeless principles that are applicable in any geographic region and to any religion. By being mindful of and following the spiritual principles, you can live a fuller life, be happier, and become a more productive member of the society. Each person’s spiritual principles are very unique and personal, and therefore, may be different from another person’s. And, each person should not have more than a handful of spiritual principles because if you have too many spiritual principles, you may not remember them all.
Examples of spiritual principles:
Before I give you my spiritual principles as an example, I’d like to take you to Benjamin Franklin’s spiritual principles. His spiritual principles are the first example that I encountered. They impressed me so much that I started to build my own. Note that Benjamin Franklin had 13 spiritual principles, and I only have 5. I figured that if such a smart person like Benjamin Franklin has 13 spiritual principles, then I could probably handle 5.
- Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
- Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
- Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
- Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
- Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
- Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
- Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
- Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
- Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
Here are my spiritual principles as an example.
Love: I live my life with love, seek to understand and to serve. Favorite quote: “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Humility: Everything I own and have are results of God’s blessings. I will manage his resources and conduct my life with humility. Favorite quote: “Give thanks for everything to God the Father” – Ephesians 5:20
Positivity: I think positive thoughts, and find solutions to all challenges. I look at challenges and failures as doorway to great things. Favorite quote: “Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes, and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them.” – Jack Canfield
Courage: I walk with courage in all steps of my life, with God as my companion. Favorite quote: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Perseverance: I am persistent in my endeavors. Favorite quotes: “You may be encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou. “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Confucius. “I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.” – Abraham Lincoln.
How do we incorporate spiritual principles in our daily lives:
The way we incorporate spiritual principles in our daily lives is the same way as we would any other habits such as a new exercise routine, a new diet, a new reading schedule, etc. There are many advises on how to do this. In this article, I’d like to highlight the ways Benjamin Franklin did it.
“My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I judg’d it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on, till I should have gone thro’ the thirteen; and as the previous acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain others, … I determined to give a week’s strict attention to each of the virtues successively. Thus, in the first week, my great guard was to avoid every the least offence against Temperance, leaving the other virtues to their ordinary chance, only marking every evening the faults of the day. Thus, if in the first week I could keep my first line, marked T, clear of spots, I suppos’d the habit of that virtue so much strengthen’d and its opposite weeken’d, that I might venture extending my attention to include the next, and for the following week keep both lines clear of spots. Proceeding thus to the last, I could go thro’ a course compleat in thirteen weeks, and four courses in a year” – Benjamin Franklin
I include his chart below.
I still read books daily. I enjoy reading books tremendously, but I no longer feel the pressure to remember and apply all I read in order to become better. Somehow though, by reading books day in and day out, I continuously feed my subconscious mind with new information and ideas, and by choosing my books carefully, I nourish that subconscious mind with great things.
Being mindful of and practicing the spiritual principles have helped me through lots of challenges and opportunities. Having to remember only five things rather than hundreds is a bonus. When face with negative emotion, challenging circumstances, and brand new opportunities in my life, I believe they can always be dealt with by love, humility, positivity, courage, and perseverance. Similarly, when face with all circumstances in his life, Ben had resolved with temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. And, if you read his autobiography, you would know that he had never been able to do all those things perfectly. I am the same way, far from following my spiritual principles perfectly. That is why it is called “practicing” :). However, I earnestly believe, the more I try, the little bit better I become. We are all on a growth journey, and there is never a destination for continuous growth.