The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make
I would like to bring your attention to the most important decision that you will ever make. I say decision, but really what I will discuss is a series of decisions that make up one larger commitment in your life. I want you to think about the people in your life who you really respect; people who you aspire to be like. Think about the characteristics of those people, and consider what it is that makes them so attractive to you. If you’re like me, the people who you are thinking of come from many different backgrounds, religious beliefs, countries, and they have different views. So what is it that makes a person successful in our eyes? It is their personal philosophies.
If you’ve made a decision to be attentive to your family and spend considerable time with them every day, that is a part of your personal philosophy. If you decide that it is more important for you to have money than for your work team to respect you, that is your personal philosophy. If you push yourself beyond what you know you could do in each workout, that is your philosophy. Every decision that you make in every day is a part of the larger circle of beliefs that makes up your personal philosophy.
Your personal philosophy will be the major determining factor in how your life is lived, and it will lead you to whatever success or failure you endure. The great stoic philosopher Seneca said that “life is the gift of the immortal gods, but that living well is the gift of philosophy.” In every religion, nation, race, income bracket, sexual preference, and age group there are people who are extremely happy and fulfilled, and there are people who are very unhappy. This means that pure joy in life has little to do with your religion, where you live, or how much money you have. Happiness comes from no external influences, but only from the decisions you make in regards to your personal philosophy. As Seneca said, the good life is a result of philosophy.
The only road to happiness and true fulfillment is the road that starts with refining your philosophy. Think of it this way; Jeff Olson, author of The Slight Edge, wrote “a positive philosophy turns into a positive attitude, which turns into positive actions, which turns into positive results, which turns into a positive lifestyle. A positive life. And a negative philosophy turns into negative attitude, which turns into negative actions, which turns into negative results, which turns into a negative lifestyle.” Our lifestyle and the fulfillment that we receive every day all stems from our personal philosophy.
Whether you know it or not, you are already being governed by your personal philosophy. You may have never thought about this, but all the decisions you make, and therefore all the results that you see in your life, have been influenced by your philosophy. You may have never sat down to evaluate what you truly believe. An ancient Chinese proverb comes to mind; “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” Sure, it would have been better to refine your philosophy some time ago, but now is the time to start.
The Stoic Philosopher Epictetus said the following of developing ones personal philosophy; "If you wish to be an extraordinary person, if you wish to be wise, then you should explicitly identify the kind of person you aspire to become... Write down who you're trying to be, so that you can refer to this self-definition. Precisely describe the demeanor you want to adopt so that you may preserve it when you are by yourself or with other people."
I want to give you a challenge to sit down and really think about the philosophies by which you want to live your life. Open a document on your computer, or open a diary, and write about how you want to live your life. Here are the areas of your life that you should plan for:
Relationships: How do you want to treat your friends, and how do you expect them to treat you in return? What kind of relationship do you want with your wife, husband, partner, children, and family? How are you going to be a better lover or friend? What importance will you place on your relationships? Where do they weigh in compared to other areas of your life, like business?
Health/Vitality: How important is your health? What are you prepared to do to live with vitality? What do you consider to be healthy, and what would you see as vice?
Wisdom/Education: What are you prepared to do to educate yourself? How important is education to you? What books will you read, and what information will you seek?
Passionate Outlet: What will you learn or cultivate as your passionate outlet? What is it that makes you feel alive in life? What is your passion that will bring fulfillment when you work at it?
Spirituality: Where do you stand on religion? What views do you hold regarding spirituality? Will you pray? Does faith play a large role in your day-to-day life?
Happiness: What makes you most happy? What will you do to bring joy into every day? Who are the people you want in your life? What are the places that make you feel alive?
Finance/Business: How does money and business play a role in your life? Do you think money is important? How do you spend your money, and how much do you save? How do you treat your business clients and workmates? What do you expect of them?
These are just a few questions that will make up the majority of your personal philosophy. To give you an example from my own life, I would like to share with you my own personal philosophy in regards to Health/Vitality, and Wisdom/Education.
Health/Vitality: My body must be a beacon of health and vitality. I must be knowledgeable of all that is necessary to keep the body working at an optimal level, and I shall show this not in words, but in my physical appearance. I take full responsibility for my health and am cautious to not rely on any alibis to explain or permit lack of vitality. I must be mindful of the foods that I eat, just as I am mindful of the people whom I allow to influence me. I refrain from all mind-altering drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, cigarettes, coffee, and all other legal or non-legal narcotics. I shall constantly push my body past that which I deem to be my comfort zone, and in this way I will prepare my body and my mind for great success.
Wisdom/Education: Following the examples set by the great philosophers, I must have a deep burning desire for truth, knowledge, wisdom, and ultimate harmony of the mind. I shall commit myself to be in a constant search for information that can better my life and the lives of those around me, and I will never let my own pride, fear of embarrassment, or false judgement keep me from seeking and acting upon the light of truth, which lies open to all men and women. I must not only learn, but I must also pour out that which I have taken in. Being a student of life is of supreme importance, but becoming a teacher of life brings purpose to learning, for what good is wisdom if it be not shared with the hope of bettering humanity?
Let me explain that my philosophy is neither right nor wrong. I share this with you only as an example. If you choose to apply different beliefs and actions to your life then I encourage you to do so. The purpose of this writing is to explore you to become serious and intentional in regards to your own philosophy. Don’t let the world do your thinking. Create your own belief of what it will take to live the good life. Also, when writing your philosophy, do not feel the need to use such extravagant language as mine. I wanted to read my philosophy and be proud of what I have said, but if you find simpler language just as meaningful then that is how you should write it.
Once you have formed your philosophies you should read them every week, or even every day. By doing this you will be filling your subconscious mind with the perfect picture of the person you want to be, and it will be only a matter of time before you start becoming that person.
Over time you should be refining your philosophy. Pick at every detail, and scrutinize your beliefs. If you find that some values aren't working, tweak them. Your personal philosophy is like a piano. Once it is tuned it makes a beautiful sound, and can create incredible music. Over time, the strings stretch and go out of tune, at which time the pianist must tune them again. Our philosophy must be watched constantly to ensure it doesn't go out of tune.
If you will take the time to develop a strong set of philosophies that will govern how you live your life, not only will you find greater enjoyment every day, but life will become easier. When you already know who you want to be it is easy to make tough decisions in life. Nothing gives a man greater confidence than the knowledge that he is living exactly as he has wished. Spend the time now to develop your core beliefs and the rest of your life will run much smoother than you had expected.
Abraham Lincoln once said “give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” Your life is the tree, and your philosophy is the axe. Sharpen your philosophy. The dividends are plentiful.