Kindness. Honesty. Service. Virtues are the essence of our character and when we keep the practice of virtues at the heart of everyday life, we live with purpose.
Virtue, by definition, is the moral excellence of a person. A morally excellent person has a character made-up of virtues valued as good. He or she is honest, respectful, courageous, forgiving, and kind, for example. Because of these virtues or positive character traits, he or she is committed to doing the right thing no matter what the personal cost, and does not bend to impulses, urges or desires, but acts according to values and principles. Some might say that good qualities are innate and developed through good parenting, which they are, but we’re not perfect. Virtues need to be cultivated to become more prevalent or habitual in daily life. With the habit of being more virtuous, we take the helm of our own life, redirecting its course towards greater fulfillment, peace and joy.
Why Practice Virtues?
Virtues are universal and recognized by all cultures as basic qualities necessary for our well-being and happiness. Necessary because when we practice virtues and build the “character muscle,” we will attract what may have been missing in our life such as fulfilling relationships, achievement of meaningful goals, and happiness. The moment we declare, “I am persevering to achieve this goal in spite of all obstacles, self-doubt and fear,” a shift occurs where we naturally become more focused, determined, and courageous, leading us to success.
Often we know that it takes perseverance to reach our goals, and we still never get there. We know if we forgive someone then we may not be as angry and uptight, and we know it takes courage to accomplish great things. So why then, if we know what to do, do we still stay stuck? Because we have not yet consciously and boldly applied a virtue to a given situation so as to alter its outcome, from what has always been to what can be. Here are some examples where practicing a virtue in a given situation shapes an outcome:
- Discipline enables a person to achieve the goal of running a 25-mile race, creating better health.
- Kindness towards someone who is having a bad day can make him or her smile and build rapport.
- Creativity can result in an idea that changes how people relate to one another such as social media.
- Trust in a relationship fosters dependability and intimacy, creating valuable, meaningful relationships.
- Gratitude in a job loss can shift our focus from feeling low to how we can have a new, more fulfilling career.
- Service to others can change lives, better neighborhoods and create stronger nations.
Becoming More Virtuous People
We know we are becoming more virtuous people, not only because of the results above, but also because of the way other people respond to us. Our friends, families, co-workers and neighbors will trust and rely on us. They will come to us for guidance and help, and will want to be around us because we inspire them to be better people. We will be known as people with exceptional character who make the right choices and strive for excellence in all we do. Can life be lived any better?
In summary, the practice of virtues allows us to develop our potential, and live a more purposeful, better life; a life not ordinary but extraordinary. Becoming more virtuous people attracts great things to us; it’s a certainty.
For a list of the virtues, click here.