Developing A Personal Creed

In my post about writing every day, I wrote about several ideas that often emerge through my daily practice of writing morning pages, and how these ideas have begun to form a sort of personal creed – a collection of a few small ideas that I have come to believe can have a large impact on my life.

Matt Way first introduced me to the idea what he calls a compression, those moments when your brain says “A-ha!”, all of the pieces of an idea fall into place and everything makes more sense. This is a collection of compressions that I am finding myself returning to again and again, especially in the last year.

Many of these ideas are closely related, but I have tried to separate them into a few small points that I find myself returning to throughout the day or week. I’ve decided to write these ideas down in order to further consolidate them.

1. If you can’t be happy with what you have, you will never be happy with what you get.

The first point is the most concise way I have found to express a few closely related realisations about happiness, minimalism, and gratitude:

Long-term personal happiness doesn’t come from external sources. We can create our own happiness at any time we like by simply pausing, and expressing gratitude for what we already have.

Owning things will not make me happy. The practice of minimalism, and wanting less has brought me nothing but opportunity. Quitting my job, cutting my expenses, and living the last few years with just a carry-on suitcase has afforded me the opportunity to live, work, and travel in more than 12 countries, and experience the journey of a lifetime.

This video touches on some of these points nicely.

2. The position you’re in, or how you feel right now, does not matter. What matters is what you do next.

The second point relates to both mindfulness and motivation.

We are not our thoughts or emotions, and we have power over both of these through our actions. The very first page of Shantaram conveys this idea well.

Waiting for motivation is just procrastination. Motivation comes from action. I have come to realise that I will rarely ever feel like sitting down to work or write something. Later always seems like a better time to get started. But if I just sit down and aim for just 10 minutes, to just get started, I can find myself busy for hours.

3. Castles are built out of bricks, laid one at a time, and those bricks are made of grains of sand. Take pride in your brick building.

The third point is related to goals, and developing skills.

I’ve realised that I won’t get better at a skill every time that I practice, that’s not how practice works. But I have also noticed that I definitely won’t get better at a skill unless I practice every day.

Systems are more effective ways to change behaviour than goals. Scott Adams explains this well. Goals set you up for failure – every day that you haven’t achieved your goal, you’re failing. But developing a system of daily practice allows you to win every day.

4. If I’m not forming good habits, then I’m re-enforcing bad ones

I covered this fourth point in writing every day. This point is based on ideas in The Brain That Changes Itself, my favourite book about neuroplasticity and human behaviour.

Every action we take effects how likely we are to take the same action in the future.

Habits multiply. Good and bad. The Power Of Habit is a great book on this.


If you have any compressions of your own, those “A-ha!” insights when everything fell into place, I’d love to hear them. Email me, or share them in the comments.

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