Create your own personal manifesto: Introduction

A personal manifesto is a written declaration of our individual values and intentions in life - and, is unique to the individual concerned. Writing our discoveries down in the form of a manifesto forces us to locate our clarity and becomes a constant source of inspiration, that may be read daily and a medium through which our present self can correspond with our future self. 

I begin with a little background. A few months ago I came across a post on the internet about creating a personal manifesto and the concept resonated with me. Almost simultaneously I was reminded of D. E. Harding's (1988) The Little Book of Life and Death. In Chapter 13 he writes:

And his method is that of vaccination and homoeopathy: cure like by like: give yourself a mild attack of the disease now, and thereby build antibodies that ward of the real disease when it strikes. pp. 65-66 

Thus when besieged by troubles a manifesto is a touchstone to re-centre yourself. You will know how you wanted to respond to situations and change by your earlier exploration and reflections that arrived at decisions and commitments. With a personal manifesto, you have access to a calmer, more rational earlier self. A manifesto can make a huge difference to your life. When at a low point it is time to remind ourselves to doubt our doubts and believe our beliefs. A time to refer to your manifesto for focus.

Your personal manifesto is valuable as a constant source of inspiration, that can be read daily. Some people read their manifesto when eating their breakfast to remind them of their priorities. Whereas for others their manifesto is a mantra with core-principles and truths, that they speak aloud each morning - a prayer with personalised content. It focuses the mind by reminding them of their priorities and reinforcing them over and over again. Thus, your manifesto is a medium through which your present self can correspond with your future self.

A manifesto is defined as a declaration of one’s beliefs, values, opinions, motives, and intentions. It is a document that declares what is important to you. The specifics are relevant to you personally. Thus a manifesto functions as a statement of principles and a call to action. By causing you to evaluate the gap between those principles and their current reality, the manifesto challenges assumptions, fosters commitment, and provokes change. Having a clearly defined set of values gives us the ability to reflect on them and assess if we’re on track in our lives. 

When should you begin to write your manifesto? Some would say the sooner the better, but there are no rules. Everything depends on your needs. Yet, recognise that for the person of the third age it is a duty and necessity to give serious attention to oneself unlike in the second age of life. (I see the three ages roughly taking up about eighty years - child and youth about twenty, adulthood approximately forty and old age twenty years.)

You may wish guidance by referring to the timeless principles of religious or non-religious texts (e.g., A. C. Grayling’s (2011) The Good Book: A Humanist Bible) that show what has worked over the long-term.

A manifesto is not a one time project, although it could be. As you read, listen, learn it's continually revised. This dynamic document reminds you of who you are, what and how you want to be. It is useful for goal setting, staying on course, and getting back on track when life gets in the way - rather than reacting you choose how to respond to events by referring to your values and principles as set-out in your personal manifesto. Thus, manifestos need to change as you change. They are meant to manifest something in you or outside of you. Once you achieve your goal – create a new manifesto for inspiration, direction, focus, and certainly action.

There is no right or wrong way to write a manifesto; the style is entirely up to you. You may want to make it straightforward or launch into impassioned arguments setting out your believe in each principle.

To begin identify topics you want to write about. Some examples: principles, values, habits, parents, spouse/partner, children, religion, politics, love, hate, hardships, self-sufficiency, money, career, personal-growth, healthy-living, fear, and so forth. These are the areas of your life for which you may want to declare your principles. Thus, a manifesto is a document that encompasses: values, beliefs, dreams, and much more. 

Writing your manifesto is a tremendous opportunity for self-exploration. You may be amazed by the range of thoughts, ideas, feelings that arise during this process that facilitates standing back to view them in a less abstract light.

I hope this helps and inspires you to not only write down your principles, values and so forth, but create a manifesto for your life. Not only will it help you grow as a person, but it will help you live out those beliefs. And, when all is said and done, one of the true hallmarks of being a person is knowing what you believe, and having the courage to live them when the chips are down.

Further reading

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© 2012 Alfred L.C. van Amelsvoort PhD

Updated: 27 November 2012