When we’re in our twenties, and indeed the rest of our life, we’re faced with several important decisions, many of them coming at the same time. When these decisions need to be made, it’s helpful to have a resource we can refer to which has already made the decision for us. This resource does exist; it’s called your Generating Operating Principles.
I first came across the concept of General Operating Principles (GOP) from Taylor Pearson, and was immediately drawn to the idea. Basically, your GOP is a set of personal rules you choose to live by.
Just as with my Life List, the GOP is a living, breathing document which I constantly add to or remove from, based on new lessons and wisdom I’ve learned.
So why should you care about having a GOP?When there’s no established process for doing something, your General Operating Principles are a set of principles, heuristics, and rules of thumb to enable more effective judgements for modifying existing systems or creating new ones.
Remember those tough decisions I mentioned at the start of this article? Just think about how much easier they would be if you had a document you could quickly pull up and refer to that contained the way you’ve previously decided you want to do things.
For example, let’s say your friends want you to go out drinking with them, but you told yourself you were going to spend the evening working on your side gig. Without a GOP, you’d be caught in a mental battle and probably end up feeling bad regardless of the option you choose.
But by having a GOP, you could quickly realize that spending time with friends and family is more important to you than starting a business. Or, you could see that doing work you care about is more important that going out. It all depends on your unique values.
As Taylor says, “when there’s no established process for doing something, your General Operating Principles are a set of principles, heuristics, and rules of thumb to enable more effective judgements for modifying existing systems or creating new ones.”
I’m by no means perfect, but whenever I’m faced with a difficult decision, I try to remember to come back to my GOP for some wisdom.
These are the principles, rules and guiding insights on my list (in no particular order). Feel free to borrow them for your own.
MY GENERAL OPERATING PRINCIPLES:
- My rule for breaking or taking on a new system or commitments is “Hell Yes or Hell No.”
- I am always moving away from my comfort zone into growth opportunities.
- I study to increase my skills. I recognize that a steady diet of reading and contemplation is vital to personal development and aim go to bed a little wiser each day.
- I seek out and value new experiences over “stuff”.
- I strive for simplicity and 80/20. Would saying “no” save time, energy, or money? How would this look if it were easy? When I say ‘no’ to things, better things come.
- When I truly believe in something, I do not quit. I recognize the value of consistency, commitment, and grit to accomplishing big goals.
- I recognize the importance of being well-rested to good decision making and quality work.
- I recognize that I am what I do today. I create the outcome of my life with the choices I make right now.
- I don’t use words like “need to” or “have to” or “should.” I choose to create the reality that I want to exist.
- I am very careful as to who and what I spend my time on.
- I see the best in everyone and treat people as friends I haven’t met yet.
- I regret things I did rather than those I didn’t do and would way rather say “oh well” than “what if”.
- I give up the need for instant gratification and focus on the long game.
- I focus on “Now what needs to get done?” vs “I have so much to do”.
- I catch myself when comparing my start to others’ middles. I’m right where I need to be. Greatness takes time.
- I am good enough. Learn that and you won’t be afraid of new things, won’t be afraid to fail, won’t need the approval of others.
- All I need to be happy is within me: mindfulness, gratitude, compassion, thoughtfulness, the ability to create and do something meaningful, even in a small way.
- I spend less than I earn. I don’t spend it if I don’t have it. I learn to go without and be happy with less.
- I strive to get good at discomfort. Avoiding discomfort is very common, but a big mistake. Learning to be OK with some discomfort will change my life.
- The things that stress me out don’t matter. Will this matter in five years? Most likely the answer is no. If the answer is yes, I attend to it.
- I’m not afraid to make mistakes. Instead, I learn from them, and learn to shrug them off so they don’t affect my confidence in who I am. Everything I do is either a success or a lesson.
- I learn to be good at change. You will suffer by trying to hold onto things.
- I realize I can start over today. I can see when it was that I decided I didn’t make a difference, make note of it, and then begin as if I no longer had a past at all.
- I accept that no one has ever been perfect. And I’m not going to be the first.
- I live each moment with a strong sense of awareness and equanimity. I don’t react to things, but rather choose my response in that moment.
- I realize that my misery is all my own doing and isn’t caused by the thing itself, but rather my response to it.
- I think before I speak so that my words are kind and in alignment with my values.
- I know that this will also change. Whether good or bad.
- I recognize that I don’t have to have everything figured out before getting started. I can take the first small step and work it out as I go. Small daily improvements over time create stunning results.
- I lead me first. I can’t help others reach their highest potential until I’m in the process of reaching mine.
- I shift from doing mindless toil to doing valuable work.
- The way I do one thing defines the way I’ll do everything. Every act matters.
- “Great minds speak about ideas, ordinary minds speak about things, small minds speak about people.”
- Investing in my professional and personal development is the smartest investment I can make. I make sure I don’t spend more on comforts and conveniences than I do for education. The money is a small price. The promise is unlimited potential.
- Instead of worrying, I concentrate on doing the best job I’ve ever done in my life.
- I recognize what is and what is not in my control and focus only on what is. What is beyond my control is indifferent to me.
HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN GOP
While the list above seems rather long, I’ve slowly built it up over time. You might start out with 4 or 5, and that’s totally okay. The point is that you’re regularly refining it to reflect your best judgements.
I suggest that whenever you read, hear, or watch something that resonates with or inspires you, write it down somewhere. I like to add it to an Evernote document that syncs across all my devices, but you could also use your notes app on your phone or even a good old notebook.
Now I want to hear from you: which items above resonate with you? What would you add to your own GOP? Hit me up on Twitter and lemme know!
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