Standing up for yourself

There are times in life where you have to make hard decisions. Your goals come into conflict with someone else & you find yourself struggling to decide which path to take. When your goals come into conflict with someone with more power than you, such as your boss, then this struggle is exacerbated.

However, there comes a point in life when you have to make a decision. Will you spend the rest of your life following a path defined by others or will you stand up for yourself? Will you be ruthlessly honest? Will you have courage in the face of power? Will you stand up for what you believe in, regardless of the consequences? Even if it will be difficult — scary even — are you willing to make those decisions?

Decisions around resignation or breaking up with a partner are scary & have considerable consequences. However, when you live your life by a clear set of principles, constantly revisited & revised, then such decisions become easy. They are, in fact, already made. The decision is crystal clear: it either adheres to your principles or it does not.

By highlighting examples of my principles & how I have applied them in my own life, I hope that you too can apply these to improve your decision-making & decide for yourself what you are willing to stand up for.

“This goes against everything I believe in”

People look a little shocked when I say I am resigning without any concrete plan for what comes next. They think that I am brave. They admire me, even.

But they misunderstand how such decision-making works for me.

I don’t live my life by a definitive document of beliefs like a modern day ’10 Commandments’. Since reading Ray Dalio’s book, Principles (the inspiration for this post), I have started to.

But even before reading about Dalio’s use of written principles to guide all his — & his company’s — decision-making, I have always held firm to certain truths.

I tend to write about them, for example in Lying. They tend to come through in my conversations & writing in some form. They are clarified & reinforced through meditation & journaling.

With these principles, when I believe something to be true, I am rarely able to act in a way that comes into conflict with those truths, unless rationally convinced that I am in fact wrong.

Therefore, coming back to bravery, I do not see my actions as brave. I see them as an inevitable consequence of having strongly-held principles that are not easily changed.

I am not able to bend my own rules ‘just this once’ because truth is truth. It is not something that you can ignore when it is convenient.

So, later today, when our CEO asks me into one of our meeting rooms for a ‘quick chat’, I will not leave my truths at the door. They are part of me & I must stand up for them.

His belief in absolute rule comes directly into conflict with my core belief that radical honesty is the only way to develop the best ideas & to help each other grow.

Where he envisions everyone unquestioningly following his vision, I see that vision being formed from the amalgamation of innovative & revised ideas coming from a diverse, talented team.

So what can I really do in this situation? Lie & trash my beliefs? Or just simply accept that this is the situation I find myself in & that my truths must be adhered to.

There’s no point complaining. There’s no point hoping things might change. There’s no point questioning whether you might be wrong or not.

Trust your gut. You know what has to be done.

Live by principles

Take 2 minutes to write down 10 of your core principles. Maybe it’s something like, ‘I believe in people having honest relationships’.

Then write down 3 examples of where these core beliefs are in conflict with your own actions or the actions of others. Now that you have written these core beliefs out, what will you do to correct the situation? Are you able to continue being dishonest with yourself? Does that sit well with you?

If you’re struggling for an example, here’s mine:

Core belief: I believe in being honest with & fair to people at all times. This is a standard that I want to always hold myself to.

Conflicting action: I remember a year or two ago someone gave me extra change in a shop (I think it was around €10). I noticed this on the way out & happily went about my day thinking I’d ‘won’ in some way. This came directly into conflict with my belief in honesty (I essentially passively stole money) & fairness (the cashier probably had to pay for it from her pay cheque). Therefore when this happened again recently, when I noticed I had been given too much change I automatically handed it back. The pride & happiness of adhering to my beliefs was worth far more than the few extra Euros.

Leave a comment to let us know what your core beliefs are & when you’ve come into conflict with them.

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Henry Latham

Henry Latham

Founder, Prod MBA

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