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Principles are fundamental rules or ideas that guide thought or behaviour, and constitute a frame of reference for achieving the common good within a society. They are universal by nature. The principle of equality (all human beings are equal before the law, regardless of race, gender, nationality, social status or any other characteristic) is an example of a universal ethical principle.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that “a principle is a natural law like gravity. If you drop something, gravity controls. If I don’t tell you the truth, you won’t trust me; that’s a natural law.”

Values are the qualities that individualize a person’s way of being and behaving. They’re beliefs that people hold about specific issues or ideas, and are ultimately subjective and malleable. They can change over time.

Through our positive values we try to act in accordance with what we consider to be right and we aspire to be the best version of ourselves. These values give us strength and resilience when faced with life’s difficulties, and they determine the decisions we make.

For example, humility, respect, sincerity, responsibility and gratitude are generic values that a person can choose as a basis for his or her behavior.

While principles are external to the individual, values are internal. Your values are your roots. The more aware you are of what your values are, the more connected you are to them and to what is most important to you.

Even if you are not aware of it, the principles and values you abide by are very important in your work and personal life. They determine your priorities and your choices, and therefore your personal management system should take them into account. The GTD methodology uses the 6-level perspective model so that, ultimately, you determine your daily projects and tasks based on what gives meaning to your life, your life purpose.

To shape your life purpose, you must use principles and values. Establishing a set of principles will give you direction whenever you need to make a decision or evaluate a particular opportunity, behavior or situation. Principles are not practiced, but they will be the basis of your values, which will determine what you do and ultimately who you are.

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