What is my philosophy? Have you ever asked yourself this question? If you are like most us, it is likely that you have not. Yet we all have an underlying philosophy. This philosophy is present in every decision we make and action we take but the overwhelming majority of us have not taken the time to consider ours. That is changing today. We are going to work through an exercise that will help us better understand our underlying philosophy and begin to adjust it if we deem it incongruent with how we want to show up in the world.
If we have not taken the time to consider and develop our philosophy, it means that we have accepted and adopted the philosophy of others. To me, this is a very scary realization. If the general platform on which all my decisions are made has not been intentionally built, this means that I have adopted the philosophy of my parents, friends, community, alma mater, the media, and others as my philosophy. It is almost insidious when I consider that my underlying theme or guiding principles have not been intentionally developed. The path of least resistance is to accept the philosophy of others as our own, but not you. You are not a lemming that just goes with the flow. If you want to be intentional in how you show up in the world, it is only possible when you are applying your principals. Here is how to develop your philosophy:
Step 1: Establish the Baseline
This is the first step to nearly any evaluation. Where are we today, or in this case “What is my current philosophy?” Be honest with yourself. If my family and friends were to describe my beliefs about the world, they would say I ____________.
Example: My friends would say I have a generally optimistic view of the world and that I am solution oriented. They would describe me as eager to lend a hand or an ear. My family knows they can count on me and that they are my number one priority.
If I were to describe my worldview, what would it be?
Example: I am generally skeptical of the world and don’t trust others. Pessimistic is my view of the future. I find very little to be hopeful for and I reflect on the glory days of the past. I dwell on past mistakes and the times others have wronged me. I just don’t know what others are thinking about the decisions they are making.
My coworkers or community/network would say I am ______________________________.
Example: They would say I am dependable and jump in with both feet to solve a problem. If they were going to battle, they would want me by their side. They would say I think through a situation before taking action and I never speak ill of others.
The reason we should observe our philosophy through the eyes of others is because they have first-hand experience with your present philosophy. Each day unbeknownst to you, it is showing up in every aspect of your life and unless you are looking for it, you will never notice. It is not the wind that determines the direction of the boat, it is the set of the sail.
Setting it with intention can take us to incredible places and help us to achieve lasting satisfaction with our lives. Here is the challenge: Because we have not intentionally developed our philosophy, we are redirected each time the wind changes direction. When we set our sails, it is important that we have a compass. Our philosophy is our compass.
Step 2: Intention
Now that we have taken a few minutes to consider how others would describe our underlying philosophy, it is time to determine how we want to show up in those relationships and in the world. Ask these questions or relevant variations for you.
What is my philosophy? (General)
Example: I don’t take myself too seriously. I believe in leaving everything better than I found it. I believe that loving oneself is a prerequisite to truly loving others. I am responsible for the energy I bring.
What is my philosophy about marriage? I believe that I am 100% responsible for every relationship in my life. I believe in unconditional love and support for my spouse.
What is my philosophy about parenting? I believe my role as a parent is to enable and empower my children to survive and thrive without me. I believe that to connect I must empathize and avoid disregarding their feelings. Teach balance and value by being a living example. My children are not a reflection of me, but exactly what God intended them to be. My role is to teach them how to use their own compass, not mine.
What is my philosophy about friendships? Always show up and always bring the joy. Be a beacon of hope and a ray of sunshine. Listen. Refrain from judging and speaking ill of others. Be honest and don’t enable a friend that is feeling sorry for themselves.
Step 3: Implementation
Is there a difference between your current philosophy and how you want to intentionally show up? You can make changes slowly and deliberately. Start with your general philosophy. How can you live into that philosophy? For example, if you generally start a conversation pointing out a flaw or with a complaint, set a trigger to start with a compliment. Keep a small notebook with you and note each time you can catch yourself starting with a positive tone versus a negative tone. To make a change takes time and it is critical to be patient. Change often requires that you have necessity. Necessity is the secret ingredient for making a change when the excitement that first motivates you wears off. Some examples of necessity might be to save a marriage, to be an example for children, or to succeed at your work. It is important to have necessity on auto recall when times get tough. We should remind ourselves why we decided to make the change.
Another strategy is to have someone you trust hold you accountable and check in with them on a regular schedule. Often, we won’t be accountable to ourselves, but we will be to others. Identify a few people you feel would be trustworthy and provide honest feedback. This is who you want as an accountability partner.
Step 4: Reflection and redirection
Review your philosophy on a regular basis. There is a bible verse that advises we go into the closet and shut the door. The verse is referring to taking time to reflect and reconnect. Often, we need to take time to reflect and reconnect with what matters to us on a personal level. If we are not living consistent with our desired philosophy, it is time to redirect. Once per month is a reasonable timeframe to get to a quiet spot and think. It only takes an hour or so of pondering how you are showing up in the world to know if you are on track or off track. Reflect. Reconnect. Redirect.
From my perspective, a life well lived is focused on contribution. How can I make things better for others – family, friends, and community? Writing these articles is one way that I attempt to contribute, and they would never happen if I was not intentional about living my philosophy. Sometimes, I miss the mark, but I accept that I am a flawed human. I don’t accept that my last mistake or failure defines who I am. I refuse to allow my failures to hold me back from fully contributing to this amazing life we are blessed to experience. I want to encourage you to take time and consider what really matters. Stop allowing self-limiting beliefs to hold you back. You have the capacity to do it, but what you might be missing is the right philosophy to help you navigate the waters.
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