Personal Credos: The Principles by Which we Live

Most of us have a personal credo we live by, which we try to adhere to or one that may change as we evolve. Credos help center us, give our lives purpose, act as a moral compass for decisions we must make as we journey through life and sometimes are challenged to go in new directions. We may take a detour—good or bad, but these personal ideals can help get us back on the path we think is wiser if we have taken a wrong turn. And most of us will at some point. 

How do we arrive at a personal credo? Maybe, it’s something one parent or another relative said, or it’s the values we pick up in our families and from friends. Perhaps, it’s based on what we heard someone famous speak or something espoused by a fictional character on a TV show.

For more than 10 years, Barbara has tried to heed actress Laura Linney’s belief that “charisma is not character.” Barbara read it in a magazine article about her, and it helped guide her after she met a narcissistic man in her dating adventures post-divorce. He had wowed her with his huge light-bulb personality, which included an enormous sense of energy, great humor, inordinate flattery, which she had never experienced before in such excess, and a seemingly deep caring about her thoughts, actions and beliefs. The relationship fizzled as it turned toxic. 

Barbara promised herself never again would she be taken in by such surface stuff but judge someone by their true, deeper character. That has become part of her personal credo, which has stood her in good stead ever since. 

Margaret has always had a special bond with children whom she tutors and mentors. They inspire her and working with them has heightened her personal credo of respect, empathy and compassion for underserved children and their families i.e., (“before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes”). Margaret has lived by this principle. Her mission—to connect with and help one child at a time--aligns with this quote from TV personality Fred Rogers: “When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments — tenderness for what he is and respect for what he may become.” 

And we asked others for their credos. Here’s what we heard: 

Susan Berger, 75, Washington, District of Columbia. “Keep moving forward…one step at a time!” 

Elaine Braslow, 67, Austin, Texas. “There is always something to admire in people.” 

Norma Brockman, 67, White Plains, New York. “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” 

Dan Collins, 58, Baltimore, Maryland. “It's a tie, both from my Dad:  ‘Remember who you are, and what you’re about.’ And ‘The end result of conformity is mediocrity.’ 

“They’re actually related. The first always taught me that I mattered, that I, just by being myself, had meaning. That I stood for something. That each of us should stand for something, have principles and values we treasure and are willing to fight for. Taken from a less metaphysical and more just plain physical point of view, it also meant, be aware of ‘where you’re about,’ what’s happening around you, be alert, don’t be daydreaming (or in today’s world, staring at your iPhone) and walk into traffic by accident, that sort of thing. 

“The former meeting dovetails into the ‘conformity = mediocrity’ credo. Both emphasize the notion that you should always be your own person, know who that person is, understand that that person has intrinsic value. Be independent. Don’t just blend in. Be a force to be reckoned with. You’re special—know it and own it.

“As you can gather, all of these notions come in handy when facing difficult times…something my Dad, as a child of the Great Depression, knew a lot about.” 

Judy McConn Fischlin, 76, Mentor, Ohio. “You don’t grow old when you play, you grow old when you stop playing.” 

IMS, 59, New York City, New York. “Try to see below the surface for the truth in all interactions and act fairly.” 

Fran Kaufman, 80, New York City, New York. “It’s better to be kind than right.”

Beth Meyrowitz Kortkin, 74, White Plains, New York. “Always try to look for the positive in people.” 

David Kravitz, 69, St. Louis, Missouri. “Life is a choice. If you’re unhappy, choose something else. Over the last year, I could have looked at my cancer treatments as poisoning my body and be miserable, or a blessing and be at peace with whatever came at me. I chose blessing and even being stuck at home for a year (except for medical stuff), was more than satisfied with my life.

“I’m not seeking perfection; my search is for excellence.
 I learned this during my time managing a mannequin company in L.A. during the 90’s.  Expecting anything coming out of the factory ‘perfect’ would have been unreasonable.  But excellent performance was attainable. This has become important when discussing the current administration’s successes and failures—it provides balance in my evaluation. 

“Always pee before taking a meeting. Believe it or not, this was one of the two things my dad taught me during my time working with him in the family business.” 

Marilyn Liss, 82, Chicago, Illinois. “I repeat these words to myself often..,ACCEPTANCE, accept everyone’s journey; HONOR each friend and myself.” 

Lisa Zimmer Lisser, 55, Cedar Grove, New Jersey, “Modah Ani Lifanecha—Thank you God for returning my soul to me each morning. Gratitude.”

Barbara Goldstein Lobel, 76, Long Island, New York. “When someone shows you who he is, believe it” (courtesy of Maya Angelou). 

Jeff Lowenfels, 72, Anchorage, Alaska. “Your fun ends when the other guy’s displeasure begins. Never ride a motorcycle.” 

Lynn A. Marks, 72, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Primary: “Look for silver linings in life situations.

“Secondary: Decide your passion & go for it. Also, Try not to sweat the small stuff and Eat chocolate. Also, have a look at the Letters section in the Sunday New York Times newspaper. Readers send in wise words that I live by/life philosophies.”

Alice Phan, 38, New York, New York. “Love is a muscle and a verb.”

Xenia Urban, 72, Brooklyn, New York. “Treat others as you would like to be treated. Also, Try not to be afraid of change but rather embrace change as an opportunity. It will be with us always.Keep rediscovering yourself. Become the person you choose to be, not the person who automatically reacts the same way.” 

Susan Mead Wigley, 74, Sacramento, California. “I have always tried to live with this in mind: Help those who cannot help themselves.” 

1 comment

  • rena abrams

    “You can live happily ever after, if you aren’t after too much.

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