I aspire to always be learning, experiencing new things, and growing as a consequence. This is one of my guiding principles.
I work on projects that amplify each other, so that effort in one area tends to result in latent payoffs in another. This is one of my operational frameworks.
I tend to keep notifications turned off on all of my devices so that I won’t be distracted from whatever I’m focusing on throughout the day. This is one of my policies.
Principles are core, fundamental North Stars that help you organize your life and make decisions. They seldom provide specific direction as to how you’ll get somewhere, but they tell you generally where you should be going. Your principles inform your frameworks and policies by telling them where you’d like to be.
Frameworks are lifestyle superstructures that contain all of your habits and rituals and propensities. Your frameworks help you manage your practical, ground-level activities and ensures they all play well together. They also help you assess new routines and activities, and discard old ones that no longer serve you and your desired ends.
Policies are a flexible type of personal rule. I’ve written before about my coffee policy, which states that I generally don’t drink coffee (or other caffeinated beverages) after 3pm. Do I sometimes bend that rule? Yes. Do I uphold it the vast majority of the time? Yes. Do I sleep amazingly well as a consequence of regulating my caffeine intake in this way, even if not 100% of the time? Yes.
Policies are specific methods of getting yourself to the destination your principles establish as desirable. They are the exercise regimen you do six nights a week, or the decision to eat a vegetarian diet except when out with friends. These can be very specific (no coffee after 3pm) or very broad (pay attention to how your body feels when you use it throughout the day, and enjoy that feeling). In either case, you’re outlining particular ways of behaving and utilizing your time, energy, and resources in the hope of achieving a desired outcome.
Policies by themselves are valuable, but they become more effective when paired with other policies via your framework. That framework ties together your policies into a cohesive way of living.
My coffee policy works well by itself, but it’s even more effective when upheld alongside my policy about turning off all the lights at least an hour before going to bed, and my other policy about reading fiction for at least 15 minutes (but usually more like an hour) before I sleep.
This particular framework has evolved and shifted over the years, but its purpose is to help me feel well-rested and healthy the majority of the time, and it’s composed of many little policies. And this framework is informed by a larger, overarching principle that I will proactively strive to live healthily, feel good, and be capable of doing whatever I might decide I want to do.
Desire informs structure, structure is composed of actions.
Each of these pieces, by themselves, are valuable and worth developing. They’re worth thinking about and outlining and evolving over time as your priorities shift, but also as your lifestyle and your realities change. They’re a means of establishing and reestablishing what’s important, orienting your lifestyle around those priorities, and making your goals tangible.
We all have different ideas about what it means to live well, and difference perspectives and resources to leverage. Your policies will look different from mine, and so will your guiding principles.
And all of us, though walking different paths, can be right. Because we all want to go different places, and have differing ideas about the best way to get there.
What’s most important, though, is to make sure that where we think we want to be is where we really want to be. And then to do something about it.