Creating a Personal Philosophy
I discovered Dr. Michael Gervais’ “Finding Mastery” podcast in the summer time as I was preparing myself to begin grad school. I was diving deep down the psychology rabbit hole so that I was in a curious and inspired frame of mind.
Positive or performance psychology is a realm of study that focuses on identifying the characteristics, environment and principles of healthy, highly successful human beings. The philosophy is that by identifying the positive qualities and aspects of those individuals, we will have a better understanding of how to apply that to other people’s lives in hopes of producing similar results. The reason I am drawn to positive psychology, is because I feel that it is preventative and empowers people to feel that they have control within their lives. As opposed to traditional psychology which looks for reasons for suffering or abnormality, positive psychology is all about trying to develop a road map to success and well-being. Where traditional psych supports the theory that the trauma or experience is what creates an individual’s disorder or crisis; effectively taking control over the circumstances away from the affected person, positive psychology stresses that negative things do happen throughout life, but that our interpretation, actions and reactions to those variables are what determine our outcome. By changing our attitudes, behaviors, or aspects of our environment, people can affect profound and meaningful change in their own lives.
Dr. Gervais consistently drives home the message that in order to realize health and to be successful and effective in our personal and professional lives, we need to be in alignment. By alignment he refers to “authentically lining up our words with our thoughts and actions.” Put simply, we commit to doing the things we believe in, that we talk about, and that we say we will do. As an example, Person X believes in gender equality. Person X is in alignment when they are actively being inclusive in all aspects of their lives. They look for ways to create and promote a gender balance in their work place, they work at equally sharing domestic chores with their partners, and they teach their children (of all genders) about men and women who have championed equality throughout history. Person X is not in alignment if they think about equality but look the other way when they know a male manager at work is earning more money than the female managers, they let their spouse take care of cleaning, cooking and doing laundry while they’re watching TV, and they tell their daughter that the boy at school is only being mean to her because he likes her. Can you see the difference?
To be in alignment, Dr. Gervais suggests we get very clear on our personal philosophy. Some of us might have already identified personal values, but most of us have only a vague idea of our guiding principles of life. However, getting crystal clear on our personal philosophy suddenly gives us a map and a tape measure which we can then use to guide and check our thoughts, words and actions. We can notice right away if we have stepped out of alignment; if a situation does not jive with our values, or if we are compromising our values in some way, or being asked to compromise ourselves in an unhealthy way. Most importantly, it can help build trust within ourselves and those around us. If we or the people around us know exactly who we are and what we stand for, we have deeper understanding. That’s a very powerful thing.
So how do we build our personal philosophy? Great news; Dr. Gervais has even given us a formula to help work it out. He recommends a simple four step process:
First, identify your personal heroes. Who are the people that you look up to? Write down what they stand for. Secondly, make a list of words that you associate with the admirable qualities of those people. Next, select a favorite handful of those words, up to 25 of them if you like and as you review them, cross out any that you feel are duplicated or don’t fully represent the qualities you like. Lastly, turn those words into a sentence or two that defines who you are, what you value and what you stand for. He also recommends that you read that statement out loud to a loved one and get their feedback. I personally don’t think that’s always a necessary step. This process is strictly about you. Sometimes we let other people’s reactions influence our instincts, or the person we ask may give some critical or negative feedback and this exercise is really about self-discovery and identity. Do what feels most right for you.
My process looked like this:
Who I look up to–
- Mike (my husband)
- Elaine (a family friend)
- My father
- My sister
- Michelle Obama
- Ellen DeGeneres
I am likely the most indecisive person on planet earth. I had a very hard time narrowing this list down particularly because I value and look up to a lot of people and I can find admirable qualities in practically everyone that I am close with.
Words I associate with those people–
· K ind
· Hard working
· High Standard
· Open Minded
As you can see, LOTS of choices from there. I have highlighted the ones I chose in green.
My personal philosophy, while it does not include ALL the words I chose, looks something like this-
“Allow all your experiences, both good and bad to be catalysts for meaningful personal growth so that you become the best possible version of yourself.”
My professional philosophy looks slightly different as the goal is about my patient and what I bring to their experience. It looks like this-
“Bringing body and mind in harmony through therapeutic touch that is based on a foundation of ethics, compassion and trust.”
I also thought it helpful to articulate the attributes that I value, both within myself, within my relationships, and globally. They are:
- Ethical being
I like to joke with patients that I am my own favorite pet project. But the truth is that I love to see what new things I can emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually feed myself and then I enjoy observing the results that I get from nourishing myself in different ways. I highly recommend you experiment with it too!
Yours in Health,
Crystal Daigneault, RMT, BHSc.