You’re Always Doing Philosophy

A philosophy professor of mine once said “There’s a difference between talking trash about the air you breathe and actually trying to breathe without air.”

Mocking the value of philosophy is like talking trash about the air you breathe. Living without philosophy is like trying to breathe without air.

For any given action X you might take, there are several philosophical questions we could ask about X:

Is it morally permissible for you to do X? Do you have good reasons for doing X? If so, what standards are you using to determine that your reasons are actually good? How do you know if your standards are good? If you don’t have a good reason for doing X, is that because you think it’s unnecessary for people to have good reasons for their actions? If not, what makes your choices an exception? If so, does that mean you’re accepting of anything that anybody does no matter what their reasons are? What if they do something that’s harmful or offensive? 

Some people might read those questions and think to themselves “Oh, you silly philosophers! You always trouble yourselves over meaningless things. Those questions are unimportant to me. I can get through an average day just fine without stopping to ask any of those questions. And look at the scientists: they achieve so much progress without getting into endless debates over unanswerable inquiries like this. Sigh!”

I want you to notice something about that above response. The above response doesn’t change the fact that the person who says these things is still guilty of *having* a philosophical position. To reject the aforementioned philosophical questions as unimportant is to essentially adopt a philosophy that says we don’t need to analyze our beliefs. And while we certainly have the right to adopt such a philosophy, it doesn’t negate the following six facts: 1) We each have a philosophy whether we spend a lot of time thinking about it or not 2) Our philosophies have consequences for us and the people whose lives we influence 3) There are people who disagree with our philosophies 4) Some of the people who disagree with our philosophies have very sophisticated arguments for why they think we’re wrong 5) Our choice to ignore or pay attention to #3 and #4 is a choice that is our right and responsibility and 6) A significant portion of our quality of life will depend on how good of a job we do at both ignoring and paying attention to the critiques that can be made of our philosophies.

There is no such thing as life without philosophy. We may not practice philosophy consciously, but we practice it implicitly in all we do.

You’re always doing philosophy…even when you make fun of it.


Thank You

To all the people who’ve taken the time to read or share my posts over the past year, thank you.

Your feedback, positive and constructive, has been invaluable to my personal development. The simple fact of knowing that you’re there, even if you don’t announce your presence, is meaningful beyond what words can express.

I appreciate you being a part of my journey. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.


T.K. Coleman

About Those Dreams You Were Planning to Follow…

Follow your dreams, but just make sure they’re *your* dreams and not the dreams you think you need to have in order to be impressive. If you’re chasing fancy things in order to fit in or get back at your ex-girlfriend/ex-boyfriend, try digging a little deeper. Because when the going gets tough, it’s only the intrinsic factors -the reasons of the heart-that anchor us and keep us going.

And be sure to actually *follow* your dreams which is different from sitting around and waiting for someone to give you permission to act on your creative impulses. Remember that creativity applies not only to your craft, but also to the process of finding opportunities to practice your craft. If you’re still waiting for a rich, powerful, or influential person to give you the green light before you get up and go, then you’re not following your dreams; you’re following your resistance, your obstacles, and your doubts.

And lastly, don’t forget to let your dreams follow you. Because as you go after the things you want in life, you’ll evolve. Your interests will expand, your perspectives will broaden, and your priorities will mature. From a distance, your dreams will inspire you, but up close they’ll transform you. A dream engaged will never leave a person unchanged.

So while it’s good to pursue what you’re most passionate about, don’t forget to periodically upgrade your dreams in order to make sure they reflect not only the person you once were, but also the person you’ve gradually become.

Entertaining Interests Versus Fulfilling Commitments

Generally speaking, there are two basic relationships we can have to our desires: interests and commitments.

Interest is when you are fascinated by some topic or thing. A good way to know if you’re interested in something is by asking the following question: “If someone could wave a magic wand and cause your desires to be realized without any loss on your part, would you take it?” If you answered that question “yes,” you have yourself an interest. Another way of gauging interest is by asking yourself the following: “Does it make you feel good to think about the possibility of having what you desire?” or “Would you be pleased if you were able to have what you wanted?” Again, if you say “yes” to these types of questions, you’re definitely interested in what you say you’re interested in.

Commitment, on the other hand, is characterized by the willingness to set goals, endure trade-offs, and make sacrifices. The person who commits to their desires chooses to express their interests within a context that involves structure, accountability, and discipline. A good way to know if you’re committed to something is by asking the following: “Will I be guilty of breaking any promises or failing to keep my word if I decide not to invest time and energy into my interests?” or “Will my reputation be negatively affected in any way if I fail to act on my interests?” If you answer “no,” to these kinds of questions, then you’re probably not committed to the things you’re interested in. You may feel passionate about your interests, but you’re not committed unless you’re accountable to something other than your own personal passion.

The important thing to remember when making distinctions like this is that neither one is superior to the other. It’s all contextual. Some desires are best related to as interests. Other desires are best related to as commitments. If you have desires that you’re uncommitted to, you shouldn’t feel guilty about that. A healthy life needs both. If you treat all of your desires like commitments, you’ll burn out. If you treat all your desires as interests, you’ll never experience the forms of progress and mastery that can only come from engaging in constructive activities independently of your mood.

The key is to be honest with yourself.

Don’t take on commitments because of guilt or the desire to impress others. And don’t limit yourself to interests because of the fear of failure or the belief that you need to always feel inspired in order to do meaningful work. Challenge yourself to make more commitments and push yourself to be brutally honest about the interests you only want to informally indulge in. We only get ourselves into trouble when we fall into the trap of playing social games that seduce us into lying about the degree to which we want things.

Desire doesn’t have to be that complex. Be real with yourself not only about what you want, but also about how you want it. When you can do that, desire can start to be fun again. It’s supposed to be. If it doesn’t feel good to desire what you desire, you’re doing something wrong.

Running Scripts Versus Making Choices

Generally speaking, there are two primary states we act from: conditioned responses and deliberate choices.

Conditioned responses are what we do when our buttons are pushed or our emotions are triggered. These are the automated scripts we have running in the back of our minds based on how we’ve been programmed to react to certain kinds of situations.

Most of us have a ton of scripts running simultaneously. We have one type of script for what to do when someone is mean to us. We have another type of script for what to do when someone disagrees with us. We have yet another kind of script for when our kids act up, or when our parents disapprove of our choices, and so on. Each person has their own unique scripts, but what makes us all alike is that we have them. Push a person’s buttons and you’ll see their script in action. Most of our days are characterized by the things we do based on these scripts. Circumstance and conditions come along that activate our triggers and BOOM—like clockwork—our scripts set into a motion a series of responses designed to help us survive or save face. But here’s the problem: most of our scripts are outdated.

Scripts are created through a combination of schooling, emotionally driven decisions made during times of peak experience or high stress, what adults modeled for us when we were children, and so forth. Our scripts for dealing with conflict, for instance, are based on what’s worked/failed in the past or what we think we need to do to survive. In other words, our scripts are based on something other than the practice of consciously thinking about what we want in the present moment.

So when you and I are in the heat of the moment (ie. trying to decide how much money we’re going to gamble in Vegas or what to say in an argument with the spouse), our scripts don’t care about what we want. They only care about being faithful to the conditions that programmed us to do whatever our knee-jerk reaction is. Our scripts only want to be efficient and they don’t define “efficiency” as “helping us get what we want.” They define efficiency as “do what requires the least amount of attention and energy in the moment.”

The key to getting more of what we want lies in liberating ourselves from enslavement to our own scripts. We achieve this freedom simply by choosing to be conscious. We choose to be conscious by slowing down and taking the time to address each creative challenge with one fundamental question: “What do I want?”

When we step back and ask “What do I want out of this interaction, conversation, or experience?” we begin to realize that most of the scripts we have running are not serving us. Then we have a choice. At that point, we can decide to craft a new script and create a new reality. Is it really that simple? Well, nothing is *that* simple, but it’s a lot simpler than living on auto-pilot and allowing your present life to be dictated by unconscious decisions you made several years ago.

Be aware of your scripts. Be conscious of your programming. It’s the first step to living freely.

Self-Esteem & Service

The process of building a healthy sense of self-esteem isn’t for the weak-minded.

There’s a great deal of responsibility that comes with acknowledging and accepting positive truths about yourself. Contrary to the popular misconception that it always feels good to be told that you have value, the notion that you are *not* a worthless low life can be a great burden. Once you know that you have something to offer, you have to face the responsibility of sharing it with others. In other words, sitting around in a state of apathy is no longer an option.

When you’re busy wallowing in self-pity, there isn’t much to do besides wait for the world to appease you. Self-respect, on the other hand, summons you to action. It compels you to engage the world and help others see their own light.  You can feel bad about your life all by yourself, but you don’t get to keep your sense of self-love and self-respect without being committed to investing in others.

Some people ask me “do you ever talk about the ugly truths?” My answer: I do. But unfortunately, people are too quick to contrast the so-called positive truths with the ugly ones. Sometimes the ugliest truth is the one that reminds you of your own beauty. Because once you know how beautiful you truly are, you have no more excuses for selling yourself short and giving up on your chances to make a difference.

Self-esteem and service go hand in hand. As soon as you wake up to how awesome you are, you have to get off your butt and get back to the ugly work of bringing healing and positive change to the world.

I’d Be Happy To Do That If…

As an alternative to saying “no”, try offering a conditional yes.

Instead of “I can’t do X”, try “I can only do X if Y.”

This forces you to make a crucial shift in how you think about opportunity: it takes you from focusing on the mere fact that you can’t or won’t do something and it challenges you to think about the conditions that would make something worth your time.

Whenever we say “no”, it’s for a reason. “No” means “There are specific conditions that make me unwilling or unable to meet your request at this time.” By thinking about your “no” in terms of what what would make it worthwhile, you not only turn some of your “no’s” into “yes’s”, but you also improve your ability to think about your choices as expressions of power and priority.

Negotiate your way into a life that contains more “yes.”

Focus less on what you can’t do. Focus more on challenging the world to meet your standards.