A personal philosophy is your thoughts, beliefs, concepts, and attitudes about everything.
It’s your approach to leading your life.
In the context of this article it’s a series of phrases written by you which effectively summarize your values, goals, habits and the lengths you’ll go to realize them.
Some people think a personal philosophy is which external belief system you ascribe to.
These are guidelines or stances on certain issues. Atheism is a stance on the existence of deities and humanism is a belief about the agency of humanity and life’s inherent value.
These can be incorporated into your personal philosophy but the core ideas really should be your own.
It should read to someone who knows you deeply as a sort of window into your soul.
These documents are constant works of progress.
As we challenge our limiting beliefs, strive for further growth and development, and experience and learn more of the universe our philosophies deepen and evolve.
So with all that in mind let’s begin the process of crafting you a personal philosophy that even years from now you’ll still be able to smile on for the guidance and support it gave you.
Looking at the bigger picture
A personal philosophy is a big step and I think some perspective on whats truly important is necessary to effectively craft one.
13.4 billions years ago there was a sudden, drastic expansion of matter known as “The Big Bang”.
From that not so humble beginning everything that is and will ever be in this universe came into being. Or at least for right now, it appears to be that way.
That’s such a long time we can’t effectively even understand it. Its just a big number we gawk at.
Our existences are simply a blip in time to the universe.
But to us that blip in time is everything. The lives we’re leading right now are all we’ll ever know.
We came to be here through a gradual and incredibly lucky series of mutations to various organisms which progressed for billions of years.
Here being on this giant, wet, somewhat metallic rock orbited by a much smaller rock spinning (or falling) towards a giant ball of extraordinarily hot gas.
Existence is incredibly weird and we just sort of happen to be going through it.
We’re stuck on this one biological organism that to us seems massive and which we cannot easily escape from.
But like a virus we’re gradually reproducing and building up our capacity to escape our host and spread.
There’s all these different levels to life, all these microorganisms on us and we’re just the largest level of life we can detect.
But in the same way a bacteria can’t even comprehend our existence let alone directly interact with it, we still exist and life orders above us easily could to, and like that bacteria on the cell we’re simply too far below to comprehend it.
But that doesn’t mean some sort of benevolent deity is looking down on us, in the same way we aren’t gods to bacteria neither would whatever life existed at that level be to us.
We’re only aware of all this because our genetic line tended towards brain power over speed, strength or any other traits.
Our genetic line only had the opportunity to evolve because our home rock happened to have the right composition to emit a magnetic shield which protects us from the big gas balls deadly radiation.
Luckily we’re not so far that a bit of that radiation couldn’t be trapped within that shield to warm us.
Its all very coincidental especially given that none of the planets we’ve observed thus far have life.
That’s why some people say life is a miracle, because the odds of us existing right now are infinitely small, and yet we do.
And we’ve only sampled a fraction of the billions upon billions of galaxies out there each with further billions of giant rocks each of which could potentially harbour life.
It may not be for thousands of years but it’ll happen.
Life is this crazy adventure and we’re on this wet rock covered in other life, likely covering other life ourselves and all around our universe.
There’s almost guaranteed to be other conscious but completely different life that’s tripping around just like we are, and we ignore that.
This goes to show the tremendous scale of life and how insignificant things like national borders and petty individual disputes are.
It also shows how confusing existing is, and how there really is no clear purpose except that which we set for ourselves.
That’s why personal philosophies are so important. They help us to sort through all the madness and focus on what truly matters.
“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ’em all over everything you do” -Elvis Presley
Right now you’ve got things you want.
Things like fast cars, and beautiful sexual partners notwithstanding you’ve got these deep, intensely personal desires that you crave every waking moment.
You’re not fully aware of them necessarily but they’re there.
For instance, my mom intensely values having a stable, strong family life.
However if you were observing her when I was younger all you would have seen is her working at least two jobs and making time for her kids whenever possible. Her inherent values shined through her actions.
Look for those. For me primarily I want to make the universe a better place, start and lead my own businesses, lead an adventurous existence, have a great family life and be happy.
On top of those I have a bunch of other things I want to do to like going wing suit diving, getting some martial arts fights in and so on.
These are desires more than values but they do represent how my values shine through the rest of my life.
Even this site can be focused through the lens of my values.
With its focus on being happy through self improvement and working on things you care about, the fact that I run it myself and that at least I hope it helps you guys further your dreams and thus improves the world through your increased contributions all fulfill my values.
Your values are probably somewhat similar but uniquely different to you.
Find what they are and see if your current lifestyle aligns with your true values.
Don’t worry if your actions don’t, neither do all of mine, but as time passes the gap is shrinking and my actions more closely align with my true values.
This parts personal and you may just have to spend a few days ruminating on it and letting ideas sort of flow through your mind but I’m going to try to talk you through uncovering your values.
First, get a pad of paper and a pen. It’s better to write your thoughts down to stay organized and not forget.
Mentally distance yourself from whatever is currently weighing your mind down. There’s no time for anchors holding us back as we explore the vast, beautiful landscapes of our mind.
Run your happiest moments through your mind, feel the emotions and embody how you felt at the time. Try and uncover why that event made you feel so uniquely fulfilled and satisfied.
If it’s an achievement look beyond that, look into what motivated you to pursue the achievement in that field in the first place.
If it’s a specific event with a person understand why that specific event triggered this feeling. Was it that it confirmed your mutual love, or validated some intrinsic longing you have. Dig deep.
Think over the goals you’ve set for yourself. At this point they may be vague or more inclinations than concrete plans but isolate them and bring them to the light of your awareness. Understand what values underly those goals. Why are those the things you want to pursue.
Write whatever comes to mind throughout these steps and gradually anneal your initial hunches down to their purest form.
This process may take some time, and there are a myriad of options online that can give you further guidance if you need it.
Here’s a good example by a veteran self development blogger Steve Pavlina.
His list is more passive concepts (“Love” or “Fulfillment”) which are hard to actually implement into your life than actionable concepts like “Leading a business” which integrate those passive concepts into something you actually do.
But the process he lays out is sound.
Remember it doesn’t need to be perfect, just good enough for now. As you delve further into this process you’ll find yourself revising your values as you dig deeper into your true intrinsic inclinations and desires.
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” -C.S. Lewis
Knowingly or not you’re currently following some sort of ethical code.
Your actions, thoughts, and worldly beliefs have all been amalgamated into your moral beliefs.
These moral beliefs shape how you perceive the rightness or wrongness of your own and others actions.
While strictly speaking there are no physical punishments for violating an ethical code, there are social and emotional repercussions.
Ethics is a fairly dry topic. Most people abide by the heuristic “if I don’t feel bad about it, its probably not wrong”.
This haphazard approach to whats “right” usually leads people to feel regrets later on in life as they realize all the mistakes they’ve made as what they view as “right” changes with their goals.
People will cheat, lie, steal and seemingly always find ways to justify it. You’re probably guilty of something like that yourself.
But that’s okay, I know I’m no saint. Whats important is understanding our mistakes and improving as a result of them.
The guide to knowing when we’ve made ethical mistakes or misjudgments is our moral code.
And by actually codifying these moral beliefs and not leaving them to knee-jerk reactions in crisis situations we’re better prepared for urgent situations where snap judgements are needed.
Your moral code will likely be in line with your values.
For instance my moral code is very liberal. I feel all life is valuable, but whereas lots of life is interchangeable like trees and microorganisms I feel each conscious being is unique and should be cherished.
I think people should be left to make their own mistakes free of government intervention ala psychedelics but if those freedoms have the likelihood of harming others ala firearms they should be controlled.
I feel honesty, kindness, openness and ambition are all crucial traits for humanities further growth.
Unfortunately, we’re currently disparate groups of individuals who fight interspecies to temporarily control a wet rock.
We need to cooperate as a species, not as a collection of arbitrarily defined nations, in order to further life’s expansion into the universe and thus preserve it in case of catastrophe to Earth.
Your moral code may be different. That’s just an example of how someones could look. But if you analyze that code and assuming I follow it, you can basically see how I’ll react in any given situation and for what reason.
I know from experience that my beliefs make me happy, and while we all likely have somewhat different beliefs, if you find and live true to yours you’ll find more happiness from life to.
Try and extrapolate from your values a moral code you believe you can realistically follow.
By crafting an impossible code you set yourself up for failure. Don’t do that.
When you look at the finished list you should feel some warmth in your chest, you should feel like you’ve found the words that finally describe your attitude towards the world.
Or not, its a work in progress. But you should feel like you’ve made something valuable, that means you’ve invested at least a little bit of yourself into it, which is crucial.
We value the things most that we’ve integrated some part of our deepest bits into. That’s why people like trophies or mementos they represent those investments.
“First we make our habits, then our habits make us.” -Charles C. Noble
Assuming you’ve been following along you should have essentially a list of what you want and the lengths you’re willing to go to get those things you want.
The final step is to make a plan for achieving those things.
For instance my values are to make the universe a better place, to start and lead my own business, lead an adventurous existence, have a great family life and be happy.
But those are concepts, I have to actually do things to make them reality.
My execution of those values is what I actually spend my time doing.
I’m going to school learning entrepreneurship and strategy, I’m in the Canadian reserves learning how to lead, to be disciplined and learn survival skills for when I’m travelling after graduation. I’m going on an international university exchange next year to further my independence and to discover intuitively a business model I can work on during 4th year of my program.
This is the stuff I’m doing right now, day by day to realize my values. I imagine you can intuitively understand how I decided to do those things based off what I want from my life.
Try and do the same.
This may lead to some painful realizations like your job not contributing to your values beyond the money.
That’s why lots of people say “find your passion”, or in other words find ways of getting money, by doing things you enjoy.
For me among other things that this site and the revenue I generate through it.
If that’s an issue, brainstorm and try and think of a project or a career path that allows you to realize your values while simultaneously earning or creating paychecks.
Once you have your plan you should find ways to execute it through daily habits.
For instance, university isn’t so tough to schedule I just need to attend class, do assignments and write tests.
But if I didn’t make a weekly habit of writing an article and recording podcasts for this site I’d never get them done.
I can tell you with certainty I’m rarely on the couch thinking damn I’d really like to spend the next ten hours working on my laptop on an article.
But because I have the long-term plan structuring my work and I’ve built the habit of using my day off to write an article I keep up a constant output.
Or if I don’t have a defined morning routine I find myself forgetting things or running out of time.
So by doing things the same way every day in a way I enjoy, I say motivated on track and don’t forget important stuff like assignments, gym clothes, lunch at home.
I fit in mediating, light flexibility work and some pushups, writing my journal, a supplement packed smoothie and breakfast for energy to work out and so on.
Set routines help structure that stuff. Ditto with a calendar for structuring days outputs like working on certain projects, different meetings with people and so on.
Further, if you’ve planned to do something and written it down somewhere you’ve made yourself accountable and I guarantee you that you’ll be way more likely to do something if you’ve made yourself accountable in some way.
“Your personal philosophy is your greatest determining factor in how your life works out.” -Jim Rohn
Your personal philosophy is a work in progress. Every day you’ll find new ways to improve it or to make it more meaningful. That’s all part of the process. You won’t have all the answers today, but what you can do is start.
You may not find my methods to your liking, you may think having some sheet with words written on it to be ridiculous.
What’s not ridiculous though is having some sort of concrete idea for what you want from your life because day by day it will pass you by and no one but you can make the most of it.
How you’re going to get whatever it is you want, which should be somewhat specific because on days you’re lacking motivation or direction I don’t think you’ll find “work hard” on your goal list to be very helpful.
Finally what lengths you’re willing to go to get there, because for the moments where life tests you, its helpful to know what you are and aren’t willing to do.
I hope this read and its accompanying exercises have helped you to better understand yourself and how you plan to achieve what you really want.
If you know someone who needs a kick in the pants shares this article with them or at least shares any knowledge you’ve learned that you think may help them.
And keep pushing, a good life is built day by day, brick by brick.
Always looking out for ya,
A personal philosophy is your thoughts, beliefs, concepts, and attitudes about everything.
It’s your approach to leading your life.
Put your existence into perspective. We’re small to some and large to others and we could easily die out any moment.
Find your values. If you were to die tomorrow what would you look back at and be proud of?
Find your moral code. A moral code is what you’re willing to do in order to realize your values.
You’ll find once you have a strict moral code that life becomes much simpler. Instead of being restricting, it frees you from having to make constant ethical decisions.
Make a plan for achieving your values.
Execute your plan through smart goals, habits, and milestones.
Start the process today and you’ll find over time and thought, you’ll naturally refine the document into something very meaningful and motivating.
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Andrew is a design graduate student in Toronto who writes about leadership, design, and startups. Visit his blog Lead Boldly for exclusive content. Or say hey on Quora | Instagram | FaceBook | Twitter | LinkedIn.