A man’s action is only a picture book of his creed.
Do you have a creed? Is there a set of statements that sum up your values and how you live your life?
I’ve always been a little wary of creeds. The idea of someone telling me what I should think or believe has always rubbed me the wrong way. But that’s only if someone else wrote it. On the other hand, a personal creed can help clarify our thoughts and guide our actions.
Why develop a creed?
A personal creed can help us think through our values in a comprehensive way. It can help us figure out what is important to us, what we really believe, and how we act based on those beliefs. A creed can help us be the people we aspire to be. It is easy to fall into a pattern of reacting instead of acting, doing things out of convenience rather than purpose.
Many of us go through our whole lives with only a vague sense of who we are and how we relate to the world around us. We make individual decisions without the larger context of what their consequences will be or how they relate to each other. This makes it very hard to determine what impact we are having on the people and the world around us. Developing a creed will help us understand how our actions fit into our worldview and our values.
So, what goes into developing a creed?
A good way to start is to think about how someone might describe you. Step out of yourself for a moment and look back in. Now pretend you’re talking to someone you’ve never met and take two minutes to describe yourself. Be objective and be honest.
Now look back at that description and pick out the things you like and dislike.
For the things you like, turn them into a statement. For example, if you described yourself as generous, turn that into a specific statement: “I will be generous with my time and resources.”
What about the elements of your description that you don’t like? What if you described yourself as quick-tempered or materialistic? How do these descriptions match up with your values or aspirations? Even if we don’t measure up to our own standards, we can still include these elements in our creed. It should not be about what we are—it should be about what we aspire to be.
Creeds can be very different from person to person. For example, some might say, “I will learn to accept whatever comes,” while others might say, “I will steer my fate and create my own reality.” There is nothing inherently wrong with either of these statements. For some, success is the ultimate goal. For others, the journey is more important. Some might place importance on living by simple means, while others will only settle for the best.
It is important to give these statements some thought—to really figure out what makes us tick.
Your Focus Areas
For the purposes of our creed, we should stay fairly general. We don’t want to get bogged down in what our creed means from a practical perspective—not yet. First, we have to figure out where we are going—then we can figure out how to get there.
Some general areas we might address with our creed include the following:
- Personal qualities
- Time management
These are only a few examples. Your creed should include the areas of your life that matter the most to you. It might help to look back through these blog entries and see what resonates with you. If something strikes a chord with you, consider how you might include it in your creed.
Keep in mind that the statements in your creed are not written in stone. One benefit to living by a personal creed (as opposed to other creeds) is that it can change. As we evolve as people, our values and beliefs may shift, and we can adjust our creed accordingly. My creed today is very different from the creed of 20-year-old Pete.
When you have a creed, it can be helpful to consult it regularly. Read it at the beginning of each week, or each day—whatever works for you. Then, as you live your life, see how your actions align with your creed. You might add, delete, or adjust some of the statements from time to time.
A personal creed will help us to live more focused lives in which we do the things that are important and meaningful to us.
A creed won’t get us where we want to go, but it will remind us of where that is.