Do you ever stop and wonder why you do the things that you do?
The choices a person makes shape the life they lead. Those choices are made based on that person’s life experience and worldview.
The experiences of our past help to influence the way we perceive and interact with the world today, whether good or bad.
Sometimes we experience good things and decide, “Yes! I agree with that. That’s what I want to put into the world.”
A person may be generous with their time in helping us through a rough patch. Their care and attention may inspire us to show similar consideration to others.
Other times, we experience bad things, and those bad things tell us who we don’t want to be or situations we would like to avoid in the future.
Another person’s bad behavior might inspire us to stand up for someone else, change certain things about our own life, or change a belief.
A personal philosophy is the distillation of that shaped worldview down to a few key points that drive who we are at our core.
It is the essence of our beliefs and how we interact with the world.
In all likelihood, you already have a personal code of some kind. You just haven’t made it concrete by sitting down to think about and spell out exactly what you stand for.
Why should I spell out my personal philosophy?
An individual’s personal philosophy will drive that person’s decision making process to some degree.
By sitting down to detail out your personal philosophy, you can make ethical and moral questions much easier to answer.
You won’t need to stop and think about whether or not it’s a good idea to engage in dishonest behavior if you’ve already decided that honesty and integrity are key components of who you are as a person.
You’ve already done that soul searching ahead of time, figured out that it’s not okay with you, and can stand up for that if the need arises.
Consider how many problems the person who values honesty and integrity avoids.
Gossip? A person with integrity doesn’t speak badly about people behind their back, which means it won’t blow up in their face later.
Drama? Drama-mongers tend to avoid people with integrity, because they know the person won’t participate in those games.
Ethical dilemma? The person already knows they are going to side with what the right thing is to do, regardless of the pain associated with it, because that’s what’s important to them.
It would be easy to look at the development of a personal philosophy as something restrictive, but it’s not.
What you’re doing is clarifying the core elements of who you are.
You’re not trying to impose the values of someone else on who you are as a person.
It’s about you – what you value, how you perceive the world, and how you interact with the world.
By clarifying these elements, you can base your decisions on them.
You can make your life plans based on your desires and strengths, whilst identifying and working on your weaknesses.
You can find greater success in self-improvement and pursue a happier life by being true to yourself.
How do I develop my personal philosophy?
Unlocking your personal philosophy is less about development and more about peeling back the layers that have been applied to you by society, family, and life’s expectations.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t grow or change what your values are.
In fact, it would be strange if you had the exact same values and beliefs over a long period of time.
Ideally, you’ll want to be engaged in some study and contemplation of life, what goes on in life, and determining your rights from wrongs.
As you gain more knowledge and experience, you’ll undoubtedly confirm that some of your original beliefs and perceptions are right and some were wrong.
Sometimes you won’t realize that you don’t have enough information to make an accurate assessment until you’re actually presented with that clarifying knowledge.
So the question becomes, how do I peel back these layers to get to the core of who I am?
Grab yourself a sheet of paper and a pen and consider the following questions.
Note: We recommend hand writing because it engages different parts of the brain over electronic writing. Plus, it’s easier to stay focused on a long train of thought.
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1. What am I most passionate about in life?
What are you passionate about in life?
Passion can be thought of in two ways. The first, and most obvious, is something that causes you to feel alive or wonderful. A lot of people focus only on this aspect of passion.
The other aspect of passion is what drives you forward, and that does not always feel good.
A person who is passionate about animals may choose to volunteer at an animal shelter. This can be an emotionally taxing and difficult environment when animals need to be put down or abused animals are brought in.
Still, it may be a driving reason why that person gets out of bed in the morning.
What inspires you? What moves you? What drives you? What keeps you going when times are hard?
2. What does your ideal life look like?
Everyone wants different things out of life.
Some people want to be a free spirit who is unfettered and able to pick up on a whim. Others want a stable home life where they can quietly grow old with their partner.
Some people want to live life on their own terms without any undue influence from others. Others feel more comfortable being a smaller piece of a much larger puzzle.
Define what your ideal life looks like.
3. What are the common elements of these things?
Look for the common elements of your ideal life and passions and try to boil them down to individual words.
That will help you clarify these elements.
Consider the animal shelter volunteer. They may be moved by their love for animals and desire to take care of those that have been in bad situations or fell through the cracks.
The common elements of that work can be boiled down to words like compassion, duty, and kindness.
The free spirit who wants to wander the world as a digital nomad may value freedom and independence over everything else.
They don’t want to be tied down to a single location and locked into a static lifestyle that doesn’t provide them meaningful fulfillment.
4. Take those individual elements and forge them into a few statements.
A single word isn’t going to help guide your perspective all that well.
You’ll need to take those words and craft them into statements that best reflect your perspective and position in the world.
We recommend that you look for the aspects that speak strongest to your soul.
You probably won’t have more than a few declarative statements to make. Try to limit yourself to the strongest three.
The animal shelter worker would state things like:
– I choose to put compassion into the world through my service to the less fortunate or vulnerable.
– I choose to put kindness into the world because I believe it will inspire others to be kind.
– My duty is to practice my kindness and compassion through active, hands on effort.
The free spirited digital nomad would state things like:
– I value freedom and the ability to be mobile so that I can experience the world and different cultures.
– I value independence because the 9-5 grind feels oppressive and confining.
Putting personal philosophy into practice.
Developing and clarifying your personal philosophy will give you direction on how to better practice it.
It’s one thing for a person to say they want to be a kinder, more compassionate person. It’s quite another to actually put in the work that is required to walk that path.
What types of goals are appropriate?
What short, medium, and long-term goals can I set to grow that part of who I am?
What materials can I read to better develop myself and grow as a person?
That person can now look at their statements of intent, commit them to their mind, and start looking for materials and assistance to grow in that direction.
And when the time comes to make difficult decisions or they’re faced with a moral quandary, they might not need to waste any emotional or mental energy on it because they already know the answer.