Covey identified Principles as another core understanding for effective living and working. Read through this and see why.

To continue using the map metaphor from yesterday, Principles are the territory. They are reality, whereas Values are the maps that we use to represent reality to ourselves.

Man has named Principles, but what they are (for our purposes) are timeless, extrinsic, universal and self-evident truths. Principles are not values, as values are selected or adopted by Man and do NOT exhibit those four characteristics unless we value principles.

Principles act everywhere, without judgement. They do not undermine, attack, argue with or otherwise seek to obstruct us. Principles just are.

Examples of Principles used by Stephen Covey include Truth, Respect, Honesty, Fairness, Integrity, Dignity, Service, Growth and Change.

To recognise them as Principles you can do two things. First, ask if they fit the definition above – universal (apply everywhere), timeless (have and will always apply) extrinsic (exist outside of us) and self-evident (make sense without thought). Second, see if their opposites make sense if they were to be applied to your life.

Principles are not religious, though religions adopt them. They cannot be broken without consequence. Think of Gravity as a principle – go break that.

The principle of Growth is sequential – you cannot alter the sequence of learning, even if you can speed it up. To quote Covey, you learn simple maths, then algebra and then calculus. Try the other way and see if that works.

What does all this have to do with Effectiveness and Success?

First of all, it means that true effectiveness is the result of recognising that principles apply, and that as much as working with them underpins success and effectiveness, working against principles will bring the opposite – failure and ineffectiveness.

Secondly, seeing things through Principles improves our ability to make good decisions and to act accordingly. If we recognise and apply Truth, we become integrated and are seen to be trustworthy. If we recognise and exercise Respect, we both give it and receive it, which is a core business and interpersonal requirement, is it not? If we recognise gravity, we will wear that parachute and we will  walk further away from the cliff edge.

The final thing to know about Principles is that they are not practices, although you can practice observing them. Principles apply everywhere while practices are situationally specific. That is why the See-Do-Get Cycle is important. Changing practices is the Do part of the Cycle and doing that can bring temporary or minimal benefit. But Principles relate to the See part of the Cycle and seeing things through Principles – truths – can change the way you do things at a quantum level and bring about massive improvement.

So you can now start to see the progressive, sequential and integratedness of The Seven Habits philosophy. Principles apply, seeing things through the paradigm of principles makes for greater effectiveness, seeing also improves doing improves results, and character makes for better seeing than personality.

Tomorrow we start looking at why the Habits are – effective.