Make your own rules for life: We all need a personal philosophy

What rules do you want to guide and shape your life? The good news is, it’s never too late to change direction because you are in control.

What do you want out of life? Do you know?

A lot of people have trouble answering this question.

Seneca once said, “Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.”

Are you in control of your life?

We all need personal philosophy in life or we risk wandering, and responding to random stimuli and information with little or no impact on our long-term goals.

A philosophy of life is an overall vision or attitude toward life and the purpose of it.

Human activities are limited by time, and death.

But we forget this.

We fill up our time with distractions, never asking whether they are important, whether we really find them of value.

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think” says Marcus Aurelius.

Without a personal philosophy, we end up living without direction.

A few simple rules that shape and guide my life

  • The meaning of life is the meaning you decide to give it.
  • Life is about solving problems, and every obstacle is the way forward.
  • You are the author of your own life.
  • Make improvements, not excuses.
  • Life is short. Do what brings out the best in you.
  • Question your assumptions at all times.
  • Effort matters more than skill or talent.
  • It pays to create your own certainty.
  • You’ll be happier if you focus on efforts and attention only on the things in your control.

The idea of a life philosophy, comes back to a central question, one that Mary Oliver asks well: “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?

Living without purpose is dangerous

Nothing gives a person inner wholeness and peace like a distinct understanding of where they are going.

Until you settle on a purpose, your life is in danger of having little meaning except for self-gratification.

Robert Bryne once observed, “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”

In order to get somewhere, you need to define your end goal. That is essential. And the sooner you define it, the clearer everything else will become. A life without a purpose is a life without a destination.

Finding the right direction in life is an existential problem for all of us.

“Life must be understood backward. But it must be lived forward,” said Søren Kierkegaard.

What do you look forward to in life?

Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, “The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”

Finding the right direction in life is something you create. You make the decision to act. To try. To do something. No matter how small.
At some point in life, you’re going to have to stop thinking about taking action and act.

Your purpose in life is to find and do the things that make you smile, laugh and forget time. Even if you aren’t sure yet, move into the exploration and experimentation phase of your life and enjoy the journey.

You can’t put time on it. You can’t force yourself to find your “why” tomorrow or next month, or even next year. But by all means, search for clarity.

In the 1940s, Viktor E. Frankl, was held prisoner in Nazi concentration camps. With all the agony and brutality, what kept Frankl from giving up his relentless fight for his life was purpose!

He found meaning in his struggle, and that’s what gave him the power to push forward through unimaginable pain.

A quote by Viktor nicely sums up his philosophy on how people were able to survive the camps, without losing the will to live.

In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Viktor says “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

Once you have defined your aims and what you want, it is easier to deal with doubts. Easier not to get distracted from what is important, keep your focus, and keep moving.

Only sustained movement in one direction can bring tangible results.You have permission to change your goal, rethink, choose another, by all means.
It’s hard to maintain any momentum if your direction lacks definition.

In order to reach big goals, you need time, during which you must continue moving in your chosen direction, not veering off course.

Defining your direction as early as possible is the most important decision in sports. But, curiously enough, this is also the most important decision in life in general, but much fewer people realize it.

Living “on purpose” means you live intentionally.

Napoleon Hill once said “There is one quality that one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.

In order to get what you want, you have to choose one direction and move towards it, constantly improving over a prolonged period of time.

Maximum speed and output requires a precise framework.

People who have made genuine changes in their lives and managed to attain difficult goals are not stronger, more intelligent or fearless than you. The only difference is the decision to act in the direction of their dreams.

A strong sense of purpose fuels your motivation.

Successful people have a definite sense of direction. They have a clear understanding of what success means to them.

Everything they do is consistent with their goals. They look forward and decide where they want to be. Their day to day actions helps them move closer to their vision.

Once you find your why, you will be more careful and selective about your daily actions.

In here book, “Brave: 50 Everyday Acts of Courage to Thrive in Work, Love and Life, Margie Warrell, writes: “Knowing your why is an important first step in figuring out how to achieve the goals that excite you and create a life you enjoy living (versus merely surviving!).

Margie continues “Indeed, only when you know your ‘why’ will you find the courage to take the risks needed to get ahead, stay motivated when the chips are down, and move your life onto an entirely new, more challenging, and more rewarding trajectory.”

Clarity changes everything

Clarity of purpose challenges you to do better and commit to actions that get you closer to the one thing you really want in life.

With clarity, you can pull together resources, ideas and people for a common cause. Without it, there is wasted effort and even chaos.

Your direction defines what you do every day.

Clarifying not only your purpose but your direction reinforces your ultimate life purpose. You should have a clear understanding of what you want next month, next quarter or next year.

Think about it: When you feel unclear about a goal, you have difficulty achieving it. And if you don’t know why you should do something, you lack committed to taking action.

Bud Bilanich, an executive coach says to develop your personal clarity of purpose you need to do three things:

First, define what success means to you personally.

Second, create a vivid mental image of you as a success. This image should be as vivid as you can you make it.

Third, clarify your personal values.

Getting clear about what you want is a process of trial and error!

Try something. Then ask yourself: Do I like this? Yes. No. Get a journal and start putting down your feelings, thoughts, actions, and behaviors.

Use what you write as a way to pinpoint areas you are constantly exploring. Evaluate your results constantly.

What actions, thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors are you attracted to the most?

The key is to do more of what you enjoy and brings out the very best in you and you will continually clarify what it is that you want to do, be and have in life.

Napoleon Hill once said “There is one quality that one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.

People who are constantly striving to achieve something meaningful in life crave clarity. It’s the only way to reach deeper into yourself to find out what makes you come alive.

We all start from somewhere confusing, because you probably like to do a lot of things. But once you define your purpose, you will become unstoppable.

Successful people have a definite sense of direction. They have a clear understanding of what success means to them.

Everything they do is consistent with their goals.

They look forward and decide where they want to be. Their day to day actions help them move closer to their vision.

Once you find your why, you will be more careful and selective about your daily actions. In the words of Margie Warrell, Author of “Brave”:

“Knowing your why is an important first step in figuring out how to achieve the goals that excite you and create a life you enjoy living (versus merely surviving!). Indeed, only when you know your ‘why’ will you find the courage to take the risks needed to get ahead, stay motivated when the chips are down, and move your life onto an entirely new, more challenging, and more rewarding trajectory.”

How to develop meaningful life rules

Developing a personal life philosophy can be a deeply rewarding life experience. It can help you understand who you are and make sense of your life.

  • Understand who you are: A personal philosophy requires self-awareness, a desire to understand, and the ability to learn
  • Commit to looking for meaning and discerning what makes sense to you.
  • Follow your interests, and improve your basic understanding of life and living it.
  • Keep expanding your thinking. Study other philosophies. Gather philosophies from other people and books.

And always remember, a strategy for living is important, but it shouldn’t feel like a burden.

Philosophy of life (personal life rules) is a collection of meaning from your life’s experiences. Enjoy the process of refining what’s important to you in life.

As Seneca said: “As long as you live, keep learning how to live.”

Closing thoughts

If you’ve been following along, you’ve probably done a lot of critical thinking by now.

Hopefully you’ve reached a new level of self-awareness.

I would suggest taking some time in a quiet place to think about where you are headed in life.

Are you happy with the direction of your life at the moment?

What rules do you want to guide and shape your life?

The good news is, it’s never too late to change direction because you are in control.

Reevaluate how you’re doing with living according to your core beliefs, principles and philosophies.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Socrates said that.

Adjust your goals and parameters so they’re up-to-date and in the direction of your dreams.

Never be afraid of questioning everything once again.

Before you go …

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This article first appeared on Medium.