Developing and Navigating Your Personal Worldview

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What’s your personal worldview? Is it up to date?

Everyone has a worldview. Too often, we don’t think about it, much less cultivate it. Subsequently, we end up with a worldview that is outdated and fails to support our growth. We would do well to understand the importance of worldview and learn how to develop a healthy one.

Read more to learn why personal worldview matters and how to revise your own.

You Have a Personal Worldview

Whether you realize it or not, you have a personal worldview. In order to grow spiritually, you need a worldview that reflects a healthy balance between reality and your experience of it. To develop a healthy worldview, you need to constantly question and revise your understanding of reality. This section explores why developing a personal worldview supports spiritual growth, how to discard it when it is outdated, and how to develop a healthy one.

The Power of Your Worldview

Your growth in the areas of discipline, life experience, and love is equal to the growth in your understanding of the world and how you fit into it. This is your personal worldview. While everyone has one, most people aren’t conscious of it. Often, people even consider themselves devout to a traditional “religion,” when in reality their belief system indicates something entirely different than their chosen worldview. 

For example, you might consider yourself a devout Roman Catholic in practice, but your personal beliefs indicate an inherent deviation from the beliefs that would motivate genuine devotion. Perhaps your “official” religion condemns homosexuality as a sin, encouraging its followers to stay away from “practicing” homosexuals, but you personally do not believe this, have many close friends who are gay and harbor no fear or judgment of them.

The most significant factor in the development of your worldview is always the culture you grew up in. We tend to match our beliefs to that of those around us. For example, you are more likely to become a Christian in America than in India, where Hinduism is the norm. Beyond your greater societal culture, you are most influenced by the worldview of your parents. You watch how your parents behave, you experience how they treat you and others, and this is what creates your initial worldview.

Navigating Your Personal Worldview

You can run into a number of problems navigating a personal worldview.

Problem #1: A Narrow Perception of Worldview

We often have difficulty developing a personal worldview partially because our idea of worldview is too limited. There is a common assumption that worldview is theistic (that it requires a God or a belief in a God). This limited view causes suffering because an understanding of the world and one’s place in it varies from person to person. In reality, a worldview is made up of your particular set of beliefs, both intrinsic and extrinsic, about life, which influences your thoughts and behavior. 

Problem #2: Transference

The first experience you have of “God” is with your parents, and therefore, your worldview in adulthood is a result of transference. These early experiences often cause you to form a personal worldview that is not rooted in your reality. In childhood, God’s nature and the nature of our parents are indistinguishable. If our parents are loving, forgiving, and peaceful, we will believe God and the world to also be so. If our parents are domineering, punishing, and chaotic, that is how we will experience God and the world. If our parents are neglectful, we may see God or the world as uncaring, and so on.

Problem #3: Opposing Perspectives

We live in a world with huge masses of people who have totally different ideas about the nature of the world and yet must coexist. Due to each individual’s micro experience growing up, everyone believes their own worldview is universal, rather than relative. This creates conflict. To make things more difficult, most people have no real idea of what their worldview is. They are unaware of their own assumptions and blind spots, and yet, they believe they are fully aware. 

Solution: Review and Revise

No hand-me-down worldview will be adequate for a growing individual. To take on someone else’s worldview is to take on their understanding of reality. If you do that, you will express yourself through that inherited understanding, and not your own. This results in you doing, saying, thinking, and believing things that don’t reflect who you are or how you see the world. To grow spiritually, you need to actively question everything you believe. It starts by no longer trusting the original belief system and forcing it to earn its place by questioning its validity. 

To develop a realistic personal worldview, you have to be willing to revise your understanding of your external and internal reality to integrate new knowledge. You need to constantly expand your understanding of the greater world and your place in it. This is the practice of revising your reality maps, as noted in the first section of the book. You start this process by first rejecting your parents’ worldview (as it is always more narrow than yours), and replacing it with the worldview of science.

For example, perhaps you have a lifelong belief that to be a good person you must place the needs of others before your own. You might consider where this belief came from, and find that it was a belief instilled in you by your parents, who taught you to neglect your needs in favor of focusing on others. To revise this belief, you might ask yourself whether or not this belief makes rational sense. Of those you know in your life, identify the ones who place their needs above others, those who place others’ needs above their own, and those who occupy more of a middle ground. Do their varying approaches have an impact on the quality of their character? Are they happy or unhappy? How do you feel as a result of placing the needs of others above your own? Is there perhaps a different approach you can take that will allow you to take care of yourself and support others as well? 

The Scientific Method

Initially, your path to personal worldview must be based on knowledge, rather than faith. You need to learn in order to liberate yourself from the worldview established by your formative years. Learning facilitates the expansion of the self, and consequently the expansion of your worldview. Be willing to release your limited vision in order to embrace a more expansive vision. It’s more comfortable to keep your old road map, but only in the short term. In the long run, embracing the discomfort of revision will enrich your growth. 

To release your inherited worldview, you need to rigorously evaluate its validity using scientific principles. Once you have developed a new worldview, you may use the same principles to revise and maintain it: 

  • The universe is tangible and should be studied. 
  • The universe abides by natural laws, which make it predictable.
  • In order to accurately work with the laws, you need to use scientific methods to test them.
  • This can only be done through direct observation and experience. 
  • The process and results of the observations or experiences must be able to be replicated (it must be confirmable that others will experience the same results with the same process).

The more valid your personal worldview is, the more it contributes to your growth and well-being.

Developing and Navigating Your Personal Worldview

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  • The four key elements in the path to enlightenment
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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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