Philosophy is the bedrock on which all else of significance can be built. When you understand how the world works, your place in it, and why you believe what you do, greater things become possible.
Career – Having a personal philosophy enables you to make goals and to determine the best way to achieve them. Sure, plenty of people get by without giving any serious thought to a life goal or plan, but this haphazardness may haunt you. You may not be very productive on the job because you are unhappy, and you are not quite sure why. Is it your position, boss, or coworkers? If you knew it was one of these things, you could correct the problem by transferring to a different office or job within the same company or switch to a different company in the same industry. Without knowing for sure that your dream lies in a completely different field, you would never gain the resolve necessary to quit your job and pursue it.
Philanthropy – Some people make tons of money and enjoy what they do, but they find themselves “wanting more” out of life. You can’t take the dough with you when you die, and giving it all to your kids is not necessarily in their best interest – pop quiz: how many trust fund babies can you think of that actually turn out well? If you want to give it away, to what cause? It will be difficult to choose out of the hundreds of worthy causes if you haven’t given much thought to what your values are.
Without knowing how the world works, how do you know if you are really doing more good than harm? For example, statistics of African children dying of preventable diseases result in vaccination campaigns. Afterward, African women still have 5-6 children each, but now more of them survive. Who will feed and educate all these children? Will there be jobs for them when they grow up? This example isn’t meant to deter you from giving to Africa; I’m merely suggesting that in order to get the result you want, a deeper understanding is needed.
Your faith – People naturally assume that their faith should be the bedrock of their lives, but search the heart of any religion, and you will find philosophy. Philosophy combines common experiences and reason to create a world view or system of ethics that resonate with people. For example, the Golden Rule (Do onto other as you would have them do to you) has deep ties to philosophy.
If you understand why you believe what you do, your faith will be immeasurably strengthened. I have seen people lose faith in times of hardship because their faiths were only built upon friendship/fellowship, admiration, trust, and fun. These are great things to attract you to a particular faith initially; however, lasting faith must be built on stronger stuff. What happens if you move to a new area, your church membership changes, or your friends move away? The pastor you so admire falls into disgrace or betrays your trust? If things are no longer fun or going well? Personally examining your faith doesn’t mean just showing up regularly to Bible study; it means seriously thinking what your faith means to you. It’s not the most enjoyable thing, but it’s the most important thing you could do for your faith.
Relationships – Yelling is pretty common these days. It’s on TV, on the radio, and in our homes, and it probably contributes a fair share to America’s 50+ % divorce rate.
Many yelling matches are result from misunderstanding, not true disagreement. Think about it for a second. To genuinely disagree with someone, you have to understand what they said first. In our hurry up society, few people actually stop to listen (or care) about what other people are saying. We’ve all got our problems, right? Or if they only listen to a fragment and then fill in the rest themselves. This practice is one of the biggest sources of misunderstanding. Arguments based on misunderstanding are not true disagreements because the participants were never on the same page!
Many people don’t think before they speak, don’t mean what they say, and/or just don’t express their feelings well. Take the following example for the movie The Breakup:
Guy: “You want me to do the dishes?”
Girl: “I want you to want to do the dishes!”
Guy: “Why would I want to do dishes?!”
The viewers know that she is really frustrated with the state of their relationship; obviously the guy has no clue. He just seizes upon the nonsensical statement.
Don’t let this be you. Next time, try this: step back, detach yourself from the heat of the moment, and figure out what’s really going on. Maybe she has had a long/bad day and is just lashing out. Maybe it’s some personal issues, or maybe she is troubled about the relationship (bingo). The yelling stops when you address the real problem; otherwise, it simply reoccurs later. No one likes being yelled at or unjustly accused of something, but be the better person – resist the (admittedly strong) urge to immediately yell back. It’s a Herculean task, but if you accomplish it, you’ll become a more patient, compassionate person. Your relationship will thank you for it, and if in the end your relationship doesn’t work out, you will have no regrets for lack of trying.
Needleman, Jacob, The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders, 2003 – George Washington stepped back instead of taking more power, thus ensuring America would be remain a democracy.