Choosing a personal Philosophy:

Choosing a personal Philosophy 

When a young person recently asked me for education and career advice, I asked the enquirer to first choose a Philosophy of life, and them align the  career choices to this philosophy. The reaction was of complete bewilderment  at the suggestion. 

A philosophy of life is an overall vision or attitude towards life and the purpose of it. We all need personal philosophy in life or we risk wandering, and responding to random stimuli and information with little or no impact on our long-term goals. In this age of information overload, misinformation and pseudo-science this becomes even more important than ever before. 

Sir Ken Robinson has very well articulated the importance of your ‘element’ and aligning your work life to your element:

Videos from Sir Ken Robinson on finding your element?

How finding your passion changes everything:

The Japanese have a word Ikigai to describe your raison d’etre for your life. How to find and do work that you love ( Ikigai) :

There is a famous quotation from Mark Twain : “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Some people may go through life without ever finding out the purpose of their lives.

Robert Bryne once observed, “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”

“The unexamined life” said Socrates “is not worth living”.

There is one practical benefit of examining a life, though – both for the individual and the society. It can be an extremely humbling experience. It exposes our insignificance and liberates us from all forms of ego. This realisation can make us better human beings – more considerate, less judgemental and therefore blissful.

It is perhaps for this reason alone and not necessarily for any other that we should devote ourselves to the task of examining our lives.

I find the following lines from Bertrand Russell very uplifting: The Prologue to Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography: What I have lived for

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

 I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness–that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what–at last–I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

 Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

 This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

Another summing up of a great life was by Isaac Newton. When he was asked how he saw himself, he responded “ I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself, I was like a child on the seashore, looking now for a smoother pebble or a prettier shell, while the whole ocean of truth lay undiscovered before me”. 

Another tribute to a life worth emulating is in Shakespeare’s play “ Julius Caesar” at Act5 Scene5, where Mark Antony says of Brutus “ This was the noblest Roman of them all. All the conspirators save only he did what they did in envy of great Caesar. He only in a general honest thought and common good to all, made one of them. His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world :This was a man”. 

For much of the past, one’s philosophy was guided by the religion into which one was born. God’s revealed guidance for living was to be followed. With the rise of rationalism, and decoupling of religious rituals from working in an economy, a closer look at the Philosophy one adopts becomes important. 

See for example Milton’s lament ( on his blindness)

When I consider how my light is spent,

   Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,

   And that one talent which is death to hide

Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present

   My true account, lest He returning chide;

   “Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”

I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need

   Either man’s work or His own gifts. Who best

   Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state

Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed,

   And post o’er land and ocean without rest;

   They also serve who only stand and wait.”

The last line itself is a great Philosophy!

A pragmatic philosophy of life is in the famous poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling: 

Here is the poem recited by Sir Michael Caine :

This Desiderata attributed to Max Ehrman   is also a wonderful philosophy that is very practical :

Polonius advice to son Laertes Hamlet Act 1 Scene 3  :


Resources for further exploration:


1: Will Durant : Story of Philosophy :

2: Will Durant : Fallen leaves: last words on life, love, world and God 

3: Clayton Christensen : How will you measure your life?

4: Richard Dawkins : The God Delusion :

5: The best Philosophy books :

Videos :

1: Clayton Christensen: How will you measure your life? ( TEDx talk) (20 minutes)  :

2: Clayton Christensen : How will you measure your life? LinkedIn speaker series( 1 hour 12 minutes)

3: Frederick Nietzsche : how to find yourself ? :

4: What great Philosophers can teach us about how to live?

Alain de Botton: Author of The consolations of Philosophy ( 1 hour 20 minutes) :

About mmpant

Prof. M.M.Pant has a Ph.D in Computational Physics, along with a Professional Law Degree, and has been a practitioner in the fields of Law, IT enabled education and IT implementation. Drawing upon his experience in world class international institutions and having taught in various modes of Face-to-Face, Distance Learning and Technology Enhanced Training, Prof. Pant is now exploring the nature of institutions which will be successors to the IITs, which represented the 1960s, IIMs, which represented the 1970 and Open Universities which were the rage of 1980s & 90s. He believes that the convergence between various media and technologies would fundamentally alter the way learning would be created, packaged, and delivered to learners. His current activities are all directed toward actual implementation of these new age educational initiatives that transform education in the post Internet post WTO era.. Prof. Pant, has been a Former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and has been on the faculty of IIT – Kanpur (the premier Engineering institution in India), MLNR Engineering College and Faculty & Visiting Professor - University of Western Ontario-Canada. He has been visiting scientist to research centers in Italy, England, Germany & Sweden and has delivered international lectures with about 80 papers published. During his association of almost 15 years with the IGNOU, Prof. Pant has served as the Director Computing and has been the Member of All Bodies (i.e. School boards, Academic council, Planning board, Finance committee and the Board of management). With his interest in Law, backed with practice of Law in a High Court, and his basic training in Science and IT, Prof. Pant has been particularly interested in the Cyber Law, Patent & trade mark issues, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues etc. and has been involved with many activities, conferences on “Law & IT” Prof. Pant is presently; • Advisor to Media Lab Asia - Chairman of working group on ICT for Education, chairman of PRSG handling projects on ICT for education. • Lead Consultant for an ADB funded project for ICT in Basic Education in Uzbekistan • Member of the drafting Group for India’s National Policy on ICT in education • Chairman of the group creating books for class 11 and 12 students on ‘Computers and Communication Technology’ appointed by the NCERT • Preparing a ‘Theme Paper” for the NCTE in the area of ICT and Teacher Training • Advisor and mentor to several leading Indian and Multi-national Companies in the area of education. Prof. Pant has in the recent past been ; • Member – Board of Management – I I T, Delhi for 6 years (two consecutive terms) • One-man committee to create the Project Report & Legislation for Delhi IT-enabled Open University • Advisor to the Delhi Government on Asian Network of Major Cities Project (ANMC-21) distance learning project in association with Tokyo Metropolitan Government. • Chairman Board of Studies, All India Management Association With his mission to create and implement new business opportunities in the area of e-learning & learning facilitation, Prof. Pant has promoted Planet EDU Pvt. Ltd., as its Founder & Chairman, along with a team of highly experienced and skilled professionals from Education & Training, Operations, IT and Finance.
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1 Response to Choosing a personal Philosophy:

  1. Jani Reddy says:

    Sir, it’s a great insightful article on life Philosophy. Thank you for valuable information.

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