“Values will not bring quality of life results – unless we value PRINCIPLES.” Stephen R Covey

I, like most personal development writers, like to emphasise the importance of having a set of personal values or Unifying Principles, rules by which you live your life. They provide guidance, much like the Personal Mission Statement, when you have a ‘shall or shan’t I?’ question hanging over you.

But Principles are slightly different. For Dr Covey, Principles are not values; values are personal, can change, and are true to the individual whether or no they are true to others. For example, I may value ‘Money’ but others may not.

Principles, on the other hand, are Universal, Timeless, Understood and External Truths. They are unarguable, they have existed and will exist for ever, and they are true whether we believe in them or not. Like Truth and Honesty. The key test is said to be ‘argue the opposite and see if it makes sense’.

In this quote, therefore, Dr Covey is saying that if your values MATCH Principles, or at least accurately reflect them, you have a better chance of living a quality life because one thing Principles provide is consistency. Unlike values, they CANNOT change. They do not lie to you, they don’t present any illusion. With Values, ‘If – then’ is a possibility, with alternatives. With Principles, ‘If – then’ is an absolute, a given.

That’s why (for example) having a value like ‘Money’ is doomed. It is doomed because Money might go away, leaving you with nothing. Having a value like ‘Honesty’ (and adhering to it) will never go away. Even if YOU push it away, it is still there. Try lying your way through life.

Value Principles.