3 Principles for 2018

My yearly alternative to goals and resolutions for the new year — 2018 version.

Mike Sturm
Jan 2, 2018 · 6 min read

Last year, rather than making a list of resolutions and goals, I gave myself 3 principles to put into practice for the year. Those principles were simplicity, patience, and compassion. I did my best each day to keep them in mind. I ran each of my various goals and projects through them to ensure that what I was doing conformed to those 3 principles. I believe that by and large, it was beneficial.

Focusing on principles rather than resolutions or goals makes a lot of sense to me, for a few reasons.

  • Principles are deeper and more attached my sense of self
    While goals can be powerful motivators, they are by definition temporary. They are also based on desires — and mostly the desire to achieve or gain, rather than to be — and continue to be a certain way. Principles and values, on the other hand, are deeper. They are more permanent, and meant to be that way. Whatever sense of self you have — it tends to be vacuous without principles. What our principles are define who we are, and ideally, who we are defines what we do (and refuse to do). So while goals will always have a place in my new year’s planning, principles will always win out — as the deeper, more foundational things always should.
  • Principles provide for powerful decision-making
    If well thought out, principles also provide a built-in decision-making process for pretty much any choices you have to make throughout the year. When you have to decide whether or not to do something, or decide what exactly to do, simply ask yourself if any options conflict with any of your principles. If the answer is “yes”, than you ought to eliminate that option from your decision-making process. That is the power of principles.

Coming up With Principles

It’s highly unlikely that you don’t have any principles or core values. You may not have spelled them out, or distilled them down to basic concepts — but they’re very likely there. You can follow a simple process to come up with a list of your principles. It’s as simple as asking a few questions.

  • what matters to me (or what do I really care about?)
  • what do I spend my free time doing?
  • what trait(s) would I have if I were the best version of myself that I could envision?
  • when I think of someone I admire, what trait or traits do they have that I’d like to have?
  • what concepts have I read about or heard of recently that appeal to me and stimulate my thinking and energy?

The answers to these questions should reveal some of your values and principles to you. Then you can simply run through that list and pick 3 that jump out at you as likely to provide great benefit to you, if you were to focus on them. Even if you already subscribe to them and put some emphasis on them, a renewed focus on putting them at the forefront of your thinking this year can provide a great benefit.

If nothing else, laying out some principles for yourself provides the benefit of simplicity. It simplifies your thinking and your decision-making. It simplifies your view of progress over the course of a year. If you’re doing things that conform to your principles, you’re doing well. If not, you need to get back on the path. It’s that simple.

This Year’s Principles

So without further ado, I give you my 3 principles for 2018. I will review these every day, and while I tend to keep a daily journaling habit, I will reserve one day per week to journal just about how I’m doing in sticking to these 3 principles.


Be fully present for time with others and for work being done. Be absorbed in the present moment as much as possible.

Am I allowing other thoughts to pull me away from where I am now? Am I giving my full attention to what and/or who is in front of me now?

So often, I am pulled away from conversations and interactions with others by nagging thoughts and things that just pop into my head. As a result, I fail to listen well (or at all). I lose out on learning new things, and getting to really know people. More importantly, I am letting life pass me by without having really lived it.

Life is lived in each moment. When I am spending each moment preoccupied with moments other than the present, I am failing to live life. The tragedy is that unchecked, a lack of being effectively in the present is only realized far in the future — when the present is the past, and you don’t remember having really lived that past, and you don’t really have a future in which to change. I don’t want to end up that way. So I will choose to be present — beginning this year.


Act first in service to others and in service of worthwhile goals. Don’t simply pursue fleeting impulses and urges.

Is what I am doing now in service of others? If not, is it in service of a worthwhile goal that I have committed to?

As I reflect on how I spend my time, I see that a lot of it is spent on myself. I do a lot of work on my own projects, I tweak my own systems, re-organize my stuff, exercise, read things that interest me, and so on. I also tend to simply follow my impulses, and do things with little thought as to whether it’s a wise use of my time or energy. It often leaves me short on time, frustrated, distracted, and fragmented.

This year, I will work on being service-oriented on two fronts:

  • I will emphasize work in service of others whenever I can. This includes my family, colleagues, friends, and strangers.
  • I will emphasize making my actions ones that serve a worthwhile goal — i.e., one that I have given thought to, and laid out for myself. I will do this as opposed to allowing myself to follow any old impulse or interest that strikes me.


Be open about feelings, desires, expectations, and motivations. Communicate proactively with people who have a vested interest in me and/or my activities.

Am I being open and honest, or am I masking or hiding my feelings, desires, motivations, or reasons? Am I being sincere and forthcoming?

One of my biggest shortcomings is that I am not great at proactively communicating with people. This is true in my work relationships and my personal ones. I tend to keep things inside — thinking that either no one wants to know all the details of my feelings and thoughts, or I simply don’t pay much attention to how people might be viewing me.

As a result, I’ve been more closed off than I’d like. People don’t know me as well as they should, and I find myself having to explain my actions (or lack of action) way too much after the fact. I also miss out on help that I could be getting, or really rich conversations that could strengthen relationships. Lastly, I end up not even knowing myself as well as I’d like — because when it comes to gaining a greater knowledge of yourself, there is no substitute for talking over things with other people.

My focus this year will be on being as open as I can be. That may mean being vulnerable — something I have a great fear of — but I need to be okay with that. I did read Daring Greatly, and it made a lot of sense to me — but I never implemented Brené Brown’s advice. This year, I will. I will work to be more open, and cultivate deeper relationships — with others and myself.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

Mike Sturm

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Working tirelessly to help you think like no one else. Author: “Be, Think, Do” https://amzn.to/2Hnrdvk. Also Subscribe to my newsletter: https://goo.gl/UhzUYL.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

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