This week, we discuss the best ways to reflect on the virtues, so you practice them frequently and correctly.
Table of Contents
- What Is Virtue?
- How To Reflect On The Virtues
- Perfection Is The Goal But Is Not Achievable – Adjust Accordingly
What Is Virtue?
Virtue is “behavior showing high moral standards.” Moral excellence is not a spectator sport. You do not simply debate, consider, think, or reflect. You act on the virtues by allowing them to embody your actions.
Therefore, virtues are concepts that dictate proper behavior, which maximizes the goodness an individual can achieve. Moral excellence is self-driven, as no one can be virtuous on your behalf. You must choose to be good.
Thus, virtue is a choice. You are not borne courageous – you must choose to be a hero instead of a coward. Your skin tone does not make you loyal. You must choose to stand beside good ideas and people. Your culture does not make you disciplined. You must choose to be disciplined. Virtue is not self-evident or automatic.
Lastly, virtue involves a cost. Being virtuous is the opposite of being comfortable. To be righteous is to choose what is challenging but will maximize the goodness within you. For example, you exercise fortitude by resisting sweets even though you have a headache because you crave processed sugar. However, the long-term benefit of exercising fortitude is improved health and wellbeing.
I have outlined 13 virtues: Courage, Generosity, Industriousness, Discipline, Persistence, Patience, Gratitude, Zeal, Magniminity, Loyalty, Fortitude, Authenticity, and Frugality. These virtues were determined by my experience, culture, tradition, and personal flaws.
How To Reflect On The Virtues
“It’s easy to run to others. It’s so hard to stand on one’s own record. You can fake virtue for an audience. You can’t fake it in your own eyes. Your ego is your strictest judge. They run from it. They spend their lives running. It’s easier to donate a few thousand to charity and think oneself noble than to base self-respect on personal standards of personal achievement. It’s simple to seek substitutes for competence–such easy substitutes: love, charm, kindness, charity. But there is no substitute for competence.” – Ayn Rand
The 13 virtues embody moral, mental, and physical perfection. If you follow these principles, you will live your best life. When you do not follow virtue, your life is directionless and full of vice.
When we embody excellence, we control the worst aspects of ourselves. For example, embodying patience means you can better manage your emotions during difficult times. Or, when you practice persistence, you remain focused and inspired as you attempt to achieve a long-term goal.
To embody the virtues, we must constantly reflect on and understand them. This process gives us the wisdom we need to quickly determine whether an action is courageous, generous, disciplined, and so on.
1. Memorize the Virtues
The first step is to commit the virtues to memory. Remembering the virtues means you can reflect on them at any point when you are feeling challenged.
Reflection requires commitment. Try memorizing the virtues you find the least compelling, then go from them. All you need to do is know what they are and how they are defined. From here, you will find it easier to embody what you understand. For example, you cannot be a loyal person if you do not know what loyalty is.
2. The Morning Reflection
When I awake in the morning, I read the 13 virtues and say the definitions out loud. This practice helps with committing them to memory.
From here, I take stock of the challenges I expect to face today: boredom at work, outbursts from the children, disappointment at not achieving all my goals. Then, I think about what virtues apply to each challenge. Gratitude helps combat boredom at work because I can remain grateful for having a job. Patience helps with children as I remember they are learning, and I must model emotional control for them. Generosity is perfect for disappointment as I remember my efforts and extend grace to my inability to stay focused.
You gain personal power when you anticipate the challenges of the day and prepare for them. The better we expect challenges by applying the virtues to each encounter, the more equipped we are to face those difficulties.
3. The Evening Reflection
“We do not place especial value on the possession of a virtue until we notice its total absence in our opponent.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Lastly, you must reflect on the virtues in the evening. I ask myself two questions: “What virtue did I excel at?” and “Which virtue did I fail to uphold?”
There is always room to improve. Thus, by looking at which virtue you failed to uphold, you can start the process of self-improvement. By looking at where you succeeded, you can acknowledge where your successes and avoid self-pity.
From here, make a plan. Wherever you failed, plan a way to prevent such failings. If you were impatient today, then what can you do to increase your patience tomorrow? Do you need more sleep? Eat better food? Remove yourself from emotionally challenging people? And so on.
This internal conversation serves as the bedrock of your self-improvement. Instead of being passive, you actively engage in your flaws and successes. This engagement produces confidence, understanding, humility, and action.
Perfection Is The Goal But Is Not Achievable – Adjust Accordingly
The virtues are designed to help you align your current actions with the idealized version of yourself. However, no one is capable of perfection. Therefore, it is crucial to fight as hard as you can while remaining somber and realistic about your flaws.
The world does not suffer when we are more virtuous. You will suffer, but only the worst parts of you will. The more righteous you are, the happier and more confident you can be.
“The enemy is within the gates; it is with our own luxury, our own folly, our own criminality that we have to contend.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
- Which virtue do you find it easiest to act on? Which one is the hardest?
- Are you eating properly, getting a full night’s sleep, and exercising regularly? What can you do to start these habits? Once you improve your physical wellbeing, your mental abilities will sharpen.
- Which virtues do you follow that I have not listed? Do you reflect on them daily? Has embodying them made you a better person?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.