Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The purpose of principles


Wouldn't life be wonderful if we never made mistakes? Imagine how much money you could save through the years if you never purchased any of those products that look so good before you take them home and later turn out to be useless. How much effort would you spare if you could perform any undertaking without mistakes?

The purpose of principles is to condense lessons from the past that we can apply to our present. Rational guidelines cannot guarantee success in your endeavours, but will reduce the risk of failure and minimize any ensuing damages.

What are the principles of rational living and how can we use them in our daily life? From the work of Aristotle, Epictetus, and Spinoza, I have extracted the following three guidelines, which I consider the backbone of a rational life:

1.- RECOGNIZE THAT YOUR FUTURE WILL BE THE CONSEQUENCE OF YOUR PRESENT ACTIONS. Understanding that reality works according to cause-and-effect constitutes the difference between civilized men and savages. Despite influence of family and society, each individual is the principal agent of his own fate. Accepting responsibility for your actions means taking charge of all aspects of your life that are under your control.

2.- ESTABLISH LONG-TERM GOALS IN THE MAIN AREAS OF YOUR LIFE. Barring major accidents, humans can expect to become at least 70 years old in many areas of the world. Research has repeatedly proven that setting long-term goals plays a decisive role when it comes to achievement.

Drifting from day to day, from one occupation to another, does not require clear objectives and avoids the friction generated by those who pursue ambitious goals. On the other hand, drifting is often associated with anxiety and psychological insecurity, since it fails to provide long-term perspective. Only well-defined goals allow man to concentrate his resources wisely and make the best of his life.

3.- TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOUR HEALTH. Each individual has control of the food he consumes and determines how much he exercises. Few ignore the crucial role that nutrition and physical fitness play in maintaining good health, but how many men and women actually take action on the basis of such knowledge?

Rationality demands us to strike an adequate balance between our habits of the present and our expectations of the future. If you care little about being healthy and are willing to spend your life's savings on hospital fees, there is no reason why you should adopt healthy habits in your daily living. If that is not the case, then you know what to do.

The three principles above can be complemented with other recommendations, such as:
  • Accepting catastrophes philosophically and taking swift action towards recovery
  • Learning from mistakes in order to improve your effectiveness
  • Befriend honest people and ditch the rest or, at least, minimize your contacts with aggressive or nasty individuals
  • Actively protect your privacy and possessions
  • Stand up for your rights and do not give up too easily when you meet opposition
Accepting cause-and-effect as the overriding philosophical truth will turn you into a much more effective and happier human being. Applying rational principles to your life will bring you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your thoughts and actions are aligned with the essence of reality.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by corrieb under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]