Why You Should Have a Life Philosophy

A carved buddha statue

I am not one of these people who take Pinterest quizzes. I am not new-agey. I don’t like a whole bunch of fuss. I’m not sentimental. I don’t have a spirit animal. I am the most pragmatic person I know. Ironically, I would never read a post called “Why You Should Have a Life Philosophy.”

The whole idea summons images of inspirational print art, t-shirts claiming my heritage as a mermaid or unicorn, and Tony Robbins… then they get all blurred together as a mental picture of Tony Robbins having sex with a mermaid with a scrawly script above it that says “Everyday is a good day when you’re fucking a mermaid!”

Mermaid GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

But having a life philosophy is not about higher thinking or spiritual fulfillment or having sex with mermaids.

It’s about organization.

A life philosophy is the header on your to-do list. It is the outline for your life.

Operating without a life philosophy is akin to writing a to-do list but mixing in your grocery list, things you want for Christmas, and random phone numbers and addresses, then writing it all out on the back of an old receipt, running out of room, and just switching to the back of your hand. When it comes to your life plan, I don’t want you to find yourself having the equivalent of four contacts in your phone called “celery” and a refrigerator full of Christmas presents.

There is a lot to contend with in life and there is nothing organized about it. The billion subcategories of our lives blur together until they’re an endless, directionless hodgepodge of faces, events, and intentions.

So many of us end up feeling lost. Like “time just flew by.” Like, despite our overall desire to be “Happy” or “Successful” or “A Good Person,” we don’t know ourselves and we don’t know how we ended up where we are.

A Life Philosophy is the number one must-have for an organized and ambitious life. Without one, you may find yourself lost.

Your goals are not a life philosophy

Being “A Good Person,” “Happy” or “Successful” or a “Good Parent” are not life philosophies. They are goals. Goals change or become unattainable or are completed. It’s good to have goals, lots of them.

Goals are a subcategory, an important one. Highlighted and underlined. Probably with a sticker, or drawing of a succulent next to it, depending on how into your bullet journal you are.

Organize Sharpie Marker GIF by Sharpie - Find & Share on GIPHY

Your identity is not a life philosophy

Traveller, teacher, mother, Christian, adventurer, dancer, husband. These are identities and our identities are the easiest things to mistake as a life philosophy. 90 percent of us let our identities run the show. This is a fine thing…mostly.

When we let our identities define us and shape our lives, we usually succeed. Someone who puts “mother” as the encompassing theme of their lives is probably going to be a pretty great mother. Unfortunately, our identities can be stripped away. Children grow up or don’t grow up, bones break, retirement comes too early, or too late.

My philosophy:

“Make no room.”

I came into a life that was mostly pain. Homeless, scared, hungry. I would say “discomfort” and “worry” were the best case scenario for most of my days. If I was just uncomfortable and worried, that was a lot better than being afraid and that was a good day.

When I came into my own independence, determined to live a happy life, the overwhelming advice to do so was to” drop the toxic shit in my life.”

It’s sound enough as far as advice goes. In practice, however, I found that emptying my metaphorical cup of poison only left me with an empty cup. Toxic but familiar people, habits, ways of thinking, were my company, they were my “ways.” I knew them. Dumped friendships were replaced with lonely evenings, skipping dessert was replaced with boredom.


And I found the desserts were better than the boredom and the bad relationships were better than the loneliness, and they crept back in.  But when I went out dancing during dessert time, and had lunch with someone positive and uplifting instead, I found I didn’t have room for the binge eating, or for the negative relationships. My time was taken.

Good Morning GIF by kimburgerly - Find & Share on GIPHY

By taking my cup and filling it with ten cups of water instead of emptying it was the thing that made no room for the poison.

When I go to plan my days now, “make no room” is the philosophy that guides my pen. No room for toxic negativity. No room for doubt or loneliness.

When space does seem to open up, space for fear and depression and anxiety, I know that I have made too much room for it. I visualize that cup filling with poison, then water it down with more love, more pleasure, more companionship, more knowledge. I make no room.

Find your philosophy

My life philosophy is simple and has served me so well. I am grateful for its guidance.

You are welcome to my philosophy. It’s a good one! But if you want help finding your own, ask some of the happiest people you know, some of the people you most admire what their life philosophy is. It should ring true to you. It should calm you. It should stand on its own. Some of my very favorite people provided me with these:

“Pleasure when possible.”

“Change in some way, every day.”

“Do the hard things.”

“Always have something to look forward to.”

What’s your life philosophy?

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84 thoughts on “Why You Should Have a Life Philosophy

  1. I freaking love your voice so much.
    my great grandmother lived happily until 105 yrs old, and she always told me her life philosophy was “provide only pleasantness upon others” … or rather this is the shortened version of it. Basically kill them with kindness. I have found that even the ASSHOLE-y-est of the assholes can be taken down a notch by a gentle smile. It’s powerful stuff.
    Thank you, Girl


  2. Sounds like a saturated Epicurean. I’m down.

    As an aside: I would propose that “be a better person” and “be happy”, etc. are not goals. If one considers the word “goal” it’s exactly that: a task whose achievement is measurable. You either did or didn’t run that marathon, sell 1000 of your books, lose 20 pounds, or climb that mountain.

    The reason I mention this is I recently had to contend with this exact conundrum at work. Management announced numerous “goals” which were definitely not goals. “Manage ambiguity”, “Enhance communication”, “Reduce distraction”. I pointed out that none of these were goals as they could not be measured and accomplished. They told me to shut the fuck up and get back to work.

    Pursuits, endeavors, desires, wishes, aspirations, ambitions — these are not goals, but are worthy in their own right.

    PS: I enjoy your writing style.

    Liked by 1 person

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