The importance of having an “organizing principle”

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I’ve noticed that I perform best when I have an organizing principle. That is, the thing in my life from which all other things branch off. Having an organizing principle – a guiding north star – helps steer my thinking and decision making. It doesn’t remove the need for critical thought, but rather serves as a reminder of what I’m ultimately trying to accomplish.

I’ve found it best to use something specific, some specific short-to-medium-term goal or process. Saying that your “job” or “family” is the organizing principle isn’t specific enough and hurts more than it helps.

Interestingly, I’ve noticed the same to be true for good military units, from the platoon to battalion level. Those that had an organizing principle and whose subordinate formations nested that principle tended to perform better. It could be something simple like “physical fitness” or more targeted like “success at NTC.” As long as it makes sense and people believe in it, it is helpful.

Of course, simply having an organizing principle doesn’t achieve the result. It’s a reminder that you have to actually organize things towards accomplishing that goal. It seems so simple, but most of us – people and organizations alike – go through our days and weeks without a real end goal. We’re just grinding along. There’s nothing wrong with hard work, but what is it headed towards?

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