Foundations of a Life Philosophy | Section 1.7

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

Here’s what to expect from this point.

In the earlier sections, we’ve mapped what we’re doing and why. The ultimate aim is a sturdy life philosophy that won’t collapse under life’s tests and trials.

Beyond this point, it’s time to jump in and actually get to work.

This means actually going through the process of “thinking life through,” starting from an (almost) blank sheet of paper.

We’ve boiled it down to eight basic steps.

Given this, we should clarify a bit more about what going through this process will do – and what it won’t.

Here’s a basic outline of what’s ahead.

First Step: we’ll bring up a few basic questions.

We aren’t necessarily going to try to answer those questions at this point. They’re simple questions, but not easy to answer. Many people just wing it at this point. But our effort here is to “wing it” as little as possible. We want our answers as high-caliber as they can be.

This will bring us to the Second Step, where we’ll bring in a few tools to help us wrestle those questions down into something a bit more manageable.

The Third Step will consist of pointing those tools toward the questions, or connecting those two worlds together.

Armed with this fresh plan of attack, the Fourth Step will mean driving it all around the block a little. This will mean seeing how this new machine we’ve built all works together. It will involve pointing out how this new machine works, and how it helps us tackle the questions from Step One.

Then, we can move on to the Fifth Step: we simplify. We’ll boil all of the questions down to just one.

At that point, we’ll arrive at the Sixth Step. The ball will go into your court. It’ll be your turn to answer that question, however you like.

It then comes back to our side. With your answer in hand, we now take the Seventh Step, where a new phase begins. The ball is back in our court. This phase consists of “following the threads,” or working out the implications of everything that’s come before.

This means unpacking the consequences of that initial answer. Certain ideas are connected to other ideas. Some are built on top of others, and still others are built on top of those. The process, then, consists of pointing out how those various threads are connected. It entails following the trail of leads wherever they go.

It can quickly become clear how mistakes early in the process can inevitably lead to bigger problems later. The choice of a path at the start can determine a lot about where you eventually end up. Good steps early in the process can make later problems much easier to fix – or avoid entirely.

At this point, we arrive at the Eighth Step.

At this point, the ball will go back to your court. This step consists of analyzing and testing your answers up to this point, and seeing how well they hold water.

Here, the process becomes, at least to a degree, personal and unique.

But this doesn’t mean you’re left completely alone. You’re now armed with all the tools you’ve acquired to get to this point. Everything from Steps One through Seven will act as a kind of Sherpa, guiding you up the mountain. The Sherpa won’t do the walking for you, but can offer some highly valuable assistance.

For example, you now have some answers, but you’ve also armed yourself with fairly specific ways to measure and test those answers.

These offer ways to help you see for yourself how well they hold up in the course of your everyday life, where rubber meets road.

At this point, it’s a matter of testing and refining those answers to see what holds up throughout the obstacle course of everyday experience.

All to say, this leads not to an ending, but a new beginning.

Everything to this point hopefully provides a solid intellectual foundation to work from.

Things can change later in the process, but everything so far can lead to a good starting point.

To be clear, this won’t dictate that someone should choose ketchup over mustard. Meaning, this won’t necessarily make sense of every situation in life, or answer every question regarding what anyone should do in any particular situation.

This process isn’t claiming to provide complete and total spiritual enlightenment. It’s not a trip to the top of the mountain – it’s establishing a base camp. It’s meant to provide a foundation to start from. It can provide a floor under our feet that stops us from falling into nihilism. For anyone wandering aimlessly though a foggy wilderness, it can offer some food and water, maps and compasses, and maybe a warm bath. A good base camp makes exploring higher up the mountain much more accessible and likely to succeed.

That’s the basic process.

With that in mind, we should clarify two key questions.

First, is this process one of discovery, or creation? Do we "discover" a life philosophy, or "build" one?

And second, does this process consist of “telling someone what to think”?

The next and final section will answer both of these.

> Next: Two Brief Questions

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