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David Diana
Nov 04, 2010

Finding Freedom From Your Principles

“Forget your so-called principles, Diana!  Are you done complaining? Can we all move on with our lives now?”

Ah…sweet adolescence.  I was exposed to some form of the message above on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis.  It was my reward for being both a high school senior and team captain.

“Diana!  Your stubbornness makes you dumber by the minute.”

“What is it, pride?  Why do that? Why not let it go?”

“I don’t care what you think, Diana!  Close your mouth, open your eyes, and wake up.”

I despised my coach.  I burned hatred for him, and it made me small and weak.  I thought the adrenaline rush made me stronger, but in reality, it was a complete waste of time.  Time I could have used elsewhere.  Decades later, my coach’s statements offer more wisdom than I realized.  They are a lesson in thinking big picture by letting go.  A plea to see the forest from the trees.  They are a lesson in smart business.

“The way is light and fluid for the man with no preferences.” 
- Lao Tzu

Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be comparing my old ball coach with Lao Tzu.  But the reality is this: Clinging steadfastly to your principles is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I can argue the other side of the coin.  “We have nothing without our principles!” But I’m not talking about compromising morals or giving up on what is important.  I’m talking about letting go of what has you stuck, removing resentment from the equation so you can see clearly, and opening yourself up to the bigger picture.  I’m talking about freedom.  Freedom to nurture your creativity and to make ideas happen.


Consider this fascinating dialogue between a Western man and the Indian sage, Sri Maharaj.

Q: “When an ordinary man dies, what happens to him?”

Maharaj: “According to his belief it happens.  As life before death is but imagination, so is life after.  The dream continues.”

Q: “Yet, you must believe in having lived before.”

Maharaj: “Only those who think themselves born can think themselves re-born.  You are accusing me of having been born – I plead not guilty!”

Q: “I am asking a simple question: there are about four billion people in the world and they are all bound to die. What will be their condition after death – not physically, but psychologically?… Do not tell me that I am not asking the right question, or that you do not know the answer, or that in your world my question is meaningless; the moment you start talking about your world and my world as different and incompatible, you build a wall between us.  Either we live in one world or your experience is of no use to us.”

Maharaj: “Of course we live in one world.  Only I see it as it is, while you don’t.  You see yourself in the world, while I see the world in myself.  To you, you get born and die, while to me, the world appears and disappears. Our world is real, but your view of it is not.  There is no wall between us, except the one built by you.”

I had a good hard laugh when I read this for the first time.

This is exactly how I would have behaved and reacted had I met with a man so very different from myself.  It is also exactly how I behaved with my high school coach many years ago.  I would hold onto my beliefs and pride without question.  My “principles” were unwavering in spite of the fact I had no idea what I was defending.  And when I did not agree with or understand my coaches’ answers or actions, I would get frustrated, and push my agenda further, regardless of the consequences.

There are times when you must simply let go in order to move on. You don’t have to be a martyr to prove a point, you don’t have to over-analyze the situation, nor do you need to strengthen your convictions by holding onto anger and resentment.

Sometimes you need to get on with your life.  Sometimes you really do need to “forget your so-called principles”.

David P. Diana is a counselor, author, and a director for a behavioral healthcare organization. He writes a weekly blog on sales and marketing for counselors (

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