Each day, we are faced with a countless number of decisions. Have you ever wondered what inspires you when you say one thing instead of the other, or what motivates you to think about one thing whilst discarding the other, or how you decide to ask a specific type of question instead of pursuing a different path of conversation?
Personal philosophy doesn't only inform who we are and what values we believe in and live by, but also guides our behaviour and informs others on what our intentions are so that they can interact with us accordingly.
In some aspects, personal philosophy is closely related to meaning of life. We could say that our meaning of life is based on how we understand and interpret our experiences, whereas personal philosophy is based on the conclusions we draw from our understanding and interpretations. For example, one of the aspects of the meaning of my life is to develop myself further through gaining new experiences (understanding gained through repeated learning) and as a result, my personal philosophy will reflect this understanding of what's important to me and will be based on the belief that new experiences are important to my self-development. In turn, this belief will guide my behaviour – I will remain open to new experiences and make my decisions accordingly.
Developing our personal philosophy is a very dynamic process – we shift our beliefs and values as we learn and gain new experiences, and we improve and change anything that's not working anymore. When a major shift occurs, we often call it a personal transformation. Interestingly, such shifts often produce a ripple effect where not only one single belief is getting changed, but rather all other beliefs are also influenced. As a result, we might feel like a different person.
Personal philosophy is composed of the following elements:
- Belief system (e.g. personal development is right for me, eating specific food will make me feel in a particular way, science is useful etc.) that develops through learning and gaining new experiences
- Value system which is based on what we find most important in life, what aspects of human living as a whole do we find more valuable (e.g. curiosity, wisdom, beauty etc. - check out VIA theory for a list of possible values; you can also take the free test which can help you to define your own values). Values are usually assessed through our feelings: if we live accordingly to what we value and we frequently express it, we will experience satisfaction and positive emotions.
- Behavioural system: how we act; do we act in accordance with our belief and value systems; how do we deal with challenges to these systems, how do we reinforce or modify our boundaries that helps us to preserve or change our values and beliefs; do we maintain integrity as a whole organism; how do we manifest our beliefs and values in everyday life
We could say that our personal philosophy defines who we are. It helps us navigate through various complexities of life and informs the direction of our development.
Knowing where we stand, so to speak, is not always clear. During the times of self-transformation where we are moving towards higher level of development, experiencing conflicts and indecision is a part of normal, transitional period, because our personal philosophy is getting redefined.
When our values shift and beliefs are getting challenged, we might be able to see not only who we were up to this point, but also become aware of a path leading us forward on our path of development. A particular theory that comes to my mind is the theory of positive disintegration. When we pass through levels of development, we are bound to end up in an occasional state of limbo which is a state in-between two levels of development. During this transitional period, we face a choice of either remaining on the level that we have been by choosing what's familiar, comfortable, tried and tested, or by moving forward by embracing what's unfamiliar, challenging, and entirely novel.
Internal conflicts, feeling like we are stuck in a rut, or simply indecision are often an indication that we might be in-between levels of development. I can understand that such state can produce a variety of negative feelings and discomfort. These are, however, an indication that we have been invited to take a step forward – especially if such a state has been present for quite some time.
Evaluating our personal philosophy can help us to take that step not only because it provides us with an opportunity for developing self-awareness, but also because it enables us to discard what's no longer working and replace it with new information.
If you are not sure how to make a step forward or how to resolve internal conflicts, feel free to contact me anytime and I will support in making a developmental shift.