"Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination." The First Ideal is explained to Kaladin by Teft:
Life before death - The Radiant seeks to defend life, always. He never kills unnecessarily, and never risks his own life for frivolous reasons. Living is harder than dying. The Radiant's duty is to live.
Strength before weakness - All men are weak at some time in their lives. The Radiant protects those who are weak, and uses his strength for others. Strength does not make one capable of rule; it makes one capable of service.
Journey before destination - There are always several ways to achieve a goal. Failure is preferable to winning through unjust means. Protecting ten innocents is not worth killing one. In the end, all men die. How you lived will be far more important to the Almighty than what you accomplished.
"But the Immortal Words - these Ideals - guided everything they did. The four later Ideals were said to be different for every other Order of Radiants. But the First Ideal was the same for each of the ten: Life Before Death, Strength Before Weakness, Journey Before Destination."