Here’s a 3-step exercise that’ll ruin your day but potentially save your life.
Be forewarned; it is not for the faint of heart.
Step 1: Write your life philosophy.
The beliefs and principles that guide your actions, decisions, and attitudes. Your foundational understanding of the world and how you interact with it and others. The lens through which you see and navigate your life.
Your life philosophy typically comes from religion, culture, education, experiences, and introspection. The rules that you believe to be true and allow to govern your life. Examples include carpe diem, the golden rule, stoicism, and karma.
Don’t let this intimidate you. You don’t need to write an essay; it doesn’t need to be clean. Just start writing down the rules that you believe to be true. Everything I write down inspires one or two more ideas. It’s a fun snowball to witness taking shape.
Maybe you believe “If you work hard, success will follow,” or “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” or “Never leave for tomorrow that which can be done today,” or “Things always work out for the best,” or “Always tell the truth,” or “You can’t trust people,” or….
Keep writing until you’ve captured your general attitudes and beliefs on the page.
A helpful paradigm to assume is that you’re trying to pass along your most important philosophical beliefs to your children’s children. You won’t get everything, but don’t miss the broad strokes!
Make sure you’re done before moving on. If you skip ahead before finishing, you’ll sabotage the point of the exercise. Once you’re done, set your newly minted life philosophy aside for a moment. I mean that, literally. Put it somewhere entirely out of sight.
Now, spend a moment with this quote from Kamal Ravikant’s book, “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It”:
A friend gives him this advice in the book: “If you want to see anyone’s philosophy, look at their life. We are all living our philosophy. Our life is the result.”
Step 2: Think only about the facts of your life, not your attitudes, beliefs, opinions, desires, etc.
Spend some time meditating on the actual outcome of your decisions and your approach to life. What does an average day look like? A week? Month? Year? How do you engage with people?
How do you treat money? Health? Time? Relationships? Center your mind on your actual “outputs.” The things an anthropologist would be able to identify if they dug you up a thousand years from now. The cold, hard, sterile, unemotional facts. The things that could be graphed.
Write a new life philosophy once you feel you’ve spent enough time meditating on this. It’s the same idea as the first one, but this time, write the philosophy that must be true based on how your life looks today. Look only at your consistent actions and the facts of your life.
What does your current fitness level say about your philosophy on health? What does your financial health say about your philosophy on money? What do your relationships say about your philosophy on people?
Again, it is not what you believe but your actions’ philosophy.
If someone who didn’t know you had to write down your philosophy based only on observing your life and actions, what would they write? I’m not saying they’re all bad. Some might be amazing. Some should surprise you. Just limit them to things that can be proven through action.
Spend some time here. Try to be as objective as possible. Be unforgiving. You know why you do what you do. That doesn’t matter (as far as this exercise is concerned). What matters is the output, the facts. No rationalizations allowed! Once you feel like you’ve accurately captured it.
Step 3: Compare.
Put both lists side by side and look for where they align (yay!) and where they diverge. It’s the divergences we are most interested in.
Where list #2 diverges from list #1, there lies your work. Your new goal could be to align the two lists.
What did you think of this exercise? Was it helpful? What would have made it better?
Thanks for reading!