A principle is an idea that actions flow out of.
A program is a map of specific actions to follow.
Programs are amazing! They help people accomplish so many things. They help people lose weight, get stronger, learn algebra, improve mental health, raise money for great causes, build community, etc.
Programs lay out in specific detail what you are supposed to do and when to do it. They also tell you what things not to do. If you follow the program, you will see the results.
However, programs can be fragile.
All those specific steps and requirements can’t always be followed in a real life scenario.
The program then breaks down. It causes stress and guilt over not measuring up. We’ve somehow failed to keep these arbitrary rules.
Eventually, to ease our self image, the program ends up going out the window.
Principles allow for creativity and flexibility.
If the principle is choosing exercise over sedentary lifestyle, I’m going to stop watching Netflix and go for a walk with my wife. No program told me to do that.
With a principle, you are free to be original and experimental. You can explore. You aren’t held back by the externalities, but can use that principle to enhance your life.
A Personal Case Study
My food journey started with programs.
I started with the Four-Hour Body by Tim Ferris. It was simple, easy to follow and told me exactly what I wasn’t supposed to eat.
Now I’m vegan.
That can get dangerous. Oreos are vegan. You can be incredibly unhealthy as a vegan.
But because of the programs, I know the principles of good eating.
I know that real food is better than processed food.
I know that nutrient dense foods are better than energy dense or empty calorie foods.
I know that quantity matters.
I know I need to drink a lot of water.
I know that you can find healthy options at ANY restaurant. There is no excuse.
The principles I’ve learned have shaped healthy eating habits and I have never had a healthier relationship with food.
Programs are great tools to learn principles.
A program is typically the best first step.
It is not usually the final word.
Try a bunch of programs.
See what works.
Learn the principles.