How to Have A Philosophy of Life

Amber Murphy

It isn’t until a crisis or catastrophe hits in our lives that we’re pushed towards a new paradigm or philosophy of life. These pivotal moments can challenge us to look at our lives with greater depth to spark a change for the better. This philosophy of life we consciously choose as adults can potentially help us navigate the vessel of life to happier coasts. In other words, it can be our compass when we lose ourselves in our history, trauma, or thoughts. In this article, we’ll explore different philosophies of life to help you spark yours. Let’s dive in.

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A philosophy of life isn’t something on your list; it is the list itself

To begin with, let’s give up our first scoop: a philosophy of life is not something else to add to your to-do list, but how you approach the list itself. What you’re choosing in a philosophy of life are the lenses through which you look at the world. Hence, once you adopt your new pair of glasses, this philosophy of life will translate into reality for you.

For example, let’s say that you feel stuck in your present situation and want to make a change to feel better. This change you’re willing to make will be within the realm of your current way of seeing the world. Thus, it will not be another way of seeing things but a mere shift in your direction.

On the other hand, our choice of philosophy to live life by is far greater than just adjusting our coordinates. The philosophy of life we choose will mediate between our brain and our senses, and hence, we will see the world and react to it in a completely different manner.

To say it differently, the world will remain the same, but you’ll change the way you see it. We can’t change the world, but we can control the lens through which we look at the world. A problematic experience can either be something that breaks you down or builds you up. Two people who experience the same event will react differently. So the option of forging a new path to a similar experience is always possible.

philosophy of life lens

You already have a philosophy of life

You already see the world through a pair of specific lenses (or a philosophy of life). Indeed, this way of perceiving the world usually comes from our surroundings, maybe our family and friends, who were there before we were born.

An excellent example of this is Catholicism on the Western side of the world and Buddhism on the Eastern side. Although these are religious beliefs, they usually perceive what is morally right and wrong. Moreover, if you’re a Buddhist, there are no rights or wrongs, life is just what it is, and we shall practice equanimity not to get angry at it. The world is something we should accept as it is. For instance, you can’t have peace without war, and that balance is essential, even if the negative aspect is highly unpleasant.

Usually, this initial system of beliefs isn’t one we choose for ourselves but one our parents and family chose for us. As we grow up, we can decide to stick with it or change it for another philosophy of life that’s more suitable for our current needs.

The goal of a philosophy of life is to live a better life

Choosing a philosophy of life is all about living a better life. By “better life,” we don’t mean this feeling of elation of conquering a goal, but a better path towards the goal. In other words, changing the lenses you’ve used all your life to see the world is not necessarily to change your goals but to choose a better path to achieve them. This route should be better than your current situation and what you want from life right now.

For example, you could have been raised a Christian by parents who lived with the Bible in their hands. But maybe, during your teenage years, you might start to discover your own body and that of others. This might take you to think that pleasure is not sinful but enjoyable. Or it could also happen that you become more aware of your sexual orientation, which goes against the beliefs you grew up in. You might even start doubting the very definition of the word sin.

Ultimately, you learn from experience that the philosophy of life your parents have might be completely different than the one you’d like to explore. Everyone’s philosophy of life can be unique to their ideologies, interests, beliefs, passions, and attitudes. As you go through life, they can evolve and change, taking you in new directions making life’s journey more worthwhile.

Whichever is the case, these points of fracture with our belief system create unhappiness, discomfort, and a sense of “being lost.” They can derive into anything from apathy and depression to rage.

Thus, the goal of choosing a different philosophy for your life is to live a better life. Your philosophy of life encourages you to accept who you are fully. Instead of stumbling in the darkness, put on some new glasses that won’t distort your desire so much. We all look at the world through different lenses; make sure you put on a pair of glasses you like.

philosophy of life for a better life

A system of beliefs

Now that we have touched on this sensitive topic of what’s wrong and right, it’s time to get to the bone: the system of beliefs. A philosophical ideology is a system of beliefs. Thus, these philosophies of life form the system that will dictate our actions and, in a way, build our reality; they are the backbone of the world.

Now, these systems have names. For example, you might have heard about feminism, stoicism, hedonism, existentialism, liberalism, nihilism, and many others. Indeed, there are more philosophical movements than we can name in a single post.

But what is interesting about this variety is to go deeper and try to find three things:

  1. Ethics = What should I do? (right actions vs. wrong ones)
  2. Esthetics = What is a beautiful life?
  3. Metaphysics = What’s out there? (and how did we get here?)

These are the three pillars of all philosophies of life. Once you understand them, you’re ready to go over the differences between them and make an informed decision to guide your life.

Ethics

Do you know what the difference between morals and ethics is? Well, it is the same difference found between the terms beauty and esthetics. The first one is subjective and personal, and the second one is collective. In this sense, we build our morals, but ethics are built as a community.

Furthermore, the ethics we choose to live life will tell us what is right and what is wrong (or if those terms exist). Therefore, this system of beliefs will also dictate our morals because ethics will determine our definition of “doing the right thing.” We’ll base our moral system on our communities definition of ethics. So while your moral system might make up your philosophy of life, it’ll be heavily influenced by your community at large.

Going back to our example of Catholicism, you might label your desires as sinful and seek help in God or the Church. That would be doing “the right thing” (moral and ethics working together).

On the other hand, if you were, for example, a hedonist, pleasure will play a central role in your life, and hence, the more you desire, the better. In this case, “the right thing” ethically (consensus) will be drastically different from “the right thing” morally (personal beliefs).

Searching for ethics in a belief system is as easy as understanding what they propose is right and wrong. If that resonates with you, then that’s the correct path. As you’ve seen above, hedonists have a hard time resonating with Christianity’s beliefs. So, your philosophy of life might conflict with other belief systems, religious ideologies, or community ethics.

philosophy of life

Metaphysics

Every choice for a philosophy of life will bring along a definition of the world, why we are here, and where we are going. For example, if you’ve ever held a conversation with a nihilist, you’ll fully understand concepts like entropy and chaos. This philosophy explains the world from the basis of no supreme power to abide by. Like how hedonists put pleasure in the center of their beliefs, free will is at the core for nihilists. Doing things to attain free will is the philosophy of life of nihilists.

We mean that understanding why we are here, where we are going, and how we got here will tell you if that philosophy is the one you want to live your life by. If living in continuous entropy, coming and going from and to chaos, and the cult of free will resonate with you, then nihilism might be the right philosophy of life for you.

hedonism

Esthetics

Finally, the third category that will help you find the right philosophy for your life is esthetics. By this, we strongly emphasize the difference between personal and collective. In other words, it’s not your definition of beauty but the collective consensus of what a beautiful life could be.

The best tool to look at in this category is art. Indeed, art has existed for millenniums and is a capacity only found in humans. We are the only animal capable of abstract reasoning, and it’s a needed quality for art to exist.

The esthetics proposed by a system of beliefs or philosophy of life will determine the good and evil in art or the beautiful and hideous. For example, if a hedonist was to create a work of art, this piece will be something to feel good, a pleasure-inducing piece. This is because pleasure is their main goal. Thus, other hedonists will judge the esthetics by how good or bad they feel about it.

On the other hand, if you talk to your nihilist friend, he or she will tell you there is no esthetic value in art. Moreover, they will tell you that whoever says their work is ugly is trying to impose a term from another symbolic universe on them. If you want a great example of nihilist art, you can check the Dadaist movement.

We mean by this comparison of looking at the esthetic value of artistic expressions given by a system of beliefs, you can understand if they are appropriate for you. Choosing nihilism, hedonism, or something else entirely will narrow down your search and help you choose the right philosophy of life for you.

Conclusion

We’ve all been there, a moment of crisis in which we don’t know what is right and what is wrong anymore. When that pivotal moment comes, you can take it as a catastrophe you want to get out of or an opportunity to change your path in life and be happier. Although no philosophy of life is completely perfect for any of us, they can help answer questions. Indeed, they are a human creation that can be a torch in times of darkness. So, choosing this road to the unknown will define what’s out there and also who you are. Thus, it is crucial to use the tools above to make some thorough research and an informed decision. The future is in your hands; choose wisely and live life to its fullest. The philosophy of life you choose will make a world of difference.

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