Lifestyle, Mindful Recovery

Discovering your guiding principle

We mean well with our New Year’s resolutions, but the breaking of them is as much an annual tradition as establishing them in the first place. New Year’s resolutions … rarely become a significant part of our life. 

~ Debra Farrington ~

Living Faith Day by Day

How the Sacred Rules of Monastic Tradition Can Help You Live Spiritually in the Modern World

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We are invited to live out our faith on a day-to-day basis. Through this, we discover our own guiding principles and truths. These personal guiding principles and rules of life help us live more authentically in order to experience an overall sense of satisfaction. They go beyond mere resolutions.

Debra Farrington shares this insight:

…New Year’s resolutions tend to reinforce our self-centeredness and our negative self-image. They probably do us more harm than good, for they remind us year after year that we continue to be unacceptable … New Year’s resolutions more often drag us down than build us up.

How are you at maintaining your present resolutions for 2019? If you are in recovery, how are your resolutions toward health and wellness helping you build your sense of worth and power?

Purpose for a guiding principle – Your own rule of life

Unlike the resolutions we desire, a rule for our lives helps us change perspectives. This change in perspective helps us connect to our Heavenly Father by how we are responding to His guiding counsel and wisdom. When we connect with our Heavenly Father, we are committed to centering our focused life upon Him. 

  • We pray to connect and cultivate a healthy and divine spiritual relationship with God.
  • We read and ponder the scriptures by examining the experiences and messages helps us come to know God more fully.
  • We begin to take care of, and nurture, our bodies because God has entrusted us with maintaining a healthy physical attribute.
  • We begin to show charity, love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness toward others because God shows us the same.

As we begin to experience a deep and enriching relationship with our Heavenly Father, our guiding principles and rules for life come about through personal and divine revelation. It is borne out of our affection and love toward Him. Our personal guiding principle is not found in our fears, what we may be running away from; but, it is found in our yearning desire to draw closer to Christ and our Heavenly Father. To draw closer in unity toward our fellow neighbors.

Guiding principles evolve through our growth and maturity

Do not be surprised to find that rules to live by are not something we merely jot down and live in expectation of fulfilling. Our unrealistic expectations within New Year’s resolutions (or any resolutions we desire to follow through with) become labor-some. Our own personal expectations may be the reason we turn away from the changes we desire to make in our lives.

Guiding principles evolve over time. They change as we change. They adapt as we adapt. In most instances, guiding principles tend to dissolve and are replaced with new guiding principles. This is because we are growing, we are maturing, and we are moving toward something far greater than what any resolution may accomplish.

In other words, according to Debra Farrington, our living principles (or rules) “…become living documents. They take time to uncover in the first place, and a good rule evolves as you grow and change.” Farrington provides the following tips on how we are empowered to live with our specific rules and guidelines:

  1. Listen to your heart’s desires. God often speaks to us through our heart’s desires
  2. Make sure your rule includes some joy, play, and fun.
  3. Take baby-steps. Don’t make your rule too hard to follow.
  4. Baby-steps are good, but give yourself a little bit of challenge, too.
  5. Figure out how much structure you need: lots or just a little?
  6. Learn to pay attention deeply to your practices. It will help prevent boredom
  7. Find someone to talk with about your rule; it is easy to fool ourselves about all sorts of things.
  8. Figure out how to help yourself be accountable for keeping your rule
  9. Read your rule regularly. It’s easy to forget the stuff we don’t like so much
  10. You’re going to have trouble keeping a rule sometimes. Recognize that you’re human, and try again.

I, personally, want to add that one of the key ways we are able to incorporate how we are:

  • Going about discovering our key guiding principles (or rule for living)
  • Striving to begin living out according to our guiding principles for living
  • Holding ourselves accountable toward self-care and recognition of maintaining alignment within the scope of our guiding principles

Is through reflective journaling.

How Reflective Journaling Helps in Our Discovery of Personal Rule of Life

When it comes to writing down our personal thoughts, fears, life experiences, et. al. We typically think of a standard Diary or Journal entry. However, a more appropriate way toward personal growth is not to keep a personal diary of our daily experience; but, to keep a reflective journal. This requires us to be mindful in our own personal experiences. We approach our day without any judgment or criticism in order to step back from an experience and contemplate its meaning to self. The challenges we faced. The insight we may have (or have not) gained. The thoughts and emotions tied to the specific experiences and events. And, then, record them in a manner where we are learning the creation of meaning from past or current experiences in order gain significant insight toward a better sense of being.

Therefore, maintaining a daily reflective journal accomplishes the following:

  • Gain insight and understanding as to the reasons for what happened.
  • Reflect on the reasons for the experience – the why did this happen?
  • Align our future decisions, based on the values and lessons learned from past experiences.
  • To share our own personal thoughts and feelings associated with the events of the day and how to manage our own emotional and mental well-being.

(Find out more on what Reflective Journaling is)

Concurrent with this, we want to be mindful in remembering two important aspects in discovering and setting a rule of life. Debra Farrington shares that we are to

  • Pay attention to our hearts desire
  • Maintain a realistic outlook and expectation

This is accomplished through our commitment to daily prayer and meditation. The conversations we have with others, and coming back to report through reflective journaling. Through these practices, we are capable of discovering our own personal guidelines to live by.

8 spiritual practices that help grow and stretch us daily

Farrington provides eight spiritual practices that help balance out a meaningful life. They are: 

  1. The Foundations: putting God at the center of your rule and your life
  2. Prayer: finding a prayer type and rhythm that works for you
  3. Work: approaching your work as part of your spiritual life, rather than something divorced from it
  4. Study: establishing a regular practice of learning more about God
  5. Spiritual companionship: committing yourself to regular companionship and community on the journey
  6. Care of your body: taking care of yourself as a spiritual practice
  7. Reaching out: caring for others and the environment as a spiritual practice
  8. Hospitality: finding ways to be a gracious presence in the world.

While I agree with Farrington on choosing one to focus on and then go from there is appropriate. What I have personally discovered in my own spiritual pilgrimage is that the first and foremost is putting God first by committing oneself to prayer, scripture study, and commit to attending a faith based community (whether a Church and/or small group). When we focus on establishing our connection with God, His word, and community of faith, all others will begin to fall in alignment and we begin to find real balance in our lives.

Structuring our lives around spiritual practices takes commitment and consistency

To properly incorporate spiritual practices is to examine a typical day and then make the commitment to follow through in implementing them. This may require adjusting your schedule. It also helps facilitate accountability and consistency. Do not be afraid of experimenting with what may work for you.

Despite this, one of the main resistance toward spiritual practices may be – “I don’t have enough time in my day.” For those who may feel they are already too busy, and overwhelmed, consider taking about 30 minutes, or an hour, to write out your daily activities (again, this is where reflective journaling may be helpful). Are there any periods in your day that are wasted time slots? For instance, do you watch alot of television, spend time playing games?

Writing out a typical schedule is definitely a way to structure out one’s day. For me, I use the Franklin-Covey planner. Others have different ways to structure out their day. The important consideration is recognizing ways to not only implement spiritual practices, but to do so in a manner that helps you balance out your life toward a sense of meaning and purpose.

Once we become consistent in our spiritual practices, attitudes, and commitments; we begin to discover a newness of life. We begin to develop a sense of empowerment and enrichment. The more we reflect on our day-to-day experiences, through journaling, the more we come to appreciate and value who we are – because we are discovering our own sense of self.

How to find your own values that shape authentic beliefs