Living with Purpose: 6 Steps to Your Life Philosophy
A life philosophy is a set of guiding principles that can be used to direct the course of our lives. It is the lens through which to filter all of our decision-making. It is the standard that we should measure our thoughts and motivations against. In essence, it is our unique perspective and purpose.
Yet, many of us go about our day-to-day lives on autopilot, often without ever stopping to consider why we are taking the actions that we are taking.
We attend university because that’s what we are supposed to do after high school. There, we choose one of the ‘hot majors’ to study, the disciplines most likely to secure us a lucrative position when we graduate. Anything else is just too risky.
Once our career is up and running, maybe we get married and have a few kids. We start to stay later at work, taking on an increasing number of hours in order to provide our family with ‘the good life’, the same family that we can barely catch a few minutes with because of our new workload.
It’s easy to get caught up in the script that society has provided us with. In a way, this script is its own pre-packaged life philosophy, no assembly or deep thinking required; however, as many find out after years of emptiness, the price is just too high.
Constructing a Life Philosophy
1. Ask yourself “why”?: Stopping to ask ourselves “why?” before making a decision is a powerful tool for uncovering our current priorities in life. Once identified, our motivations can then help us unearth our core values.
2. Identify your core values: Our core values are our defining attributes, the 4 or 5 concepts that we hold above all others. In order to feel fulfilled, our actions must be aligned with these concepts, otherwise, we may experience a lingering sense of wrongness or discontent. Core values are very powerful and form the backbone of our life philosophy.
3. Never stop reading: Books, blogs, and other such publications contain an endless treasure trove of knowledge waiting to be discovered. Reading exposes us to a plethora of viewpoints, presenting us with ideas and perspectives that we otherwise never may have encountered. Through these perspectives, we can hone our own viewpoint and personality, keeping our mind sharp and ever-evolving.
4. Reflect on your life: Start a daily practice of reflection. This can take the form of a journal, where we chronicle our thoughts, ideas, and actions. Alternatively, we can simply perform a mental review of what occurred at the end of each day. This is a great opportunity to assess whether the choices we are making are in harmony with our values and goals, as well as to prepare a plan of action for next time.
5. Pay attention to your surroundings: By closely observing the situations that we find ourselves in throughout the day, we will start to pick up on details that may otherwise have escaped our notice. We should strive to avoid the negative and shallow and purposefully seek out people that we respect and admire, then contemplate what it is about them that we find appealing. If these qualities fit with our core values, we can then do our best to learn from them. By listening and remaining aware of what is going on around us, we are bound to encounter new opportunities for advancement and growth.
6. Keep an open mind: Establishing and following our life philosophy is important, but one of the most crucial aspects of this process is ensuring that we do not grow inflexible and stuck in our ways. We are constantly met with new concepts and opinions. It is the hallmark of wisdom and inner strength to recognize a better way of approaching a subject and then consciously incorporating it into our existing perspective.
Life Philosophy vs Life Plan
It is important to note that a life philosophy is not the same as a life plan. A plan usually consists of a series of goals or milestones, perhaps organized on a timeline according to the point in our progress at which we hope to accomplish them.
While this sort of strategy is useful, all of our painstakingly projected goals and desires will remain hollow without some meaning behind them. That is where the life philosophy comes into play. By creating objectives that are aligned with our guiding principles, our plan is much more likely to result in a satisfying life.
The philosophy is the why and the plan is the how. If either is out of alignment, our lives will be off balance.