Personal Technology Decisions
A principle is “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.”
We all have deeply-held principles by which we live our lives. Some of those principles may be innate – a part of us as long as we can remember. Some principles were taught to us by our parents or families. Other principles we adopt throughout our lives as we learn and grow.
Not all principles are good. Indeed, we can see around us examples of people who are living their lives according to flawed or even evil principles. How do we know when a principle is good or a bad? The same way we know if a fruit tree is a good one – by its fruit. Just like a bad tree can't produce good fruit, living according to a bad principle cannot produce good results.
Inevitably, even good principles will clash with one another or be incompatible to some degree. This requires us to make compromises. For example, I could believe in maintaining and eating from my own garden, but perhaps I must live in an apartment with no space for a garden because I also believe in the principle of living within my means and my current income would not allow me to afford a property with garden space. In this case, I would have to compromise on my principles.
Compromising good principles doesn't necessarily mean abandoning them, but it does require us to prioritize them. It's also not a zero sum game. In the garden vs apartment example, while I can't have a sprawling garden with a variety of produce, maybe I can have a few small planter boxes with potting soil to grow a few herbs and vegetables. It's not an ideal situation, but it's a step in the right direction.
My Technological Dilemma
I recently wrote about the concept behind the idiom can't see the forest for the trees. The idea is that you can get so wrapped up in the specific details of a situation or problem that you are unable to clearly see the situation as a whole. When it comes to the technology I use, I frequently get bogged down to the point of paralysis trying to decide which compromises to make without completely abandoning some principles altogether.
Technology is a tool – a means to an end. Rather than spending so much time staring at technological trees, I need to make sure I'm in the right forests. By the “right forests” I mean the highest and most important purposes and desires in my life.
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (referral link), author Stephen R. Covey recommends creating a personal mission statement. Using the United States Constitution as an example, Dr. Covey explains:
A personal mission statement based on correct principles becomes the same kind of standard for an individual. It becomes a personal constitution, the basis for making major, life-directing decisions, the basis for making daily decisions in the midst of the circumstances and emotions that affect our lives. It empowers individuals with the same timeless strength in the midst of change.
People can't live with change if there's not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.
I need to create a personal mission statement. It will clearly outline my most important principles, values, and objectives in life. It will be constantly evolving, of course. But once I create a statement I am happy with, I can use it as a guide. It will be the compass by which I orient my thoughts and activities. I feel like this will make it easier to make decisions about the technology I use, because I can weigh each option by how effectively it will allow me to fulfill my personal mission statement.
Once I've written my mission statement, I have a feeling my personal tech “analysis paralysis” will end. I will have a clearer view of the forest, and I will be at peace with whatever compromises I need to make in order to fulfill my personal mission.