Do you have touchstones or guiding principles in your life?My father was one of my biggest role models. He was a truly remarkable man – an uncommonly kind and generous person, and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. My dad was the only person I’ve ever known who seemed to know something about everything; no matter what the topic was, he seemed to know something about it, and one of things I miss most about him is our conversations about anything and everything.

In the intervening months since my father’s death, I’ve been asked to untangle some of the aspects of his estate, and I came across some papers that were misfiled in some folders that were given to me. The papers were my father’s annual goals and objectives. I only have a couple of these objective goal documents, but they’re dated decades apart, so I think he’d been creating them for the better part of his adult life. And what I read in these documents made me realize even more, just how special my dad really was. Because written at the very top of each of these documents, before he went into the details and specifics about what he wanted to accomplish during the year, was this:

“The principle purpose of my life is to make the world a better place”.

I had no idea that my dad had these annual goals and objectives that he reviewed every year, but reading through these documents made me realize that everything my dad did – the entire way he lived his life – was based on this main objective of wanting to make the world a better place, and it made me even prouder to be his daughter. It also made me smile because I have my own annual goals that I create each year, but I never thought to create a principle purpose for my life. And it made start to wonder… what is the principle purpose of my life?

Touchstones and Guiding Principles

It’s a complicated question. Because I truly believe that the purpose of each and every one of us is to be happy, plain and simple. We are here to do the things that call to us most strongly – the things that we alone can bring to this world. So maybe instead of focusing on the purpose of my life, it would make more sense for me to focus on my touchstones  – what are the standards, guiding principles or fundamental truths by which I want to live my life? What is the foundation upon which I want to base my reasons for doing the things I do?

I suspect that getting clear on this will not only help me to maintain my focus and make it easier to keep myself on track with my goals, but I think it will also give me tool for helping me deal with decision-making paralysis when my path is not clear to me; knowing my touchstones or guiding principles will give me my raison d’être for choosing which direction to go in or which decision is the right one for me.

Making the Time For Soul-Searching

So I’m going to be spending some time this week looking at this and thinking about what values and principles are most important to me, and about the kind of person that I want to be. And I’m going to add what I discover to my annual plan for next year, so that I can keep these touchstones front and centre in all that I hope to accomplish and become over the course of the year.

It’s not something I’m expecting to complete in a day, or even a week – these are, after all, big questions, and they deserve thoughtful, well-considered responses. There’s a significant amount of soul-searching in this exercise, but I’m looking forward to what I discover and what I learn.

What about you? If you create plans for the year, do you base them around particular touchstones or principles? What are the values that are most important in your own life?

photo credit: cc

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