Principles are ways of successfully dealing with reality to get what you want out of life.
Ray Dalio, one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs, cites principles as his key to success.
Reality exists at different levels and each of them gives you different but valuable perspectives. It's important to keep all of them in mind as you synthesize and make decisions, and to know how to navigate between them.
Let's say you're looking at your hometown on Google Maps. Zoom in close enough to see the buildings and you won't be able to see the region surrounding your town, which can tell you important things. Maybe your town sits next to a body of water. Zoom in too close and you won't be able to tell if the shoreline is along a river, a lake, or an ocean. You need to know which level is appropriate to your decision. (This idea was well illustrated in this classic video from Charles and Ray Eames.)
We are constantly seeing things at different levels and navigating between them, whether we know it or not, whether we do it well or not, and whether our objects are physical things, ideas, or goals. For example, you can navigate levels to move from your values to what you do to realize them on a day-to-day basis. This is what that looks like in outline:
To observe how well you do this in your own life, pay attention to your conversations. We tend to move between levels when we talk.