What is a Philosophy of Life?
What a Philosophy of Life is can seem quite a profound notion and relates to the ever-daunting question of “What is the meaning of life?”.
Many may turn away from this question and the idea of a philosophy of life with them being too large a concept to consider. Perhaps you think it is pointless to dwell on such abstract thoughts and just want to get on with it all.
But a life philosophy doesn’t have to be a complex thing. It should be a personal and simple philosophy with the aim of tackling the existential issues of our lives that we will all inevitably face. Through this, we can endeavour to integrate meaning into our lives.
These ideas and questions have arisen in a modern capacity in the last half a century with it being discussed seriously by several philosophers. It is becoming a progressively relevant topic that is in need of rational thought in an increasingly complex and secular world.
However, this isn’t a new objective for us as humans. The Greeks were one of the first to tackle the issue of how to live well, to give a deeper meaning to our lives. They said that we should work towards the telos (a final goal) of eudaimonia (human flourishing).
We can take heed of these ancient teachings, but each person’s philosophy of life will be individual to them. It is through deep analysis of our lives that we can each, as individuals, settle on our own guidelines of how to live a meaningful life.
The aim of this should not perhaps be to reach a final goal of happiness (as this can seem too utopian). Instead, our life philosophies should work towards maintaining and creating opportunities for fulfilment, and work towards reducing suffering.
Why You Need A Philosophy Of life
We are all fragile and delicate human beings and will unavoidably face a number of hardships throughout our lives. We need a way of managing such inevitabilities as to not be consumed by suffering. This way, we can be strong enough to get through tough times and utilise opportunities for happiness along the way.
We need a philosophy of life to be able to do this and should have the aim of minimising suffering and gaining fulfilment. If we do this we may be able to live a meaningful life.
In a progressively secular society, people may settle on the conclusion that life is meaningless. This is, in a sense, true, and completely understandable.
But we should not despair at this bleak sentiment; rather we should recognise that it is up to us to find that meaning – to try and fill the lack. There is no real purpose to our existence other than the purpose that we bestow on ourselves.
There is a universal struggle to accomplish this objective, but there are no universal guidelines as to how to acquire it. This is down to the individual.
A life philosophy will be completely personal to you and you must consider many facets of your being. Therefore, deep analysis and assessment of our own selves are what is needed – first and foremost.
How To Find A Philosophy Of Life
We are all completely individual, unique and complex beings in our own way. Therefore, only we can determine a philosophy to live by. To do this, we must examine and consider several things about our lives and mould a mindset to our findings.
Yes, we should all strive to direct our actions and perspectives toward maintaining fulfilment and reducing suffering. However, we may all achieve this in a different way. Despite this being a personal endeavour, there are a few primary considerations and pieces of advice that are useful in influencing this enterprise:
1. Don’t compare yourself to others
Often in times of reflection, we can begin comparing ourselves to others – friends, family and acquaintances who we see and hear of regularly. They may be on a better salary, they may have a bigger house or they may go on more luxurious holidays than us.
In light of their success, compared to ours, we can feel inadequate. We may feel as if we are a failure. However, this should not and does not have bearing on our own lives and our own well-being.
As we are all unique and different, comparing yourself to others is counter-productive and damaging to the cause of finding a personal philosophy of life. Dedicate all concern to your own life and how to better it, not to others’ material achievements.
2. You don’t have to stick to cultural and social norms
When growing up, the normal expectations of us are to settle on a career, get a good job that supports you, get married, have a family, get a house and so on. These are components to a stable life, but not necessary elements to a fulfilled life for everyone.
For example, you may settle on a career early in your life, get a steady job and recognise that the work is dull and uninteresting or that the hours are long and you have no leisure time – of which you enjoy.
The point is that you don’t have to be stuck to rigid social expectations. Choose what is most important to you and work your philosophy around it.
3. Get a job that you are fulfilled by
We will be working for most of our lives. Our job will take up most of our days and most of our weeks. Getting a job that is of worth to you, that you are interested in and that you are enthused by will be a fundamental factor in providing you with a meaningful life and in maintaining fulfilment throughout your existence.
Choose a career that follows your ambition and that you are passionate about. If you are unhappy in your job, leave it and follow that ambition and passion to find meaningful work. We will be working for a long time, so we had better make sure it’s something we enjoy.
4. Maintain healthy relationships
Whether it is romantic, friendship or familial, we need healthy and cared for relationships. We all need someone to talk to and confide in throughout our lives.
Communicating our anxieties or celebrating our achievements with those we care for the most will be crucial for our well-being and making the most of happy moments. And this is integral to finding meaning.
Eliminate relationships that aren’t mutually beneficial or that are pulling you down. If people want the best for you, then they will listen, and you should do the same for them.
5. Read philosophy
Engaging with philosophy, even on a brief level, will help in gaining a perspective on how best to form a life philosophy. You don’t need to read thick volumes of intense philosophical reasoning. Just learning the basic ideas that philosophers have provided to us about existence can give us influence and guidance.
For example, learning of stoic philosophy, learning the basic ideas of Plato and Aristotle and just generally what philosophers suggest about what it is to live a happy life can encourage us to think more deeply about our lives and form ideas to live by.
Once You have It, Nurture It And Maintain It
We will not miraculously determine what our philosophy of life is overnight. It will be a progression through a continuous and deep examination of our lives and ourselves.
However, once you have settled upon a set of ideas, beliefs and conducts to live by, nurture and preserve them as much as you can in order to do the best you can to find meaning in your life.
We will not reach a final, shining goal, or a utopian state of happiness and bliss. Building a life philosophy and finding meaning in life is more of a question of managing a mindset that that aims to maintain fulfilment throughout, and helps to combat and reduce inescapable suffering.