Musings #15: Linking Habits & Principles to Goals

Sep 19, 2020 4 MIN

Musings #15: Linking Habits & Principles to Goals

As we reflect on our habits this month, I got some time to ponder on how habits relate to other aspects of life. In particular, I was fascinated by Ray Dalio’s book Principles. That got me thinking about how Principles and Habits relate to each other. And how they lead to our goals. The illustration below is my view of how the three intersect. Principles and Habits act as guard-rails to the goals we want to achieve in life.

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Let me explain with an example. Assume one of our goals is to be healthy. We can then come up with some principles we will follow to live a healthy lifestyle. Example – practice an active lifestyle, eat healthily, get adequate sleep, and so forth. And we implement these principles via our habits. Goals are our output metrics. Habits and principles are our guardrails to help us achieve our goals. Habits can also act as inputs to achieve our goals. If we make it a habit to exercise for at least 30 mins daily, record what we eat, and sleep 7.5 hours daily, the chances of reaching our fitness goal are high. (tip: I use Fitbit for tracking all three).

In his book, Ray talks about his gritty journey from being a Grace C high school student to founding and running one of the world’s largest Hedge funds. He talks about his many failures along the way, which almost left him penniless. But, how he learned from those failures and figured lessons to propel him to a different orbit each time. The illustration below summarises how he moved from goals to more audacious goals. Despite big failures. Can we push ourselves to do the same?

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I particularly liked his decision-making framework. And how he uses critical decisions and their outcomes to come up with principles. In the past, we discussed how to be more effective in decision-making and track them (Step 1). But, I plan to practice steps 2 and 3 below in the future:

  • Step 1: Slow down your thinking – to note the criteria for a decision
  • Step 2: Write the criteria down as a principle
  • Step 3: Apply criteria, measure results, and refine for the next time.


The top three takeaways for me from the book that I am making part of my principles:

Be Radically open-minded: We talked about this topic when we discussed feedback. Over the past few weeks, I have solicited and received feedback from more than 15 people who know me well. It has been an eye-opening experience and has shown me many areas I can improve. This is a good segway to the next topic.

Kaizen – constant improvement: Be it a person or an organization, constant improvement is critical for long-term success. The people I admire most are continuous learners. They are willing to learn and change for the better. Learning, but not putting to use what we learned, is useless. Changing, even if it means making tough calls, is critical for Kaizen.

Get the people right: This again re-iterates what we learned from the team-building series. WHO comes before WHAT. Most of us focus on WHAT needs to get done way more than WHO are the right people for the job.


Here is a 30 min video where Ray summarises Principles. But, I highly recommend studying the full book.

That is all on the topic of how Principles and Habits can help us achieve our goals.


Questions to Ponder

1) Are we clear about the top goals we want to achieve in the next five years?

2) Do we know what Principles we need to follow to achieve our goals?

3) What are the habits we need to nurture to get to those goals?


Based on feedback, the plan in the future is to keep the Newsletters a little shorter. If you haven’t already, please do share your inputs on topics relevant to you. Here is the monthly plan from now on:

  • 1st and 2nd week of a month: Theme based (e.g., Habits)
  • 3rd week: Review of a book or a podcast (e.g., Principles)
  • 4th week: Startup related
  • 5th week: Skip. Time to reflect!

I am also adding two sections. One on “Questions to Ponder” on the topic discussed. And, a section called “Work Corner” to share any key highlights from work over the past week. These sections will be on a need-to basis.


We were able to kick-off two major initiatives the past week:

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One is a highly tailored program to help consumer-tech founders called “FounderStack Consumer.” Please apply if you are an Indian consumer tech startup in the first 500 days of your journey.

The second is a podcast mini-series called “The Scale Playbook.” To capture learnings that can be helpful to startups that are in the scaling phase of their journey. Here is the first one from the series. On best practices for Technology and Strategy with senior leaders from Flipkart:

That is all for this week. Look forward to hearing your comments.

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