There a deep problem in the lives of many of us.
We strive, organise, build and we work for money and possessions to surround us. Once the novelty has worn of our minds become preoccupied with the next shiny new thing we like the look of.
It never stops, never seems enough, and rarely seems to get us the success and happiness we want. It’s like that toy at Christmas we wanted so bad. Yet when we get it, it’s never as good as we hoped it would be.
Our culture has sold us the virtue of accumulation and consumption as a way to be happy. A nice car, house, clothes, and so on. Plus get a good steady job to pay for it all.
But we have come to learn this doesn’t work. We are working harder, are more wealthy than ever in history. But are we better for it?
What’s more, we are so focused and caught up in our lives we don’t think or notice where where we are heading.
Perhaps what we need is not to work harder but smarter.
This is where a Philosophy of Life steps on stage – we need some kind of methodology to act as a guide, to know what to aim for and why, and how to get it.
Meaning and Purpose
Why a philosophy? Because we don’t know why we exist. Because we suffer and die. Because there’s no driver’s manual for us to follow.
We need something, some way to come to terms with the uncertainty and unknowns of life and have it all mean something to us.
- Why am I here?
- What should I do?
- What’s my purpose?
- What do I want?
Life is one long search to find answers and cope with the doubts and fears on the way.
Adopting a good philosophy can create the success and happiness we seek, the wrong one will keep you prisoner, lost, alone and unhappy. Misliving in essence.
It’s something I had to learn for myself, I reject organised religion so I had to create one of my own. Bespoke phislosophy.
Consider someone who does not live by a philosophy, an ethos.
Caught up in our busy days we don’t think of these questions to the detriment of our lives and our well-being. They essentially become lost.
Someone who is easily swayed by rhetoric and nefarious authorities. Someone who drifts aimlessly through life and never accomplishes anything meaningful for themselves. An individual who stagnates, and whose life become a hollow statement of their existence.
The so called ‘good life’ seems more unreachable if you don’t have a system, a method to find it.
We are all finite creatures, so we want our lives to have meaning yet how do we find that?
Without a method we tend follow evolutionary programming. We go for what feels good, and avoid what feels bad, addicted to temporary fixes.
The world has changed a lot since our ancestors lived in caves but our genome has changed very little since then. What has changed are our minds, and society.
The virtues of having a philosophy of life
Below I outline in more detail what such a philosophy does for us and a little something of what it looks like.
Awareness (the first step)
First up we need to be more aware of just how we live our lives, and do we like it.
In our perpetual pursuit of material wealth and status we are following the values of our society. We were brought up to believe such things and dutifully we fell in line. Following the values of our parents or peers.
But how many of us have thought to question whether or not we want to live like this?
Perhaps in moments of silence and introspection doubts surface. We wonder where our lives are heading, what we want out of life and perhaps have that nagging sense we’re on the wrong path.
But these doubts get buried again because we fear where they might lead. Or because the noise and bustle of the world drown them out.
So we keep doing what we are doing despite our fears that it’s not working.
Here lies the first problem: ignorance. We strive and suffer without knowing why. Without noticing.
But it also lends to the obvious solution awareness.
We need to be aware of how society affects us and our behaviour. Where those behaviours are leading us. We also need to face our own suffering, as the first step to remedy it.
That way we get to have more of a say in how we live our lives. We get to have a choice.
We may decide after reflection that our lives need to change. But we can’t make any choice unless we know more about what we want.
When we think of philosophy we tend to think of middle-aged men in tweed jackets mulling over some obscure metaphysical concept in an endless debate with another philosopher.
Philosophy asks many questions about ourselves, the cosmos and our role in it.
It questions our thought, beliefs and knowledge. The problem is it can descend into wordplay and semantics rather than remain grounded in our lives.
Philosophy seems to be the domain of academics and not the layperson. It asks a lot of questions without giving any definitive answers, so you can often wonder what’s the purpose of it.
But this image fails to appreciate the important role philosophy has in the world and our history.
But it’s here, in the living of life, that deep thinking can have the most profound effect. Helping us keep it real.
Some philosophy does focus on how to live, stoicism, epicurean, existentialist are just three western philosophies that asks what’s a good way to live. It’s something we need to get back too.
Consider the big Picture
A philosophy helps by getting us the individual to think about our lives, ourselves in ways we don’t normally do. Philosophy means Philo-sophia or love of wisdom.
- Is what I believe, what I know to be true?
- Why things are they way that they are and not some other way?
- Why something is right or something is wrong?
- Are appearances any reflection of reality?
- What authorities should I listen to?
- Why is something it right or something wrong?
- How should be act?
- What are my values?
These questions and more can help us in our own personal quest to live better lives by getting us to look at our lives as a whole. Not just meaning but our knowledge, our actions, mental states, even our past.
With a better understanding of life as a whole we can orientates ourselves to goals that will have a lasting impact.
We get so caught up in the day to day details of living that we often forget where we are heading. Why we are living, why we’re doing what we do.
The biggest problem we have is that we don’t see the world clearly.
We are swayed by biases and our reasoning is undermined by fallacies. We are lead astray by illusions that are all around us and inside our minds. It leads to our suffering and those of others.
All this means is that we act without thinking it through so we make poor decisions.
In a world illusions it’s hard to know if you’re doing the right thing.
Confusion and doubt persist.
A philosophy helps us is see more clearly. It’s puts things in their proper context and enables everything else.
With a philosophy we can make better decisions about our lives. Choose better partners, find better jobs that lead to getting the things we need in life.
To get good at something you have to use philosophy. Because it’s about piercing our superficial understanding and seeing deeper knowledge about what we’re trying to do.
A skin deep understanding leads to mediocre results at best, usually through luck, and at worst you do more harm than good.
It’s because you don’t really understand the subject, either through laziness or arrogance.
You may talk the talk but you fail to walk the walk.
Ignorance is the problem and it’s solved by knowledge, understanding.
Modesty and humility
Through studying philosophy we become aware that there are many ways of looking at the world, any ideas.
By asking these questions and finding no concrete answers we learn a little humility.
Understanding that our way of looking and seeing the world is not the only way.
In doing so we can become better at accepting a diversity of views and peoples, and be less egocentric, controlling and arrogant.
A philosophy helps to organise our lives. Without this we can fritter away a lot of energy and time on projects that don’t matter to us or have little chance of success.
We get to be more focused and effective. It helps us not only see what’s important but keep or focus on it.
Accept Our Fate
A system helps us accept death as the inevitable fate.
Knowing in life what is worth attaining so that when death comes we won’t feel cheated or regretful. The only fear is to fear misliving
It simplifies everyday living by making decisions easier. Thereby avoiding an existential crisis every month.
So we get to face our death with equanimity, poise and dignity, knowing that we used what time we had wisely for the most part.
A philosophy help us making a life more balanced so that we can work all through our lives on what we love. It makes it possible to live a long life and a productive one.
It honours the complexity of our lives and shows that we need to make room for many things. From work, family, health, relaxation and more.
A balanced life is a sustainable one, something we can keep up without burning out from too much work.
It underscores our many priorities and help us be good juggler of our needs and wants.
Live long and Prosper (The aim)
Above all else is helps us avoid misliving.
In pursuing worthless goals in a foolish manner we are more likely to fail, become unhealthy, stagnate, suffer, make poor choices and be unhappy.
Having a system for life helps us find the right goals, and work towards them in an effective manner. To Enjoy life better, have ewer negative emotions, even feeling of joy itself.
All this clarity, courage, organisation allows us flourish and grow. To live a life of adventure and discovery that we will find fulfilling and meaningful.
I think the biggest problem people have, including myself, is that we are not taught how to live.
We’re not taught how important philosophy is towards life and living it.
Think of it like this. The world is a marketplace of ideas. The good ones get used, the bad ones are discarded.
It’s your job to search through these ideas and find the ones that work for you. Whilst all the time remembering that the search never stops, the questions never cease.
What’s does a philosophy of life look like?
So we are all looking not only for a goal: happiness. But a right method to find it.
Think of it as your operating system.
So a philosophy for life is a set of guiding principles or values, a body of knowledge and a set of ethical guidelines on how to behave.
It doesn’t not have to be clearly worked out. It can be as complex or as simple as it needs to be. It doesn’t need to be expressly stated either.
What’s more it evolves over time, you’re never finished.
But the important thing is to have one.
How do we find such a philosophy, one that’s right for us?
In short by searching, questing, doubting, learning.
Thankfully there are many ideas and that can be used in the philosophy of living.
One way is to use an ‘Of the shelf’ system. Philosophical schools lie Stoicism, Existentialism epicurean or an established religion.
What’s more amazing is that you have the ability to create a philosophy of your own.
The sciences including Psychology, sociology, history, science and more can help us understand ourselves better and the world we live in.
The Arts, to can insure us by capturing something about that human existence in ways other disciplines can’t. For example Edvard munch, the scream
Even stories, either in literature, visual or audio formats can also be source of learning and ideas. Just as they have done for thousands of years.
All this and more.
The search itself must be become part of your philosophy, part of your life.
A journey of striving, failing, success, heartache, joy, sorrow and triumph. We must all seek, find and follow our own path.
The purpose of is to help us live better lives. It seeks to pierce the superficial and illusory and understand from a deeper level. It helps us orientated our lives and focus our efforts.
It asks us to question what we believe, what we’re doing and why we do it.
So that we can live lives not of quiet desperation, but of joy, meaning and impact.
A life we can be proud of.
One last piece of advice.
It’s better to adopt less than ideal philosophy than none at all.
A philosophy on life is a way of seeing and operating in the world. It’s not a set of ideas and rules to be followed fanatically.
It’s the effort to see clearly as possible, to act wisely, to cope with uncertainty and have it all make some sort of sense.
Don’t fret if it’s unfinished, has some contradictions or is incomplete. Life is somewhat messy and your philosophy can reflect that.
In recent years I feel there has been a resurgence in the ideas of deep thinkers in order to help us navigate this world and our lives. People are searching for guidance, with philosophy , art, the sciences you can see a sort of smorgasbord of ideas is available.
The world is a storm and we have to suffer it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find a way through and still come out smiling.
A philosophy of life can help you with that.
If you have some ideas about ways to live share them below in the comments.