As a practical philosopher, I use two worlds to help people find their path and purpose in life. The outer world, represented by your Suit and the inner world is represented by your Monk.
I’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies and successful leaders from various industries. Of course they hire me as their coach, but in essence, I am a practical philosopher.
Philosophy consists of ancient wisdom. Wisdom and philosophy was taught by people such as Immanual Kant, Aristotle, Confucius and many more.
But wisdom alone is not enough. Wisdom is thought-form and insights but has no application.
Therefore in my work as a practical philosopher, I provide tools and techniques to make philosophies practical.
First use insight, then application.
For example, in life, a practical philosophy could be to learn to use your intuition. Often times when people make career decisions, they only look at which job suits them or which job can provide them with a good company package. This kind of thinking only happens in the mind.
I’ve seen many times that when people make only decisions from the mind in their life and career, they disconnect from who they are. They disconnect from their inner self.
As a practical philosopher, I then come in and help people to bridge this gap.
Therefore I have developed The Life Journey model which is a visual representation of the journey of life. The model serves as a tool to create awareness about how a gap exists between your external and internal self.
The Life Journey Model is a visual representation of the journey you take throughout your life, from birth to death. It’s a practical philosophy to offer fresh insight into age-old wisdom in a visual way, giving shape to humanity’s common experiences on the journey of your life. It is presented here as a tool for you to use during your journey to help you navigate.
One man, a successful entrepreneur in his forties, told me that he found the model served as a “roadmap” for life; something he had searched for over many years. You can use the model to clarify your path to happiness in today’s world, including how to overcome the various obstacles and challenges you may face. It can help you to bridge the gap you may feel between the spiritual world of your inner monk and the everyday reality of the suit you wear.
The world’s religious and mystical traditions have led people on the journey of life since the beginning of time. In Christianity in one of the four gospels, John says that Jesus came so that “when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come”.In this case, “He” is the inner monk and so in other words, they would have access to their inner monk, and thus would find lasting happiness.
Buddhism teaches that one can reduce or end suffering. The end of suffering is equated with enlightenment, which is described as a state of being beyond the duality of happiness and unhappiness. The Buddha spoke about letting go of desires and living a peaceful and happy life. In Taoism, the Chinese word tao means path or way. The Tao is not different from what I call the journey of life. It refers to the flow of the universe, which keeps everything balanced and ordered. As described in the Tao Te Ching, Taoists believe in following the Tao and living a simple life in balance with nature and the divine.
Even modern writers have explained the journey of life. For example, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung revolutionised his field by introducing two main concepts: the collective unconscious, which suggests that we are not all separate individuals; and synchronicity, which suggests that we can’t understand everything in life through the mind alone. According to Jung, when you are on your life journey, “your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart”. He further counseled that those who look to the external world live life as if in a dream and only those who are able to look within will awaken.
Joseph Campbell, the American mythologist whose ideas relied heavily on the theories of Jung, wrote about the journey of the hero in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. On this journey, the hero—who can be anyone among us—conquers challenges, meets his love, and finds his purpose.
Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck wrote The Road Less Traveled, which became a bestseller in the 1980s, to describe his vision of spiritual evolution. He famously said of the journey of life, that “greater awareness comes slowly, piece by piece…. The path of spiritual growth is a path of lifelong learning…. The experience of spiritual power is basically a joyful one”.
Novelist Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist about a boy who left his home and went to Egypt. There he conquered many challenges, listened to the universal teachings, found love, and returned home a rich man. This novel explains what religions teach, but does so through story and metaphor.
It is important to me, as a practical philosopher that this model not be identified with any particular belief system, religious group, or culture. I designed it so that it respects people from all beliefs and cultures. If you choose to work with it as a practical philosophy, know that you don’t need to give up or modify any of these aspects of your personal background to get the full benefits it offers.
Overview of the Model
When you try to discover who you are—whether through time-honored religious scriptures or through contemporary works of fiction—you may find inspiration in the words of others. One important question is: “How can you apply that wisdom and practical philosophy in your own life?”
How to apply such wisdom may not seem obvious because universal truths are mysterious in nature. They are spiritual or mystical and often they are formulated in ways that seem obscure or incomprehensible. We have busy jobs and families to take care of, but we don’t have time to sort all these things out—or so we tend to feel.
The Life Journey Model shows you how to bridge the gap between your external world (which is everything contained within your current reality, and everything you see, hear, think, and believe about the world around you; in fact, everything that is important to support the ego) and your internal world (which is your spirit, your purpose in life, and your deepest desires; that is, everything that nourishes your heart). Each of these worlds is represented by an arc in the diagram. The arcs correspond to our progression through the various stages of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
If you look at the model and follow the arc of your external journey, you will see it moves in the direction of the ego; that is, toward the personality and sense of self you put forward to the external world. For this reason, I also refer to it as the “suit” you wear in the world. If you focus exclusively on the suit you are wearing you can have great success, but your inner world may still feel empty.
The arc of the internal journey, on the other hand, moves in the direction of the heart or who you are in your innermost being i.e. your inner self or inner monk. Focusing on your inner monk will invite awakening to the experience of deep and lasting peace and happiness. Of course, for that happiness to be truly lasting, the suit and the monk must be fully integrated.
For now, to summarise, the ego/suit is characterised by the experience of separation from others, the world, and even your own self. The spirit/monk is characterised by the experience of oneness and the sense of being complete and whole within yourself. The practical philosophy that I teach will help you bridge both worlds.
Practical Philosopher – External Versus Internal
The external and internal worlds are diametrically opposed. For example, everything in the external world is subject to change. Whatever you experience in the external world can be finished or ended, such as a job or a relationship. The core of your internal world, on the other hand, is eternal. When you experience something fully in your internal world, it will always be there for you. If you find true happiness within yourself, no one will be able to take it away from you. In fact, this is how you know whether you have found true happiness. If someone criticises you causing you to lose your feeling of happiness, then that feeling was part of your changing external world, but if the happiness remains no matter what anyone says or does, then you know it comes from the core of your internal world and it is eternal.
We deal with the external world primarily through our mind, beliefs, and fears, while constantly attempting to shield our ego. In the internal world, we learn to rely on intuition and surrender. By surrender I mean simply allowing things to happen as they are, without trying to force them to be the way you think they should be. In other words, going with the flow, rather than forcing your own agenda. When you surrender in this manner and don’t limit yourself to what you already know, you open yourself to greater possibilities and more of them. It is through these unanticipated possibilities and the many unexpected opportunities that come your way, that you are able to discover and nurture your inner self.
You may think surrender has a negative connotation. For instance, you may equate surrender with giving up; feeling defeated; or worse yet, submitting to someone else’s will. The kind of surrender I am talking about feels more like stepping outside your own objections and temporarily suspending your own judgement about why something may or may not work out.
Having faith is important when it comes to surrender. Faith means being willing to act even without evidence that what you are doing will turn out the way you want. On the life journey, one of the things you will learn is to have faith in, or trust what you discover in your internal world.
The external world brings us the experience of rejection, while the internal world generates acceptance. This is because the external world increases stress, while the internal world has the power to reduce it. We experience this all the time in small ways, though often we aren’t aware of it.
For example, suppose something unpleasant happens at work. You naturally tense up from the stress and do your best to escape (i.e. reject) what is happening. Even if you feel you can’t escape the actual situation, you can sit down for a few minutes and close your eyes and feel what’s going on in your inner world. If during these moments you really allow yourself to feel and embrace what’s going on without trying to change it, you may discover that calm acceptance is possible. You relax because you are living in the present moment, not thinking about what happened ten minutes earlier or what will happen when you return to work. In this state of peace, it is easier to accept what is happening and respond to it from a place of inner calm.
Greg, the CEO of a large logistics company, was consumed by a desire for money, power, position, title, and the need to get ahead.
You could say he completely became the suit he was wearing. He always thought he had to beat the guy next to him. All this fed his ego, and for a while it worked. But as he achieved success after success, the opposite began to occur. Instead of feeling satisfied, his ego only got hungrier. It was as if he was in a never-ending race that had no finish line, and yet he didn’t stop to question what the point of making another million dollars was if he was just going to feel more disconnected from his children and wife.
Then Greg started to work with an executive coach and tap into his own purpose and heart. He decided to integrate this into his decision-making process. Together, Greg and the coach crafted a personal strategy that would give him fulfilment, joy and high levels of satisfaction. Not surprisingly, the things that fed his ego didn’t even make the top ten items that he said brought him happiness. He discovered that what he loved most was to give, to delight people, and to create stories. Of course, he continued to focus on his business and creating wealth, but it was against a completely different backdrop—one driven by his internal world. In terms of the Life Journey Model, Greg was moving from the external to the internal arc, and integrating what he discovered in his internal world with his life in the external world.
In life, most suffering is linked to our obsession with things in the external world. That’s why the external world arc in the model is lined with references to negative experiences. Similarly, lasting happiness tends to stem from the positive experiences that originate within ourselves. If you look at the model, you will see these positive experiences on the internal world arc. Of course, some degree of excitement and pleasure can be found in the external world, however, these experiences are not to be confused with lasting happiness as they are temporary in nature.
We tend to meet the challenges of the external world through a screen of fear and self-interest, which only leads to further pain and suffering. Among the challenges of the internal world are uncertainty and doubts. If we handle these through surrender and by following our intuition, they can turn into assets. When we accept that we can’t and don’t know what is going to happen, we open ourselves to the flowing possibility of all things.
It’s really important that you do not fall into the trap of judging the external world as bad and the internal world as good. At any point during life, we may place greater emphasis on one world or the other; however, being able to live with both in balance is most desirable. Often, an accident, burnout, or another crisis occurring in the external world serves as a catalyst for a shift to occur. Through a process of awareness and healing, we are able to move from external to internal; from separation to oneness.
The model shows the two arcs growing farther apart because most people choose one arc. Most people choose to walk the external journey, and when they do, they forget to nurture their heart. As a result, the gap between their ego/suit and their heart/monk increases as time passes. Those people who listen to their heart and choose to follow their intuition decrease the gap. For them, the experience of a life based solely on ego becomes increasingly distant.
Keep in mind that although the model shows the external and internal worlds as opposites and oneness as the property of the internal world only, when we fully embrace the internal journey, these distinctions dissolve. In the state of oneness, instead of two arcs, the external and internal worlds are seen as integral parts of one whole.
Practical Philosopher – The Model Describes Your Life
Every element in the model can be experienced in different “time zones” in your life. For example, even though happiness is shown at one point on the arc, it can be experienced at any age, whether you are young, middle-aged, or older. Similarly, unhappiness can be experienced at the beginning, middle, or end of your quest in the external world; again, it all depends on the journey you take.
You can use the model to help you understand your journey in life and the decisions you have made, as well as to help you make better decisions in the future. Joyce, whom you met in the last chapter, felt she “woke up” when she saw the model. It confirmed to her that she had made the right choice in deciding not to leave her job. The model enabled her to realise that money alone was not the determining factor. She saw that money was on the external arc of her life, but what she valued more—being part of a community and having a sense of meaning and purpose—was a reflection of her internal world.
You will see how to bridge the gap between your external and internal worlds, find greater peace, and discover your own path. You will also find explanations for the remaining elements of the model, such as acceptance/rejection, future/past, unconsciousness, and external wants and needs. You will learn how to apply these laws in your internal world to find happiness, meaning, love, purpose, and joy.
After running seminars and coaching in Asia for over 15 years I see more and more that there is a big GAP between practical philosophy in life and practical philosophy in business. A business is typically run based on performance, shareholder return, market share, innovation and growth. When I talk to an HR department or Senior Leadership these are typically the targets for training and development. Sometimes the focus is on communication skills, or developing a Global Mindset or sales skills to ultimately enhance employee performance.
A few years ago I was running a workshop for a global Fortune 500 company with the Asia-Pacific Leadership team. During the seminar I asked them, ”what is the purpose of a business”? 80% of the people said ”to make money”. I was shocked by the response. If the purpose of a business is to make money you can start unethical practices such as cheating, taking bribes just to make money. The other 20% are the rare leaders who had already transcended their own self and their success. They believed that a business is to solve a problem and do good for people and society. And making money is just an outcome of the purpose you serve.
If you want to learn how big the gap is between your external and internal self, you can take a 2-minute free questionnaire here which will reveal your happiness score.
So as a practical philosopher I help people then to bridge the gap within themselves, in their life and business. They move….
At the end of the day no matter if you are working in a company, you are a father or mother, you are successful or on the journey towards living the life of your dreams. Life is all about self-realization. And your life experiences are unique to you, helping you bridge the gap within yourself.
- The first part is understanding where you are on the journey of your life.
- The next step is to identify, ”how big is the gap within yourself” (you can take this 2-minute free questionnaire to find out).
- And the final step is using the 3 powerful strategies that I teach to bridge the gap within.
As a practical philosopher, I can say, life is not just about thoughts and concepts, it’s applying wisdom and practical philosophy in your daily life, relationships, and career to bridging the gap within yourself.
Welcome to the journey.
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