Sticking to Principles

Sticking to principles. A charcoal drawing of geometric shapes

Sticking to principles

In his article ‘How will you measure your Life‘ Clay Christenssen talks about the ‘marginal cost’ of making exceptions. “The marginal cost of doing something wrong ‘just this once‘ always seems alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don’t ever look at where that path ultimately is headed and at the full costs that the choice entails.”

He tells a personal story how his own religious faith meant that he couldn’t play in a national basketball tournament on a Sunday because he had vowed not to play sport on Sundays.

Could he make an exception for an extenuating circumstance? Well, his experience was that life is nothing more than series of extenuating circumstances, and ‘just this once’ is the proverbial slippery slope.

The premise is, basically, that it’s easier to hold your principles 100% of the time than 98% of the time.

“If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.”

I’m not a religious person and holding myself to such principles so dogmatically was not something I had really experienced.

So as I did the digital detox for the second time, I held this thought in my mind to see what effect it will have. In the face of some feelings of withdrawal or temptataion, I found it comforting to tell myself that it was easier to hold my principles 100% of the time. It helped me.

Of course, we were only practicing the principles for a short space of time to create a new baseline. After establishing our new baseline, some principles started slipping slightly whilst others stuck. It remains an on-going journey of discovery.