You won’t be disappointed with the results
There is a distinct difference between being a part of a group that thinks a certain way and having a personal philosophy. As the 21st century drags on and continues to feel as though it is being dragged down, this distinction has become less and less apparent to the public at large.
Groups such as political parties, religious organizations and charities were founded once upon a time on a shared set of values and principles. These groups arose from individuals who shared similar personal philosophies and strove to act on those philosophies together. Now days, that dynamic has flipped and increasingly it feels as though people are joining these groups in spite of or without any personal philosophies at all.
It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them. — Alfred Adler
This change can most easily be observed in American political parties but has extended to almost every facet of society. For example, the traditional political right — based on classical liberalism and capitalism — now supports a president who is anti-free trade. On the other side of the spectrum, there are calls to open the borders and abolish ICE, a platform which would directly harm blue collar workers, a traditional base for the modern American left.
These seemingly large transformations of platforms is possible because people seem to be losing their own personal philosophies. Principles are out of vogue.
Living by your own principles, whatever those may be, is inherently better than following the crowd. People who live by a set strongly held values are much preferable and respectable to those who simply follow the loudest voice and there are many loud voices in the world today.
Discovering and cultivating your own personal philosophy comes with innumerable benefits in today’s world that will help you break free of the noise, the group think and become a better individual or leader.
People Who Follow Principles Are Less Likely To Follow Others
Fear, shame and ostracization are common tools used nowadays to cow people into believing or going along with things that they do not inherently believe. This happens from all directions and from a variety of different groups online. It can occur on national television on a cable news program or in a Facebook group about baking cookies. It has become so widespread that many people fear getting this kind of treatment from society as a whole.
Falling prey to these kinds of tactics becomes much more likely if you do not have a strong personal philosophy that guides you. If you are more reverent of the opinions of others online or in your life than you are of a set of guiding principles, then you will become a puppet to the loudest or nastiest voice in the room.
The problem is, with a lack of these principles, this kind of shaming and fear mongering will wear an average person down until their principles do not matter.
If you have a strong philosophy and a set of principles that you hold dear, it is much harder for you to be swayed by such people. If you follow your own principles, you are less likely to follow others, especially if those others who are courting you do not share your values.
“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” — President Eisenhower
The more you follow your own values, the more you will be seen as walking on your own. These people are more likely to become leaders or be respected because they will be seen has having a stronger moral and personal fiber than those who always walk with the crowd.
Break Free From Group Think
There has been a lot spoken about regarding tribalism and Balkanization in the world today. The political and philosophical landscape continues to degrade into small yet potent groups that increasingly demand more and more loyalty to their declared philosophy or vision. Disagreements or questions are now met with explosive responses of anger, hatred or shaming.
It goes something like this.
Group 1 believes in x, y and z. At some point you believed in x and z and became interested in Group 1 and eventually join its ranks. You do not and have never believed in y. At some point, the group will demand you take a stand on y or else there is no way you can possibly believe in x and z. It puts you in an uncomfortable position but if you do not relent to the pressure of the group on this issue that you disagree with, you are not allowed to be a part of the group anymore.
You either close your mouth or falsely agree to a belief you do not hold.
This is happening all over the country to groups of all kinds.
It is happening to Christians. If you believe in Jesus Christ, the universal love of god, you cannot agree with gay marriage. Even if you believe the first two wholly, if you disagree with the third then the group will question your devotion to God Himself. Unfairly, I might add.
The same thing is happening in the opposite sphere. If you believe in gay rights and you believe in lesbian rights, you must also believe in transgender rights. If you do not believe in transgender rights, how can you believe in gay and lesbian rights? The questioning of a piece of the whole, can ruin the whole.
In these situations, the individual is questioned or blamed for their personally held beliefs when it is the groups fault for unfairly bundling together a set of ideas and beliefs and then making the philosophy and all or nothing deal. Gradation has all but vanished.
I feel as though it is more valuable to stand for your own principles and values and be a part of no group than to be a part of many groups but hold no values.
“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” — Cyril Connolly
If you have beliefs stronger than that of your loyalty to a group, you will be free to think your own thoughts. It is entirely possible to believe x and z but not y. You can believe A, B and z but not x, y or C. These things are still possible and cultivating a personal philosophy will remind you of this fact and set you free from heavy handed group think.
Really Find Yourself
The result of these things will be the clarity you need to actually find out who you are. In a world where brands, companies, politicians and friends are all vying for your loyalty and identity, it is easy to lose yourself in the shuffle.
Maybe you have identified as a Republican all your life, but recently you have found yourself questioning things that are going on and recent positions and behaviors of your peers. Maybe you realized that the hostility of your upper class liberal friends is not the kind of behavior you champion. People have these revelations all the time but choose the group, the popularity and the privileges over their principles.
First, sit down and really think what is important to you. Forget universal principles. Forget moralism. Forget religious creed. Think about the things you value in life. Behaviors you approve of. Behaviors you disapprove of. Sift through everything that has been put in front of you recently and give those things an honest assessment.
Once you have a good idea of what you think and feel, start putting those things into tiers. There are going to be things that really get your passions flowing, things you consider deal breakers and things that you could go either way on.
This is the basis of having a personal philosophy. Find the things you actually care about, find the principles you find uncompromising and then stick to them.
Really stick to them.
Not every issue that people claim are important are hills you have to die on. There are things you can be agnostic about or even apathetic. The things that you truly feel something for should be the things that you build your principles around.
Once begin to stick to your principles, whatever they are, you will garner more respect, more confidence and more clarity in a world that seems hell bent on depriving everyone of all of those things.
You will also upset people. That is something that is going to happen but if you stick to your guns in a calm and steadfast manner, the people worth a damn will give you the space and respect you deserve.
Your principles should make sense — to you. They don’t necessarily have to make sense to anyone else. But the flip side is, you should recognize that in others as well.
Put all of these things together and you will start to rediscover the person that you have always been that may have been lost in the noise or in the identity of the group.