What are the Three Principles?

by | Feb 15, 2015 | Inside Out 3Ps | 2 comments

What are the three principles?

They were first described by philosopher and author Sydney Banks. Syd Banks was an ordinary man who had a transformational experience.  Some might call it an enlightenment experience.  As a result of this he saw clearly the meaning of life.  As he tried to capture his insight into words he came up with ‘The Three Principles’ as a means to explain what he had understood.

The Three Principles points to our spiritual experience as humans.  It is an attempt to capture in words something that can’t be captured.  So bear with me as I attempt an explanation. If you’d like a copy of an introduction I wrote about the 3Ps called – “3 steps to the 3Ps” then download an introduction to the Three Principles here.

What is the difference between the three principles and traditional coaching?

The Three Principles are an explanation of our experience as human beings.   Many aspects of psychology and coaching explore and explain the impact of our thinking and behaviour on our lives.  Coaching is a tool to adapt behaviour and create more resourceful thinking. The Three Principles is not a tool.  It is not something you apply.  The Three Principles describes how we all experience reality.  It shows a universal commonality to the human condition.  Whereas psychology looks for a myriad of explanations for our behaviours – The Three Principles shines a light on what occurs before we act on our thought. You can discover more about principles based and traditional coaching here. If you’re curious about what principles-based coaching looks like then you can check out this coaching session with Jamie Smart.

The Three Principles in a nutshell

As with all profound teachings the simplicity of The Three Principles can belie its depth.  It is hard to put into words something that can’t be truly understood via our intellect. However, this is my attempt to do so.

The Three Principles relate to three areas (principles). They are:

  1. Thought
  2. Consciousness
  3. Mind

The Three Principles are an absolute common denominator of life – everyone experiences life through these three principles – they are universal to humans.

The principle of Thought

This principle is probably the easiest to get our heads around.  We all, as humans, have thought.  Our thinking might be a verbal inner voice (for example if you were thirsty you might think ‘Let me put the kettle on’) or our thinking might be so quick or unconscious that we aren’t aware it is happening.

The principle of thought shows that we are all thinking beings.  Thought is something that occurs for us all.

The principle of Consciousness

Consciousness points to the fact that we are able to bring our thinking alive. We experience a rich world through our senses (touch, sight, hearing etc) and also through our emotions. We bring alive the world in order to experience it.  It is a multi-emotional sensory experience.

The principle of Mind

Often as coaches we talk about the ‘mind’ as in the brain.  With The Three Principles the Mind refers to the greater presence of spirit.  This might be God, spirit, the universal mind, life force etc.  There are many words to describe it.  The Mind is the power behind life itself.  It is what gives us our experience of life.

The Three Principles and Coaching

Coaching using The Three Principles is slightly different to regular coaching.  With regular coaching we do a lot of listening and asking questions.  There is a presumption that we are keen to help the client ‘do’ something differently in their lives in order to have more success.

When we coach using the Three Principles we are helping our clients to see the simplicity of how life works.  When our clients start to get an inkling of this they automatically seem to tune in to the great wisdom that is accessible to them.  Rather than encouraging clients to ‘do’ more we are encouraging them to trust in their greater wisdom and to be nourished from within.


It is not easy to describe The Three Principles succinctly.  As a coach I have started to integrate them into my coaching more and more.  I explain my understanding as authentically as I can to clients, without spouting things I don’t yet fully understand.  It can be a challenge to transition to Three Principles coaching.  However, once you start the journey you will always be keen to continue exploring and sharing your understanding. Ian Watson gives an excellent introduction to the Three Principles in this talk he gave at a Coaching Connect event.


About the author

Liz Scott is the co-founder of Coaching Connect and runs a business (with her husband Stuart Newberry) called Liz Scott Coaching & Training. Liz is a coaching skills trainer and a leadership coach. Download an introduction to the Three Principles here. Her passion is to bring the skills of coaching (and the understanding of the 3Ps) into schools.

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The Coaching Connect website is the ‘virtual’ meeting place for coaches on the internet. Leadership coaches, Liz Scott and Stuart Newberry, originally developed Coaching Connect for the UK coaching community, but it has grown over the years to include coaches from all over the world.

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