Having Guidance Principles: A Strategy to Find Yourself and Get Unstuck

I read yesterday an article reminding me about the importance of using principles for guidance. For example, money principles help you with realizing your money goals and getting out of vicious cycles. Similarly, an effective principle for bloggers is to write regularly, some even say daily. And for a website about creativity like this one, what could be better than using creativity techniques to get oneself unstuck?

Over the past weeks, I’ve been sinking deeper into a state of total life confusion, which I am slowly starting to get clearer about. I lead a particularly busy life, and perhaps you do too. Then maybe sometimes you feel pulled in so many directions that it’s quite difficult to find your bearings and choosing what to do next, and once that is clear, to actually do it.

Here I give my example about how thinking about having guidance principles can be an effective strategy to find yourself and to get unstuck in life.

My Present State of Confusion

I have a PhD in physics, and about 25 years of experience doing scientific research, so it would be a shame not to use that at all in the future. I also have 3 years of investment banking experience. But over the past several years, my life has been mostly about my artistic endeavors, which have grown so much as to fill up most of my time. There’s playing the piano, figure skating and acroyoga as the main activities, but whenever there’s free time, I’m happy to add in singing and dancing. Another big distraction is that I love to travel.

On the other hand, there are also many time-consuming activities which are less of my choosing, but that do boil down to a choice too: family obligations. All these social contacts are good for me, but they do take up a lot of time. It is not easy to define a principle for saying no in any specific situation when my time is requested. In the past couple years, I’ve just gone along with the social activities that we’re presented to me, but I see I need to curtail this.

The result of several years of putting no focus on earning money has left my resources fully depleted. That’s where a money principle comes in handy. Everyone is different, but the money principle that is baking up for me looks like this: my life focus needs to shift strongly towards a reliable method of earning money, without losing entirely my other activities, but letting these activities recede somewhat to the background.

What would be your core principle around money? For some, what works is earning more than they spend, which can also be phrased as not getting into debt. In the past, I had the tendency of just ignoring money issues, or going the other extreme of aiming to solve all my money problems by making a lot of money. Now I’m trying something different, a sort of portfolio career where I could earn both from my core strengths as a scientist, but also artistically and as a life coach or mentor.

Seeing Light at the End of the Tunnel

In the light of this principle, I can see that I am doing well: that on a daily basis, I’ve done things that put me closer to reorganizing my life around the need for earning an income. I’ve been a lot less active at developing my websites, because they are not realistic sources of income for the foreseeable future. But they might become a form of income one day, and I’m not going to the other extreme of giving up on them: instead, they will develop slower, and I am OK with that.

I’ve been moving forward towards putting together a realistic plan for entrepreneurship that would receive government support. I will apply to the program in the coming months, and if admitted, I would receive a minimal wage stipend for one year, that would be sufficient to launch a successful business, doing scientific consulting work, and thus using my scientific research and project management experience.

If I don’t get admitted, then I need to find a job. Don’t ask me what job, as I am totally confused about what it could be: a professorship in physics, mathematics or engineering, a return to high finance, or a programming job in a fashionable industry like artificial intelligence. There are many things I could do, that I don’t feel strongly about. On the other hand, I would feel some pride to have a successful consulting business, with the time freedom to do my artistic activities. But planning for the eventual need for a job, as it’s early September and the start of the school year, I only booked evening figure skating practice: only 2 nights per week from about 7 to 10 PM each Tuesday and Friday. Therefore, figure skating does not become a hindrance to getting a job if I have to.

Offering Piano or Figure Skating Lessons or Workshops

I am very hesitant at starting to offer piano lessons to adult beginners. My teacher thinks I’m ready, but I don’t feel like it. There is a principle that what we resist persists, and under the guidance of this principle, I ought to put out an advert for piano lessons, prepare mentally to give a decent job, and accept that I will not be perfect. Similarly, I am awaiting a training to be a skating coach assistant to beginner skaters. Afterwards, I would be eligible to assist my girlfriend when she teaches a group of beginners. Finally, we also plan to hold our workshops on creativity and well-being along the lines of the materials presented on this website, but we keep seeing that it is a bigger job that is best left for later, and that’s no procrastination. We are slowly building the content.

The Enemy of Boredom

I can say it bothers me to see people close to me that are quite bored, and have no goals in life. I suppose I am a militant against that. Perhaps in reaction to seeing bored people, I make sure I am never bored myself, and I want to actively encourage people to take on new challenges.

I do admit that I do not know how to change people, and I can only offer my own examples, as illustrated in this website. I am happy to mention my brother’s example too, who is also never bored, but with entirely different activities than mine. For example, my brother is highly passionate about martial arts with a 3rd Dan in karate, and when he speaks enthusiastically about it, I can find myself briefly interested in martial arts, but it doesn’t persist beyond that. I am very anti-war by nature, and maybe that’s enough to keep myself away from being truly interested in them.

What I struggle with are the people who are clearly bored, and have excuses for not doing anything about it. I would really like to help these people, but I don’t know how. As I leave it on the backburner to figure out how, I also tell myself that it’s not my problem, and that since I don’t have that problem, maybe I can’t understand what it is like to have that problem. So I give myself a break and take this situation with equanimity.

Conclusion: Having Guidance Principles

Have I resolved creatively here my difficulties at figuring out my future? In part, yes. I think I am finding a mid-way point between what I would like for myself, and what the reality will allow. I used a principle of putting money at the forefront of my priorities in order to guide my decisions.

A useful and deep concept about money that was passed on to me from my wonderful life coach “Curious” George Copsey some 20 years ago, is that “money is a measure of agreement and flow in the world”. Money is about two and more people collectively agreeing how much something is worth to them. In my case, I have put myself outside of consideration of what I am worth for too long. So I have to go out and ask people how much do they feel I am worth to them, and see if we can have an agreement.

It’s a balancing act, just like figure skating and acroyoga are, in a way that is more tangible. I need to balance moment-to-moment a need to work towards producing income streams, while at the same time continuing with the activities I am interested in. This is the opposite of going to extremes, which here would mean giving up on specific activities. This is helping me with getting unstuck, because essentially I am continuing what I want to do, but adjusting course so that making money becomes the main focus of these activities.

I’m curious if you thought of guidance principles that would be useful for yourself as you read this article. What were they and how do they apply in your life?

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18 Responses to Having Guidance Principles: A Strategy to Find Yourself and Get Unstuck

  1. Dave Sweney says:

    I think we all have a set of guiding principles that we use to guide the conduct of our lives and daily living to a greater or lesser degree. There are those that actively seek out to determine what they may be, so they can best take advantage of them, as you are doing, and those that really just live their life as it comes, for better or worse. 

    You have a tremendous amount of experience and a skill set that would be the envy of 99% of people out there, and with the varied interests that you have along with the family/social obligations I can imagine that you need to examine your guiding principles to decide what to partake in and what to leave behind…

    I have developed a set of guiding principals partially from the experiences that I have had, with a strong base set being provided by my parents and the environment where I grew up. Is this where you developed your initial set as well? Of course, traveling the world (or a good piece of it anyway) has changed my mindset and guiding principals a lot over the years.

    Some would say that it is an educational process that you cannot help but take part in. Experiences,, training, education, a spouse and the in-law families, kids, and so many things come into play with this…In any case, you have some very good choices, as I do, and we are perhaps the lucky ones because we realize that there are guiding principles that we operate with and create our life around them…Many never reach that point, and who knows what they are missing?

    • Phil says:

      Thank you very much for the thoughtful points you are raising, Dave! 

      I received strong guiding principles from my parents, which were quite good for some things but not for others, and I changed principles unconsciously as a teenager or young adult. Nowadays, I am better aware of what principles I choose to follow. As for you, traveling had much impact on my principles, through relativism: it’s hard to keep a principle as an absolute when you can see every variation is possible and really exists out there, and you get to feel that principles and values are all relative.

      Yes, I fully agree with you that it is a lucky privilege to be aware of what principles and values you choose to hold, to really realize that you have the choice, and that it is something missing to not have that choice. But that’s just us agreeing on this being of value, while we must also respect those who hold the completely opposite views that either they don’t want to know or care what principles they hold, or that it is somehow wrong to change one’s principles, etc. For me, that is difficult to do, but is part of why I am struggling with e.g. helping people who are bored or hopeless.

      Again, thank you very much for your deep comments. Cheers, Phil

  2. Carol5162 says:

    We may not comprehend the importance of principle until we start to practice it. I was that person that just let things unfold, without proper planning and consideration. I realized later in life that somehow, things were all over the place. Money principles was completely out of question but I am slowly getting on track.

    This article is very timely especially to bloggers like me. We might have so many ideas and a lot of work to do but without principles, we might end up wasting a lot of time doing a lot of activities that do not add value.

    Thank you for this eye-opener and I wish you all the best in your quest to find entrepreneurship. Otherwise, you sound like you have tremendous experience for your job market. All the best!

    • Phil says:

      Thank you very much for your feedback and sharing your experience, Carol. I’m glad to hear this article made you think about the importance of principles.

  3. ReviewsForThePeople says:

    Thank you for such a informative and soul pleasing article. This is a great reminder to our dragging daily habits that keeps us away from our true selves. I found a few years back after a conversation I had with an old friend I hadnt seen in awhile om were he asked me how was the maintenance wotk going. At this point I hadn’t done this ins a long time and since was a musician,bow maker,drum teacher,guitar teacher and artist. This lead me to discover what uou were speaking about in the 3rd and fourth section about connecting with you artists side and really becoming who you really are instead of just some job title. I also found I am many things not just one identifying trait. This article has made my mind explore were I want to go and is very freeing to living. Thank you for creating such a chain breaking article!

  4. Barbara says:

    Wow thanks for this amazing article you did, this was a good read at least for me. Sometimes I would get stuck on something or question myself on “why am I doing this thing”, it can be anything and I would get distracted and not get focused on the main task, but getting to know the principles and how you explain that having principles is key and it was great. I have lots of dreams that I want to accomplish and I desire to have them every day and hopefully one day I can achieve them. Thanks for this amazon article.

  5. Chloe says:

    In relation to getting stuck, it all start from a youthful who doesn’t give much credits to how he/she would run the future. I’m not saying as a kid because 80% ambition from kids are not actualized later in the future. So from my own observation and personal experiences I have come to understand that I find stuffs difficult when I don’t make concrete plans for them early enough.
    Now coming to the present where an individual is stucked, it is usually born of being in so many plays like yours. Fortunately for me i have these things in place. So I’d say when you’re in such situation, one needs to calm down and talk to someone who can relate to your experienc. Talking to an expert about a difficult situation is the best way to get out of it and get your stuffs together.

  6. Feochadan says:

    When I think of guiding principals, I think of morals and conscience.  I must say that my mother inculcated a high degree of these in me.  I appreciate your take on guiding principals as it comes to making money.  You are an amazing person with many things that you could do to make an income.  The lovely part is that most are also following your passion.  Anybody who can make money while following a passion of theirs is head and shoulders above the rest of the 9-6ers.  I wish you all the best in your new pursuits!

  7. MissusB says:

    Intelligent people has so much things they want to accomplish or do. It’s because their ideas ate limitless and they are bound to explore not just one but many ideals. Your highly compounded interests sometimes hinder you to remain focus because you tend to do so many things. You were lucky to have finally bring a clearer self direction especially when it comes to source of finance, life style, interest, and I’m guessing a lot more. 

    One of my guiding principles is to live within your means. Yes, I too have so much things that I wanted to explore and experience like travelling but since I am not in the stage where I can fully support it, I choose to postponed it rather than bankrupt myself with too much expenses. Don’t get me wrong, it has become my goal that’s why I am inspired to work so I can do it someday. With all your experiences, how did you transitioned yourself to finally come up with long term plans? Did it leave you with any regrets or is there something you wish you had done but was against your guiding principle? Thank you for sharing your relatable experience with us.

    • Phil says:

      Lol, it really seems like you wrote in a different language and posted the results here after using Google Translate! But I appreciate the thoughts you have put in, and thanks for the questions.

      I’ve not been good with using guiding principles throughout my life, and instead they are a rather new concept for me. Indeed, I can have some regrets about doing and not doing certain things that were major pivotal events in my life. If I had had guiding principles, things would have surely turned out very differently for me.

  8. Robert Trevor says:

    It seems to me, that one of the problems to face, is having too many interests,so that one gets stuck, choosing which are the most interesting ways, that we can make money,and which to choose as hobbies.

    I would think it a shame, not to use all that training, and experience in scientific research,but to apply it in teaching the figure skating,and thereby  opening an avenue for making money, also the idea of applying for a government grant to start anew business,and doing consulting work giving you another way of making money.

    If you feel drawn to giving piano lessons,that is good artistic use of your talents that could be very interesting,bringing out, new talent and at the same time providing another avenue of making money.

    I feel that you have have many talents to offer the world,I would take,as my guide as to what to choose,is what do you really like doing, and what gives you the most feeling of achievement.

  9. Desiray says:

    Great job on the extra-curriculars. You should try taking another musical instrument at the same time as piano it makes it easier. I think that you are doing a great job and you should just let things work themselves out. If you are meant to get a job then one will fall into your lap and vice versa. Good luck.

    • Phil says:

      Thanks, actually I used to play the flute quite well, and I also can sing in both classical and rock styles. I am quite interested in learning the electric guitar and drums too, so I will remember your advice. I have some envy towards my sister, who is a talent multi-instrumentalist: she can get herself a new instrument, and within a few weeks, she is able to play it with nice musicality.  

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