Courage, Generosity, Industriousness, Discipline, Persistence, Patience, Gratitude, Zeal, Magniminity, Loyalty, Fortitude, Authenticity, and Frugality. Today is a review day. We are going to look at each virtue, why each is important, and how you can cultivate each one to improve your moral character.
What is Virtue and Why Is It Important?
“One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters…But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you chose. But get drunk.” – Charles Baudelaire
Virtue is moral excellence. By living a virtuous life, your actions, thoughts, and behaviors align closely with what is right, productive, and sustainable.
For example, if you are frugal, then you reserve your resources for future, long-term expenses such as a home. If you are loyal, then you invest time in becoming a kinder person to family and friends. If you are courageous, then you stand up against people who attack the innocent.
However, if you pursue a depraved and excessive life, you won’t achieve greatness. Being addicted to bad habits, focused on the masses, and obsessed with false power are all ways to shun goodness.
Your life, without morality, will be filled with corruption and personal failures. Why? Because life is demanding, and the 13 virtues provide the tools, behaviors, and mindsets, you need to excel in life’s many difficulties. Additionally, virtue helps you keep your morals intact while you navigate life’s many challenges.
Therefore, you must study the virtues, understand what they are, and seek to align your actions with their principles. Today, we will define each virtue, explore the pitfalls of lacking moral character, and how you can cultivate internal strength to become a better individual.
1. Courage | Bravery – Act virtuously even when afraid
“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” – Frederick Douglass
Courage is the capacity to act justly, even in the face of fear. For example, standing up to bullies to defend the innocent is moral courage.
Why is cowardice bad?
If you are not courageous, then difficult, uncomfortable moments will prevent you from moving forward. Growth requires discomfort and pain. You will remain stagnant if you cannot stand firm against your fears of future suffering. Additionally, if you lack courage, then manipulators will easily abuse you and the innocent. Only heroes can push back against bullies when evil decides to act.
How can you cultivate courage?
As with all virtues, start small. Look at the little things in your life you’re afraid to do and overcome them. If you are uncomfortable with going to the gym or afraid to ask someone on a date, then focus on conquering these fears. Additionally, focus on building confidence by overcoming small vices in your life so you can create a more reliable you.
Lastly, never forget how courageous heroes exist everywhere. You don’t have to storm the beaches of Normandy to be brave. Have the courage to overcome a vice that threatens to tear apart your family. Or, have the courage to give blood or volunteer. We all have our battles. Face your opposition and do so with fire in your eyes and a steady aim.
2. Zeal – Have a passion for your one and only life
“There is no fire like passion, there is no shark like hatred, there is no snare like folly, there is no torrent like greed.” – Gautama Buddha
Zeal is a love for virtue and a passion for the limitless potential of your life. When you are zealous, you are excited to be alive and to have the opportunity to develop into a better individual.
Why is apathy bad?
Lacking passion leads to apathy, and apathy is death. At worst, too much apathy will lead to cynicism and possibly suicide. However, when you love life, you want to live it as fully and virtuously as possible. When you hate life, you want to see it end. Furthermore, your hatred of life may extend to others, and you will crave the physical, emotional, or intellectual destruction of everyone.
How can you cultivate zeal?
Excel. The more you accomplish, the more pride you can cultivate within yourself. Building yourself by achieving goals and rejecting vice will increase your zeal. The more you progress, the happier you will become. Additionally, involve yourself with positive voices and people. Passion for life is easy to cultivate when you engage with media and individuals who are realistically optimistic, passionate, and driven.
3. Magnanimity | Nobility – All your actions should be noble
“Wanted, a man who is well balanced, who is not cursed with some little defect of weakness which cripples his usefulness and neutralizes his powers.” – Orison Swett Marden
Magnanimity is directing your life towards greatness. Magnanimous individuals seek what is sustainable, significant, and impressive – not what is comfortable.
An excellent example is going to the gym to exercise. I do not work out because I like to. I work out because being fit allows me to live a better life. Therefore, my fitness points me towards greatness and supplements my other, more pleasurable pursuits.
Why is commonness bad?
People who are not magnanimous are lazy, entitled, and weak. The nobler your actions, the grander your life, and the more you can be proud of. However, if you feed off individuals, whine for freebies, and blame others for your mistakes, then your life will become shallow and pointless. Why? Because low-thinking parasites do not accomplish greatness, and the point of life is to perish doing the great and the impossible.
How can you cultivate magnanimity?
Ask yourself if an action or behavior is making you stronger or weaker. Is eating more junk food, watching TV, and sleeping around making you fitter, smarter, or a more reliable individual? Reflect on everything you’re doing and seek actions that build long-term happiness for yourself and other virtuous people.
4. Loyalty | Integrity – Never make your loved ones choose between you and virtue
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” – C.S. Lewis
Loyalty is a dedication to the virtuous. To be loyal is to stand by moral ideas and noble individuals even if you’re being criticized and attacked.
Why is disloyalty bad?
If you are not loyal, then you are miserable. Disloyal people are always prepared to betray others; therefore, virtuous people will avoid you. Additionally, you will only attract other liars and backstabbers. Life is a hard journey, and no one wants to be surrounded by petty, evil people.
How can you cultivate loyalty?
Become loyal by determining what qualities you want to see in others. Then, cultivate those qualities. Additionally, take the time to understand who you are, your faults, and your preferences. Understanding yourself will help you be loyal to the people and ideas you love.
Lastly, learn how to block out the noise from the masses. The media, collectivists, weak individuals, and corrupt institutions want to steer you away from the good. Protect your integrity by ignoring immoral people and standing up to them when appropriate.
5. Persistence | Perseverance – Onward to the accomplishment of your goals
“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand
Persistence is the art of moving forward, even in the face of difficulty. When you persist, you overcome doubts, distractions, and temptations to reach your goals.
Why is uncertainty bad?
People who lack persistence give up on their goals whenever difficulty arrives. Because life is difficult, an individual without persistence is destined to never amount to much.
How can you cultivate persistence?
Those who can persist can surmount obstacles to reach the top. The more you can endure, the more goals you can accomplish, and the more confident you’ll become in yourself and your abilities.
So, how do you cultivate persistence? Start small and focus on little habits. Brush your teeth twice a day, always pack your lunch, and do ten pushups when you wake up. The ability to maintain small habits builds your willpower and strengthens your persistence. Allow nothing to stop your little habits, and soon, nothing will stop you as you pursue your dreams.
6. Patience – Be calm and rational with the limitations of yourself, reality, and others
“Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”
Patience is the art of maintaining emotional control during difficult times.
Furthermore, patience is emotionally accepting the time investment needed to make improvements. Being able to defer gratification is crucial to long-term success. Possessing such abilities requires the cultivation of patience.
Why is impatience bad?
If you are not patient, you cannot defer gratification, or wait for situations to resolve. Your inability to remain emotionally stable will spell doom for your energy as well as your community. The smallest things or inconveniences will rattle you, and this will cause everyone to avoid you.
How can you cultivate patience?
Practice mental exercises. If you have to wait for something or are stuck in traffic, then engage your brain. Furthermore, learn to acknowledge how results require time. No matter how hard you work, you need time to cultivate greatness. Take a deep breath and accept this reality.
Lastly, build better habits to help improve your deferring of gratification. The less the world tempts you, the more you can stay focused. The more concentrated you are, the more patient you can become.
7. Frugality | Thriftness – Be intentional with your resources
“By sowing frugality, we reap liberty, a golden harvest.” – Agesilaus
Frugality is the art of utilizing your resources with a purpose:
- You spend your money on the resources you need.
- You use your time to advance your skills.
- Or, you devote your energy towards self-improvement.
When you are frugal, nothing is wasted on short-term, meaningless thrills.
Why is extravagance wicked?
Those who are not frugal will waste their time, energy, and money on wasteful endeavors and people. These wasteful endeavors and people will not serve the individual’s long-term, sustainable goals.
For example, spending your money on fast food will satisfy your desire for tasteful junk in the here and now. However, your money goes to support a low-brow corporation that gives you mediocre, dangerous food. This food will undermine your health. In the long-term, you’ll have less money, feel like crap, and damage your health.
How can you cultivate frugality?
You cultivate thriftiness by making a budget, tracking your time, and creating long-term plans. The more intentional you are with what you have, the happier you will be.
8. Industriousness – Let all actions be productive
“Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” – Booker T. Washington
Industriousness is being productive with your efforts and resources. You spend your time, energy, and money towards building your character, pursuing virtue, and learning new skills. You don’t allow distractions or meaningless gossip to take you away from your goals.
Lastly, being productive helps you develop the character necessary to withstand difficult times. The harder you work, the tougher you become, and the more capable you are in handling unfortunate events.
Why is laziness bad?
Those who are not industrious are lazy. Lazy people fail to accomplish goals, settle debts, and accomplish great things. Furthermore, the slothful are dependent on the world around them. They do not have the character or the skills to handle problems as they arise. To be a slave to sloth is to live a dangerous life.
Lastly, the lazy are depressed, entitled, and unbearable. If you wish to become an individual other people like and want to see, then develop your productivity.
How can you cultivate industriousness?
You cultivate industriousness through working hard, having clear goals, and finding ways to be more productive. An excellent example if the 50/10 rule. Spend 50 minutes of each hour in intense focus and study. Then, for the last ten minutes, walk around, surf the net, or find a minor distraction. Once the ten minutes are up, engage your work.
9. Discipline | Focus – Follow the virtues; adhere to the systems
“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.” – Buddha
Discipline is the ability to stay on track and focus on the tasks at hand. Through self-control, you create the behaviors and habits necessary for success.
Why is it wrong to be undisciplined?
Those who lack discipline, lack meaningful futures. To build nobility, you must focus on your task to ensure completion. When you can’t concentrate, you’ll have an incomplete life made of unfinished goals.
How can you cultivate discipline?
Redefining your environment, removing yourself from distracting elements, and setting rules and standards. The more rigid your life, the better you can be at accomplishing the goals you set for yourself.
Furthermore, creating systems will help improve your discipline. For example, “I will write 2,000 words a day” is a daily system I use to improve my writing.
10. Honesty and Authenticity – Tell the truth
“The mark of an honest man . . . is that he means what he says and knows what he means.” – Ayn Rand
Authenticity is the act of telling the truth. You have to be honest about everything as well as exclude all dishonesty, including white lies.
Why is dishonesty bad?
The less authentic you are, the hollower your life will be. Liars are not trusted, and they cannot trust themselves. The less truthful you are, the more doubt you will cultivate in your soul. Self-doubt leads to fear and hopelessness. All these negative emotions will prevent you from excelling and living your best life.
How can you develop authenticity?
Tell the truth. Start with the small things and work your way up. Always keep your promises to yourself and be honest about your feelings. The more authentic you are with yourself, the quicker you can practice honesty with others.
Additionally, living a virtuous life makes honesty easier. If you are always on your best behavior, you’ll lose reasons to tell white lies.
11. Generosity | Charity – You have been blessed; bless others
“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” – Booker T. Washington
Generosity is the art of being kind with one’s resources. Remember, charity is not limited to money. You can be generous with your time and energy by volunteering your skills to others.
Additionally, generosity is not limited to strangers. Being a better individual for your coworkers, family, and friends is generosity. To be generous is to improve the lives of others with whatever you have.
Why is pettiness bad?
Those who are not generous will stand alone. Generosity is about giving to others and ensuring they become stronger individuals. When we do not help others, we become hollow, selfish, and self-absorbed. These vices are the most significant dangers an individual faces. Only through generosity can we avoid self-absorption.
Furthermore, do not fool yourself with the “welfare” mentality. Charity is not taking money from your neighbor and giving it to the poor. Neither is charity giving resources to the less fortunate while expecting nothing in return. If you wish to help people, you have to do it with your resources, not your neighbor’s. Furthermore, you must invest in people’s self-improvement, not their vices or excuses.
How can you cultivate generosity?
By giving to others who are virtuous. Help friends and family who are genuinely trying to make improvements. Their personal growth and development will enrich your life and allow them to be generous to you. Furthermore, volunteer at your local church or community center. Work with individuals who are giving food, clothes, and work opportunities to the less fortunate.
Avoid voting your way to charity. You are not a righteous person because you vote for a policy giving the powerful more control over your (and your neighbor’s) wallet and life.
12. Gratitude – Humility in the face of your gifts
“Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.” – C. S. Lewis
Gratitude is the art being thankful for the blessings you have received. As individuals, we must work for what we have. However, there are many social, political, and economic advancements we are borne into. We should be grateful for such blessings by keeping them in the front of our minds.
Why is ingratitude bad?
Entitlement is a vice of the collective. Collectivists believe they are entitled to the labor, resources, and happiness of others. Why? Because they aren’t grateful for anything. They want more and more and can never be bothered to say thank you or pay their good fortune forward.
Don’t follow in their footsteps. Be proud of the resources, skills, and community you have cultivated. However, acknowledge the blessings you have in your life.
How can you cultivate gratitude?
Reflect on the good things you have. Being born in the 21st century with all the technological and social advances is an excellent place to start your reflection.
The more gratitude you experience, the less likely you are to waste time whining, seeking grievances, or becoming the slave to some politician or political movement.
13. Fortitude | Endurance – Withstand vice and evil
“No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.” – Booker T. Washington
Fortitude is the ability to stand against distractions, attacks, and pain. When you have endurance, you withstand everything meant to take you out of the fight.
Why is faint-heartedness bad?
When you lack fortitude, you lack defense. You’ll crumble under pressure, and each inconvenience will sap you of motivation and hope. Without motivation and confidence, you’ll give up on your dreams.
How can you cultivate fortitude?
Small steps. Practice endurance by going to the gym or relieving yourself of play for a day. The more you can build your willpower, the stronger you’ll become as life grows in difficulty.
Why Be Virtuous?
Virtue is a complex subject covering personal improvement, morality, and societal stability. As a blog focused on individualism, my goal is to cover how virtue can help you improve and become your best self. Hopefully, this post helps you understand the best ways to excel. Never settle for anything other than a sustainable, impressive life.
- Which virtue is the hardest for you to follow? Why?
- Which virtue is the easiest for you to follow? Why?
- How well do you believe your life would improve if you followed the 13 virtues?
- I would suggest looking over the Self-Help and Self-Improvement section on the reading list page. These are great books for helping you improve yourself.
- Frederick Douglass’s, Booker T. Washington’s, Harriet Ann Jacob’s autobiographies provide clear examples of persistence, patience, loyalty, industriousness, gratitude, and more.
- Both the Daily Stoic and the Art of Manliness provide concrete, executable advice on building character, pursuing virtue, and overcoming obstacles.
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.