Principled Decisions

Engineers and coders have a rule: only make a decision once, never make the same decision twice.

The same rule can often be applied to life with great benefit. I call this principled decision making.

A principled decision is made with care and thought. It is a life decision, one that is only revisited in special circumstance.

The principled decision is an agreement with yourself. To go vegetarian. To not drink. To commit to a martial art. To always offer a helping hand. To stand up to a bully. To say no. To fight for your belief. To stay calm. To say sorry. To tell the truth. To trust science. To vote. To always buy the book. To put your children first.

Principled decisions remove much angst out of life. They also help you find peace in yourself and can stop you feeling guilty. Not giving to beggars, for instance. After much thought and reading I learnt most beggars are not homeless and most homeless are not beggars. Decades of research shows in most instances you exacerbate the problem of hard drug addiction by giving to beggars. Make the principled decision of not giving coins into a hat, but to an organised charity such as The Big Issue. The decision is made out of principle: you know your money is being used for good.

Principled decisions are not necessarily easy to uphold. You may believe in equal rights, but will you make the principled decision to support them? When two men holding hands were given abuse by an ignorant fool I made the principled decision to support them. I walked over to the man and told him to back off. A tussle ensued but he left. “You didn’t have to do that”, the men said to me.

“Yes I did. It’s the principle.” I replied.

It hasn’t happened again but if it does I will readily jump to anybody’s support.

Principled decisions can put you in danger and harms way. This is why you must take great care with them and take time contemplating their effects.

They are not about making your life pleasurable in the Epicurean sense (read: Tending The Epicurean Garden), but helping you to ‘know thyself’. To stand on firm ground. To have a backbone. To be able to take action without hesitation — because you have already made the decision. The American Government made the principled decision to never negotiate with terrorists. Margaret Thatcher made the principled decision to fight for the Falklands. You can make principled decisions too and they will help you walk firm when others quiver.

Principled decisions can have painful short-term effects. You will have experienced the need to get rid of someone from your life. They bring you down or bring out the worst in you. They tempt you with drugs, an excessive lifestyle or down a path you don’t want to go. Make the principled decision to remove people of negative influence from your life. Choose friends who inspire you. Who make you raise your game. Who make you a better person.

Principled decision making is like an honest conversation with yourself. When you make a decision it feels good. You reaffirm your identity and who cares what others think? That’s the whole point: You’re just being you. It saves time, prevents guilt or “I don’t know, let me think about it” kind of conversations — especially useful for relationships — and enables you to swim faster around life’s obstacles. Try thinking about what sort of principled decisions you’ve already made in your life (religion, sexuality, beliefs) and what others you might like to consider. The point is not to be correct — many are against America’s terrorism stance and Thatcher’s war over the Falklands- but to make a decision and be done with it. If you find the principle is wrong, then correct it.

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You’re reading Principled Decisions by Tom Church, the award-winning writer of Screams. Follow him on Twitter @tomchurch

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