Recently I have been introducing you to some of my personal thoughts about the world- in this article about the three things that I most want to do in my life and this one about my dislike of bureaucracy and what it means for me wanting to grow my influence.
Today, I want to talk to you a little more about my personal philosophy and how it relates to my work and then challenge you to think about how your personal philosophy relates to yours!
What do I mean by personal philosophy?
By personal philosophy I simply mean the way that you see the world and the beliefs that you have about the world.
What is my personal philosophy?
My personal philosophy is made up of quite a number of aspects. I’m sure yours is too.
I’ll mention some of the most important ones.
1- A belief in the power and general goodness of human beings. I am optimistic about humanity. About our future, about what we can achieve, about the progress we make every day. I don’t find this reflected in a lot of the media (I’m lucky that my wife runs this!) or the general way that many people criticize and resent human beings as a species. I also believe most people are good, that most people try to do the right thing and that we should be slow to judge others.
2- A belief in the uniqueness of the individual. At heart I think most human beings are pretty similar. We share a lot of basic hopes for our lives and the lives of the people we care about. However, we have so much that is personal to us and that is what makes us truly interesting. If you think of people you know who seem a lot like you there will still be some very important differences. I believe that in order to have a good and just world we need to care about what each individual wants- whether or not if it is what we would personally want.
3- A feeling that life is unpredictable and you shouldn’t be smug when things go right or lose hope when things go wrong. Both of these things are hard not to do! Point 3 can basically be summed up in my favourite poem, ‘If’.
How have I arrived at my personal philosophy?
Like everyone, I’ve arrived at my personal philosophy through a great many paths, (many of which were dead ends) and through a great many ways.
I think the most important ones have been:
Reading lots of books- From a young age I read and read and read. I don’t always read now as much as I would like, but I will still naturally read everything I can get my hands on.
Reading books took me to different worlds. Perhaps even more importantly for my current work, it taught me different ways of seeing the world- perspectives that were not the same as my own.
Travel- I’ve been lucky enough to travel a bit and to live in a variety of different countries.
Travel helped me to understand the way in which difficult countries and cultures organize themselves and prioritize different things. It helps me decide which system I liked best rather than just assuming that the system I liked best is the one I grew up with.
Moving through different environments- At various times in my life I’ve stepped outside one environment and moved into a new one. For example, I was the only person from my primary school to go to my secondary school. I was the first person in my immediate family to go to university- and the university I went to was Cambridge, which felt like an entirely different world.
I think this has been a huge influence in me formulating my personal philosophy. Because I feel like I’ve traveled a long way I feel that I have learned a lot about my fellow travelers at different points of my journey. I have also seen how people with absolutely no experience of each other’s lives can have a lot of wrong assumptions about each other. Of course if they want to truly influence each other, they have to get rid of these false assumptions.
Being curious- I have always been curious and had the confidence to ask lots of questions. By doing that I might not always come across as the smartest person- because I freely show in public how many things I don’t know- but I learn a lot.
Being curious has helped me to talk to lots of different people. It has helped me to learn lots of new things and has constantly reminded me how many things I have left to learn!
Challenging what I think- Like most people I don’t always challenge what I think enough. But I do try. So for example when I consume news I read both left-wing and right-wing news sources. I have quite a wide variety of friends. I put myself in environments where I have to challenge my prejudices and assumptions: when I was an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan for two years, I think I discovered even more about my own culture than I did about Japanese culture- because the experience forced me to think about how some things that I had thought were universal were in fact specific to my culture.
A personal philosophy can only be developed if it is tested. Sometimes I have changed my mind about certain things. At other times I have found more examples that strengthen my existing beliefs in particular areas.
How do I use it for my work?
Firstly, just having taken the time to develop my personal philosophy gives me a lot of motivation to work hard and to stick it out when the going gets tough: because I believe in the importance of what I do and in trying, in my own small way to creating the world I want to see.
Secondly, believing that each person is unique is a real help for growing my influence- because one of the key parts of influence is understanding your audience. I know people don’t think exactly like me- so I take the time to think about what they think!
Thirdly, it means that I get genuinely excited about helping other people. I love hearing about what drives other people and seeing how I could be part of making their work have even more impact. I love learning about the personal philosophies of others.
Perhaps most importantly, integrating my personal philosophy into my work- where I can- just makes me feel that bit more ‘whole’.
My challenge for you:
I have a three-part challenge for you-
- Take time to think about your personal philosophy- Maybe yours is already very well-developed. Maybe you need to examine it again, or discuss it with a friend.
- Think about how it is incorporated into your work- A key part of my LEAPS Model is Authenticity. If your personal philosophy is not incorporated into you work it is less likely that you are finding satisfaction and meaning in it. This may, or may not be a problem. Perhaps your day job pays your bills and then in your spare time you pursue your real passion. However, if your personal philosophy isn’t incorporated into at least some of the things that you do it is likely that you won’t feel authentic, won’t experience flow and won’t do your best work or find great meaning in your daily life.
- Think about how you could incorporate it more- Finally, if you aren’t satisfied with how you are incorporating it into your work- think about how you could do it more.
By taking the time to think about both our personal philosophy and the ways that we share it with the world, we can all start having more influence and feeling more fulfilled.