Foundations of a Life Philosophy

Note: This article is one part of a series, "How to Rethink Your Entire Life | Foundations of a Life Philosophy"

All of us work to make sense of life.

Our efforts to “make sense of life” itself makes up our “life philosophy.”

We could also describe this effort with three words: “Think life through.”

That short phrase points to a fairly simple idea.

The idea is to sit down, take a clear look at life itself, and put together a “life philosophy.”

The goal here is to do that.

The aim is to get our thinking on more solid ground, or to confirm that it already is.

A building in a mushy, muddy, water-soaked swamp will likely collapse. But a building with a strong and sturdy foundation, on the other hand - like a house built on the Rock of Gibraltar - will probably have some staying power.

That’s our objective here. But instead of a house, it’s our most basic ideas about life.

This whole endeavor might sound a little strange at first. But it’s really nothing exotic.

In fact, it’s something we all do already, to some degree.

(In some ways, we can’t not do it.) The aim here is just to be very deliberate about it.

That said – just like building a sturdy house – building a life philosophy on solid ground doesn’t happen by itself. It requires some effort, a little know-how, and a bit of skill.

But why bother with this?

After all, isn’t the whole idea of “thinking life through” completely personal, subjective, and unique for every person? Shouldn’t everyone “just do whatever you want,” while the rest is basically useless to talk about?

A short thought experiment might be useful here.

Imagine you’re about to set out on a trip overseas.

Before stepping aboard the ship, you’d probably “think it through,” at least a little.

You’d probably have at least some rough idea of where you were heading, how you’d get there, and why you’re going in the first place.

We do this on some level – consciously or not – every time we step through a door or sit in a car. We typically figure out some idea – however vague it might be – of what we’re heading toward, or away from. Not doing that leaves us going nowhere, doing nothing, for no reason.

Not thinking it through would mean setting out with no idea where you were heading, how to get there, or why you were going in the first place.

That non-quest might sound adventurous, romantic, or whimsical to some. At least at first. But the likely reality would soon set in: drifting aimlessly on open water under a baking sun, with supplies running low and no land in sight.

Contrast that with the opposite.

“The opposite” in this case would mean a clear destination that’s worth the trouble, a realistic way to get there, and known reasons why you’re going. Things might not always go according to plan. But compared to merely drifting on the ocean, lost at sea, it’s not bad.

If we take even so much as a trip to the store for milk, we’ve usually “thought it through.”

But don’t we face the same situation with life itself?

Isn’t embarking on the journey of life itself something like setting sail for a trip overseas?

We insist on “thinking through” a journey of even a few miles, but when it comes to the journey of life, we often leave it in the hands of chance, fate, or the Great Unknown. We think through our shortest trips down the block, but not the grand trip of life itself.

We sometimes spend more time researching our cell phone plans than our most basic beliefs about life.

But if it makes sense to “think it through” on small things, why not do it on big things? Especially “the biggest things of all”?

The reasons, both for and against, can be surprising. The task can seem impossible. Yet, at the same time, in a way, we can’t avoid doing it.

Some people invest real time and energy into “thinking life through.” Others don’t. This raises the question: is it really a good idea?

Why bother with this, after all? Why “think life through”?

> Next: Life: Why Think it Through?

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