Chapter 16: Principles: Why You’re Unhappy
“You have to force yourself to aim for standards
higher than is expected of you.”-Henry Ward Beecher
As I write these words,
I am sitting in my room at the Hyatt Regency Waikoloa resort on the Big Island of Hawaii,
overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean.
I just witnessed an event that won’t happen again until 2017: a total solar eclipse.
This morning, my wife
and I woke up at 5:30 am to be able to join thousands of other tourists
from all over the world to witness this rare astronomical phenomenon.
As crowds flocked to see this spectacle,
I began to entertain myself by observing the crowds of people from all walks of life who were flocking here:
from top businessmen to vacationing families cool,
from scientists slinging dozens of telescopes
to backpackers camping overnight near the crater
and children in a state of elation
because their parents told them it was coming the strange happens.
Countless people have come here,
they come from all over the world,
spending tens of thousands of dollars just
to see an event that will take place within 4 minutes!
What do we do here?
We want to stand under a shade!
We humans are a strange species, aren’t we?
At 6:28 a.m., the drama began.
The atmosphere was filled with anxiety,
not only with eagerness to see the event,
but also with fear of disappointment.
For on this one-of-a-kind morning,
dark clouds have begun to roll in
and the sky has become overcast.
It’s interesting to watch people fear their expectations will go up in smoke.
They come here not to see a glimpse of the moon covering the sun,
but to watch a total solar eclipse that lasts for four minutes,
when the moon’s shadow will completely obscure the sun and cover us in darkness.
They even give it a name:
Total solar eclipse!
By 7:10 a.m., the clouds were getting heavier
and spreading more and more every minute.
Suddenly, the sun flashed through a small hole in the cloud
and we could all see a partial eclipse.
The onlookers cheered,
but immediately the clouds covered,
growing thicker and thicker,
completely obscuring our view.
Closer to the total solar eclipse,
we realized we couldn’t see the moon passing by the sun.
Suddenly, thousands of people flocked to the large TV screen
that the TV team had placed nearby.
So we sat in front of the TV screen
to watch the eclipse through the screen,
no more than people in other places.
At that time I was fortunate to observe all kinds of emotions on the faces of the people there.
Each person reacts according to his own principles;
they believe that whatever happens will give them a sense of satisfaction in this experience.
A man sitting behind me swore,
“That’s a waste of four thousand dollars
and all the trouble to come all the way here just
to watch four minutes on TV!
A woman sitting a few feet away exclaimed,
“I couldn’t believe it! we missed this!”
but her little girl excitedly said to her mother,
“But mom, it’s coming soon.”
Another lady sitting to my right said,
“Isn’t that great! I feel lucky to be here!”
The same event happened, the same place,
the same time, but each person has a different impression,
a different reaction.
That day, I saw a stark contrast between people’s beliefs and principles.
We react not according to reality
but according to the way we interpret it,
according to the strength of our beliefs and principles.
These principles tell us what reality must be like to satisfy us.
Failing to understand this power can make us forever incapable of accepting happiness;
on the contrary,
understanding and making full use of this power can transform our lives
and make us feel happy.
Chief Justice and Jury
We all have different principles and standards;
they not only govern how we experience events in our lives,
but also how we respond to a particular situation.
In short, what we do and become
who we become depends on the direction our values guide us.
In the same way,
what will determine our emotions
and behavior depends on what we consider good and bad,
what we should do and what we must do.
These standards are called principles.
The principle is the pain
or pleasure stimulus we feel in our nervous system all the time.
It’s like we have a justice system set up in our brains.
Personal principles are our final judge and jury.
They will determine whether we meet a certain value,
whether we feel satisfaction or pain.
For example, if I asked you,
“Do you have a great body?”
How will you answer?
The answer depends on your thoughts on some
standard that defines a great body.
The point here is pretty simple:
our principles govern our reactions every moment we live.
Are the principles that guide your life still relevant
to your current state of mind?
Or have you attached to principles that worked for you in the past,
but cause you pain today?
Did you cling to any inappropriate principles from your childhood?
Help or harm you?
We all want principles that lead us to action,
make us feel happy,
push us to persevere to the end,
not principles that hold us back.
I have met quite a few people,
male and female,
who set rules for their communication relationships that absolutely failed
to help them succeed in the field of communication.
For example, some people follow this principle,
“If you love me, I can blame,
scold or whine, you still have to accept”.
Are principles of this kind appropriate?
Too hard! They will be unjust principles
to anyone who wants to have sex with you.
You must explore the effect of your principles on your confidence,
quality of actions, and life.
Speak your principles
If you want to take charge of your life,
succeed in business,
be a good negotiator,
have influence over your children,
be close to your spouse,
then you must learn the principles of those people,
and at the same time communicate your own principles to them.
You can’t expect others
to accept your principles if you don’t articulate them.
And you cannot expect others
to accept your principles
if you are not flexible in your principles and share theirs.
Let me give you an example.
Once I was talking to a pretty famous friend
and he confided in me that he didn’t have many friends. I said,
“Are you sure you don’t have many friends?
I see a lot of people care about you.
Or do you have your own principles that make it impossible
for many people to want to be friends with you?”
He said, “I just feel like they’re not my friends.”
I said, “What makes you feel like they’re not your friends?”
He replied, “I honestly don’t know what my principles are.”
After thinking for a moment,
he determined that his basic rule was:
anyone who wanted to be his friend should talk
to him at least two or three times a week.
I thought to myself,
“Your principles are strange.
I myself have many friends around the world who I really love.
But even with the closest friends,
sometimes a month or more than us.
We don’t get to see each other,
just because everyone is busy with their work.
I receive hundreds of phone calls from them every day,
and I can’t talk to them.
But they know they’re still friends! mine.”
Then I asked him,
“So do you think I’m your friend?
“You’re technically my friend,
but a lot of the time I don’t feel that way
because we don’t talk so much together.”
I said, “God, I didn’t know that!
I never thought it would be so important to you,
because you never told me?
I assure you there are countless friends who might be willing
to meet your principles of friendship if you let them know them.
Communicate your principles to others in all situations of life,
be it love, friendship, or business.
Never assume they already know.
Set the rules
Right now, take control of your principles by writing down answers
to the following questions.
Please answer as fully as possible.
1. What does it take to make you feel successful?
2. What does it take for you to feel loved,
by your children, spouse, parents,
or anyone important to you?
3. What does it take to feel confident?
4. What does it take for you to feel excellent in any area of your life?
Next, look at your principles and ask,
“Do they make it difficult for me to feel fulfilled and easy to suffer?”
If that’s the case,
change your standards and find ones that work for you.
What do your principles need to make you happy and successful?
Here’s the basic way:
have principles that you can control,
so you won’t be influenced by external circumstances
to dictate your feelings of pain or happiness.
Set standards that make it very easy to feel satisfied
and very difficult to feel miserable.
Now, learn the principles of those around you.
For example, find out what rules your children have
so that they feel attached to the family,
study, or relax in play.
Learn your spouse’s principles;
ask your parents;
Ask your employer or employee.
One thing is for sure:
if you don’t know other people’s principles,
you will fail because sooner
or later you will violate them.
But if you know them well,
you can predict other people’s attitudes;
you can fulfill their requirements
and thereby enrich your relationship.
In short, communicate your principles
and learn the principles of those around you.
One important thing to remember:
the strongest rule is to have fun no matter what.