Part 1: What it's all about
Questions about life
We all have our own philosophy on life, our beliefs about important questions such as:
- What is the world? Does it really exist like I see it, or is it 'all in my head'?
- How did the world come into being?
- How did life, including human life, come about?
- What is the meaning of life, including my life? Does it have a purpose? If so, what is that purpose?
- What kind of person do I want to be? What does it mean, for me, to be a good person? And what, for me, is right and wrong?
- What sort of relationship do I have with myself? How should I treat myself? Am I a worthy person? Do I value myself? Where, for me, does happiness lie?
- What happens to me when I die? Is there an afterlife? Will I ever again see the people I knew who have died and those who will eventually die?
You may already have clear and definite answers to some or all of these questions. Or maybe they are things you don't think about much, so you might feel a bit unsure how to describe your beliefs and your ideals. Whatever the case, your personal philosophy is very important for how you think and feel about things in your everyday life and how you react to these.
It may be that, like many people, your personal philosophy is based on a religion and this is written down in holy texts. Even so, like everyone else, you will have your own ideas about what your religion teaches you and what for you is most important about this.
Or it may be that, while you still consider yourself to be a religious or spiritual person, your beliefs don't fit neatly into the teachings of any one religion.
It may be that you do not think of yourself as a religious person at all. Even so, all the questions listed above will mean something to you and, according to your beliefs, you will have your own way of answering them.
Some people's personal philosophy is based on non-religious teachings or systems of philosophy. For example, you may be more inclined to humanism, stoicism or epicureanism.
And finally, your personal philosophy may stem from a mixture of all of these.
The aim of My Personal Philosophy
The aim of My Personal Philosophy is to help you think about and expand on your personal philosophy. You can do this in ways that will be helpful in guiding you through the ups and downs of everyday life, conflicts that arise, uncertainty, moral and ethical challenges, and so on. Remaining true to your personal philosophy - being more conscious of and committed to those ideals and principles which are important to you and which you trust and value - may provide you with greater inner strength and self-reliance and enhance your self-respect and sense of self-worth.
How My Personal Philosophy achieves this aim
First of all, My Personal Philosophy suggests that you spend as much time as you need thinking freely and openly about all those 'Questions about life' that are listed above.
Having done that, you will then start to think more deeply about each question in turn. Then, when you are ready, you can begin writing up your beliefs in the document provided. In each case, there are suggestions and guidance (not instructions!), but it is important that the beliefs you express 'belong to you' and are described in words that you choose for yourself. There are no right or wrong answers, neither are your answers 'set in stone'; over time you will very likely amend them, add to them, or remove them. This is because your personal philosophy tends to change over time as a result of your experiences in life; what is important to you now may become less so later on, when other things take priority. Indeed, you may think of My Personal Philosophy always as a work in progress.
At all times keep in mind that your personal philosophy is about your beliefs and your life. It's natural for each one of us to think that the world would be a better place if everyone thought the same way as we do. But My Personal Philosophy is not about how you believe other people should think and behave; it's all about yourself. Nevertheless, you may, for example, share your thoughts and deliberations with friends.
How to use My Personal Philosophy
Once you have been working on My Personal Philosophy you can start to use it in several ways. For example:
You may find it helpful to think of it like a compass you may to refer to every so often, reminding you of what, for you, are the important things that guide your behaviour and the decisions you make in everyday life. This may help you maintain a sense of purpose, meaning and direction. This can be particularly useful when things seem to be going wrong, say at those troubling times when there is conflict and confusion in your relationships with people, when there are important decisions you have to make, when you are struggling with your sense of self-worth, and so on.
As stated earlier, now and again you may feel the need to re-evaluate and revise parts of your personal philosophy because of experiences you have had which may have changed the way you think about important things in life.
You may find it useful to keep a record of thoughts ('personal reflections') that may have occurred to you and you want to keep mind. These might relate to events that have happened or experiences you have had that are very significant for some aspect of your personal philosophy. You may do this in the document provided.
My Personal Philosophy itself does not tell you what you must think and do. Your personal philosophy belongs to you (even if it is based on religious teachings). However, it is very important to use it in a way that is rewarding for you and brings you greater fulfilment and self-worth. For example, the guidelines for the section on your beliefs about how you can be a good person emphasise that it doesn't help if you are critical of yourself whenever you fall short of your ideals (which, like everyone else, you are sure to do often enough!). So, the advice is not to go down this route. Instead, make sure that at all times you use My Personal Philosophy in a way that will be helpful and beneficial, rewarding and fulfilling. It must never become a chore.
Now, when you are ready and the time is available, move on to Part 2: Preparing the Way.