Why I Changed My Life’s Guiding Principle

I ignored my old guiding principle, trusted my instincts instead, and now have a new and improved heuristic for directing my life's decisions.


Throughout my twenties and early thirties, the guiding principle I followed was this:

Go for the more extraordinary story

Take another assignment at Procter & Gamble, or hand in my ID badge to explore the unknowns of “pretirement”?

Go for the more extraordinary story.

Keep my savings safely invested in index funds, or help my ex-roommate’s friend buy twenty tonnes of frozen blueberries and ship them to Mexico?

Go for the more extraordinary story.

Wait six months for the girl I met the night before to move back to Vancouver, or buy a flight to travel with her in Jordan? 

Go for the more extraordinary story.

That girl and I filled years of our lives with chapter after chapter of exciting stories. Then came time for life’s biggest editorial dilemma:

Have kids?

Sticking to my guiding principle, the rational answer seemed to be no. The parents we knew don’t seem to be living the most extraordinary stories. Their lives are predictable, safe, stable. Boring. “Having kids is the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” they say. Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard that a million times before. I’ve also read Mistakes Were Made, (But Not By Me)

But rather than make the rational decision, my wife and I trusted our instincts:

On April 28, 2021, Zac was born.

Newborn Zac

He confirmed my fears. My day-to-day became objectively worse: worse sleep, more expenses, less freedom, more laundry, fewer adventures, more shit. 

Fewer extraordinary stories.

Have more fun "Funth" cover image

Zac’s turning three in a couple of months. He’s a handful. He hardly ever listens to what I say. But I can tell he pays careful attention to what I do. 

Naturally, I want Zac to enjoy an extraordinary life. Since he doesn’t listen but does watch, my rule to live by has changed: 

Be a role model. 

When faced with a potential turning point in my life’s plot, instead of asking myself, What would make for the most extraordinary story?, I now ask myself, What would I want Zac to do? 

So what does this new guiding principle mean for my own story?

Well, my favorite definition of story is this: 

A story is a character who wants something and overcomes obstacles to get it.

In the greatest stories, the “it” the protagonist gets isn’t a princess, a trophy, or anything they can grab. It’s not any experience either. It’s transformation.  

By that standard, I think my story is going great. Sure, it is not the most exciting. And sure, my opinion is biased by self-justification. But it is extraordinary.

Best of all, if I do a good job living up to my new guiding principle, my extraordinary story won’t stop with me.

About the author

👋 I'm Chris. Everything you read on TheZag.com is my fault. This site is like a gym for your comfort zone, full of challenges to make your status quo sexier. Join my 'Consider This' newsletter for a fun new challenge every 10 days. Try it!

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The Zag shares my adventures off of the boring beaten paths of life and ideas for finding your own unfollowable path.