Principles vs. Feelings

I’m a big fan of Josh Medcalf. He writes and talks and thinks on how to help others get to where they want to go as well as anyone I’ve studied. (Thanks, Nuge, for introducing us to Josh’s work!)

We all have moments when we want to take the easier path, when we don’t feel like to doing (fill in the blank). I want to relay one of Josh’s stories that speaks directly to this point. The following is from Chop Wood Carry Water, pages 79-80.


“John, do you remember me talking to you a few days ago about how it took me a long time to learn to live principles, not feelings?”

John nodded, quietly acknowledging that he had.

Akira (John’s teacher) went on, “Like I said, just like you I had quite a hot head when I was younger. I made many stupid and careless choices that caused others and myself much pain. Thankfully, I had a mentor in my life who brought me out of that and taught me about living by principles.

When I was about your age, he had seen me react to several different situations.

Finally, he asked me a very simple question: ‘How is your strategy of living by your feelings working out for you?’ I got very quiet and had to admit that it wasn’t working out very well at all. He then shared a quote from a man named Eric Thomas, ‘At the end of your feelings is nothing. But at the end of every principle is a promise.’

Many days, you are not going to feel like working out and honing your craft.

Many days, you are not going to feel like treating people really well.

Many days, you are not going to feel like being unconditionally grateful.

Many days, you are not going to feel like giving your best.

But the principle says you are going to reap what you sow.

The principle says that diligent workers are going to serve kings instead of ordinary men.

The principle says to turn the other cheek.

At the end of principles, there is life, freedom, hope, joy, and peace.”


I don’t know about you but there are a lot of moments I feel like ‘mailing it in.’ These were especially prevalent for me in the middle half of the school year!

Not finishing that last rep in the gym or listening to the rumor rather than looking for the truth or not sending that ‘thank you’ note… I have lots of opportunities not to do my best.


But Josh is right. At the end of “I don’t feel like it…” is nothing. No change, no learning, no advancement.

Campers, when your parents hear “I don’t feel like it…”, they’ll smile and say, “Well, we need to do it anyway.” Doesn’t matter if you are talking about making your bed or doing the dishes or your homework or getting up for that early morning workout.

You see, it’s not so much about doing that one thing. Their response is about them helping build habits that lead to a healthier life.

The response is based on the principle that only determined, consistent effort gives you a chance to excel. That gratefulness makes for a happier life. That planning for challenges while working towards and hoping for the best beats blind optimism every time.

I know it’s easier to let whatever it is you don’t want to do slide. I’ve done it myself. But, if you stick to your principles and do the work, be grateful, act with courage, and choose your attitude, there will be a lot of good at the other end. A LOT!

Have a great weekend!