We’ve all been through that moment. Maybe something went horribly wrong in our personal or working lives. Maybe someone died or maybe we just hit a wall of frustration or boredom or depression that called for a review of our priorities and our philosophy of life.
How do you begin?
You begin with questions: What’s important to me in this life?, What are my principles?, What do I care about?, What am I willing to stand up for and what am I not willing to stand up for?. These are the questions which form the basis of your individual life philosophy. Such questions also provide the basis for all the choices we make on a day-to-day basis.
Perhaps you’ve never done this sort of a personal inventory before. It may seem daunting to even contemplate it. But if you are up to it, the most useful way to begin is to get a sheet of paper (or two) and just write out your ‘philosophy’ about life. Typically this would include some statement as to why you think we’re here on Earth, what it is that you believe we are supposed to do while we are here, what you think is important in life (and what is not important), and which values of our society you agree with and which you do not.
For those who wish to take the exercise further, below are some of the other elements which go into making an individual life philosophy. You can use any of these (though you don’t have to use all of them) or you may simply choose to write out what you feel inside yourself.
Or you could just sit with some of the questions and see what comes up for you over the next few days.
However you approach it, don’t expect the answers to come easily or necessarily even to make sense immediately. Some answers may seem simple and straightforward to you, others may not. You may want to contemplate the issues raised over a longer period of time. Having begun to think of these things don’t be surprised if any problems which you are currently experiencing begin to take on a new dimension – either more complex or suddenly simpler than you thought.
Beauty ― What is beautiful to you? How important is it in your life?
Behaviour ― How do you think we should behave in this world?
Beliefs ― What are your strongest beliefs?
Choice ― What do you think about its nature and importance?
Community ― In what ways do we belong to each other and what do you think our responsibility is to each other?
Compassion ― Why do you think it’s important and what are the best/most appropriate ways to express it our daily life?
Confusion or ambivalence ― Is it a normal part of life? How much do you think we need to learn to live with?
Death ― What do you think about it and what do you think happens after it?
Events ― What do you think makes things happen in our lives and how do we explain this to ourselves?
Evil ― Is there such a thing? How do you identify/define it?
Free will ― Are things preordained to happen or do we have free will?
God/Supreme being ― Do you have a concept of One? If so, what do you think the Supreme Being is like? What does the Supreme Being mean in, and demand of, your life?
Heroes/Heroines ― Who are yours? Why?
Human ― What do you think makes somebody truly human?
Individuality ― In what ways do we stand alone? What does it mean to be an individual?
Love ― What do you think is its nature and importance? What qualities do you relate to love (e.g. grace, forgiveness, trust, etc)?
Morality ― What is it? Which issues concern you most?
Principles ― Which ones are you willing to stand up for and which ones do you base your life on? Which ones have you compromised and why?
Purpose ― Why do you think we are here on this earth? What would you say is the purpose of your life?
Reality ― What can you say about the nature of reality?
Sacrifice ― What in life is worth sacrificing for and what would you be willing to sacrifice?
Self ― What do you believe about yourself, your ego, selfishness and selflessness?
Stewardship ― What do you think we should do with the gifts we have been given in this life?
Truth ― What is the truth and in what areas is it most important to you?
Values ― What are the ones you hold most dear, sacred and important?
Violence ― What is violence? Is it a physical, mental and/or emotional phenomenon? Is it ever justified?
One of the reasons why the subjects on this list seem so overwhelming is because we rarely take the time to think about what they mean to us and to look for the places where they influence our lives.
Often people find, for example, that although they thought they had strong principles they can suddenly think of rather too many times when they have compromised these. Or it dawns on them that they have never really given death and dying much consideration until someone they knew died.
If you’ve never done such an exercise before it can be quite an eye opener.