Personal philosophies? I can almost hear you asking, “Philosophy is something done by ancient professors in dusty reading rooms high up in their ivory towers, isn’t it? What does any of that have to do with me?”
I contend that philosophy is more relevant than ever and holding well-formed and dynamic personal philosophies is especially relevant.
I am going to share my main six element personal philosophy of life and living to illustrate my overall idea that having well-formed personal philosophies in your life and about your life will be of enormous benefit to you.
The personal philosophies themselves can be as simple or as complex as you like. I’m a big fan of the KISS principle, which stands for keep it simple & straightforward. This is another of my many philosophical positions.
My personal philosophy
These six elements together act as my big why, my core values and my true north guiding star.
These are brief and superficial descriptions. Real-life is always more complex and nuanced than a mere two-dimensional statement. They should however serve to make the point here. You can make of them what you will and take from them anything which may help you.
BTW – if you prefer an audio version of this, I have included one just for you at the end of this article.
What is a personal philosophy anyway?
Let me cite Florida State University’s Philosophy Department as they provide a very useful non-academic definition.
“Quite literally, the term ‘philosophy’ means, ‘love of wisdom.’ In a broad sense, philosophy is an activity people undertake when they seek to understand fundamental truths about themselves, the world in which they live, and their relationships to the world and to each other.”FSU Philosophy Department
Admittedly, being a university philosophy department, they do carry on at some length about the academic study of philosophy after that. We will not be doing that.
Curiosity driven learning is a very big thing in my main personal philosophy. My curiosity driven learning borders on obsession at times, because I buy a ridiculous number of books for example. I would likely need fifty lifetimes to learn what I want to learn.
Whatever I do in life has to be fun because when I’m having fun the time passes well for me. Things which are fun are energising for me. Things which are not fun are draining. Everything in my life cannot always be fun but I do my best to try for it.
I like to love and be loved. Most people do. I try to love what I am doing, and I do what I do for the people I love.
I am primarily a logical, pragmatic person so whatever I do is better for me if it makes sense to me. Personal philosophies are hugely influenced by personality traits. My mind is always busy. Sometimes too busy.
Heart does not mean love for me – that is naturally covered by the love element. For me heart means calming and serene emotions. I am not a creature given to extremes. I look for things which will relax and calm me and to balance the busy mind situation.
My last element in this life philosophy is growth. Whatever I do ideally must offer growth in terms of my skills, knowledge, and behaviours. At least one and ideally all three.
How do I make my big decisions?
It simply involves a series of questions. This philosophy has been my big why for so long that it is usually applied non-consciously. I tend to notice exceptions and conflicts now which make me go deeper into the analysis. You might call it gut instinct.
Does it interest me? Will it be fun? Will I love it and/or will it help those I love? Does it make sense? Will it calm me? Will I grow in some fashion as result of doing it? If I can answer yes to most or all of these then, because my personal philosophy is in tune with the decision, I can be confident that the decision will be a good one for me.
By the way, the quality of an outcome does not necessarily mean that the initial decision was good or bad. A 90% chance of success still means there is a 10% chance of failure. No matter what went into the decision making process you still need to work hard to ensure the outcome you desire occurs and sometimes, well, it just does not work out. That is life.
Check out this great book on the topic of probabilistic decision making by Annie Duke. “Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts.” This is a link to the paperback version on Amazon UK.
My main personal philosophy is just one of many
I’ve offered you my main life philosophy here, but I have many personal philosophies about many different things.
The bigger and more important ones are dynamic but change infrequently whilst the least important are much more malleable and can change often. They are not laws or rules. They are philosophies.
Is a personal philosophy a vision, a strategy, or a set of tactics?
A vision is an overall objective, a strategy is the plan on how the objective will be achieved and tactics are how the strategic plan will be executed.
A personal philosophy transcends these three classifications. It can be thought of as a filter through which the merits of visions, strategies and tactics can be passed and checked for a match or not.
As a straightforward example, suppose your initial attempt at a personal vision was to “rise as high as you could in your organisation by the time you retire.” That could certainly work as an overall career vision.
It would, however, be useful to check this against your main life personal philosophy and see if it ticks all (or most) of your boxes. I would go for the “all” option as it might be a while before you can retire. Do the various potential roles sit well with you? Will the organisation always match up to your personal philosophical principles? Would you change your employment if they did not? Will you always have this intent?
A better overall personal vision might now be stated as, “I will try to get to the highest career position I can, whilst staying happy, engaged, and working only for ethical organisations.”
Apply the same process to all three levels. Apply the process to everything in your life using the appropriate philosophy for the given situation. This is the real power of personal philosophies. They can guide you to the right decisions for you and yours.
What personal philosophies do you have?
Take some time out to fully understand your personal philosophies because it will be well worth it.
What do you value and why? What do you not value and why? How do you make your decisions? What guides your decision-making processes? Why do you do what you do? Why do you not do what you do not do?
Become a philosopher who studies the philosophy of you because nobody else knows you better or cares about you as much.
That is all for this one
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PPS Here is the audio version of this article if you would prefer to listen.