The road to developing a personal life philosophy is full of obstacles. Many of these obstacles are psychological in nature and are not so readily apparent to those who struggle to confront them. An awareness of these barriers may be helpful in overcoming them:
1) Not knowing where to begin or how best to channel one’s effort. Hopefully this site and the recommended process is useful. The key is to recognize that building a philosophy is a most rewarding but lifelong undertaking and not something that can be completed in a few sittings or even a few weeks.
2) Denying the existence of objectivity, truth, or the value of science. Those who believe that there is no target to shoot at will have a very difficult time hitting the target. If one believes there is no reality, that it is entirely inaccessible, or that it is a function of one’s own perceptions, then one has likely been deceived. The methods and objectivity of science distinguish it as the best means to understand reality, even if imperfectly.
3) Seeking to define reality in terms which elevate one’s stature, justify one’s own beliefs and behavior, or seek to denigrate the well-earned knowledge of others. Constructing a philosophy requires a measure of objectivity, a willingness to confront one’s own biases, and a humility to accept that one is not who they might have thought they were or would pretend to be.
4) Holding onto a distorted view of what it means to be human. A great many of us are persuaded, to varying degrees, to believe that we are the means to the ends of others, that self-sacrifice and servitude are the most worthy aims, and that it is “selfish” to pursue one’s own dreams and aspirations. While these beliefs may be constructive to the mobilizing of an effective army and a conforming populace, they do little to encourage an individual toward becoming psychological mature, capable of independent thought, and worthy of their highest aspirations.
5) Creating criteria for discerning the truth that is incompatible with one’s core beliefs. Those who have been socialized with comforting beliefs often seek to hold on to mystical possibilities that cannot be reconciled with real word ideas and good scientific explanations. It is, for example, difficult to discern the truth on the basis of both faith and reason.
6) An unwillingness to accept and respect the unknown and categorize it accordingly. A large majority of us have been raised with explanations for the unknown that alleviate our fears and provide reassurance and a sense of certainty, but which have no basis in evidence. As human beings, we would prefer to be in control of our surroundings. As good philosopher scientists, we must learn to accept all that we cannot control.
7) An immersion in philosophical minutia that has no constructive application to one’s everyday life. It is natural to think that ancient philosophers and theologians have much to contribute to our course of study and certainly there is wisdom to be gained from them. However, much of ancient philosophy and theology has long since been overwritten by good modern day science. The study of fields like biology, evolutionary psychology, genetics, physics, and neuroscience offer far greater insight into who we are and are essential to determining the credibility of traditional ideas.
8) Making what could be simple unnecessarily complex. It is easy to project onto the world a complexity that is unfounded and to seek answers that reinforce the notion of that complexity. If one is distraught or overwhelmed, it is comforting to be so validated and to assume that others might see the world in a similar light. But, by all measures, the world we experience is understandable, predictable, and potentially masterable and the most coherent philosophies are integrated, succinct, and surprisingly simple.
9) A fear of the responsibility for being self-directed and self-responsible. Creating a personal philosophy reflects a psychological maturity, a desire to stand on one’s own, and the taking of positions that may be in opposition to conventional group-think. The endeavor may also require the severing of long term relationships with individuals who do not respect that choice. Such strength of character must be earned through independence of judgment and the building of self-efficacy and self-worth. This is the main reason why most people do not choose to undertake this journey.
10) A lack of confidence that the end result will be worthy and functional. We often shy away from long term creative endeavors because we are skeptical that the time invested and hard work will produce beneficial results that reflect well upon on us as individuals. Those of us who study science and philosophy do so for the intrinsic reward that comes from learning and personal growth. Like any vision, once it is committed to practice, progress ensues, results are produced, and the effort will take on an energy of its own.