“Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.” – Aristotle
Moral excellence, as Aristotle says, is a result of habit. Like anything else we want to master, to become morally excellent or more virtuous takes practice. Typically, we don’t go through our day thinking about whether we need to practice more kindness or more commitment or even more love. Morals or virtues are usually ingrained in us and come naturally, right? Yes, but if we became more mindful of the difference that the practice of virtues can make in daily life, we will undoubtedly lead a more fulfilling and happy life. Mainly because we are striving for excellence; our personal best based in virtues such as love, kindness, gratefulness, courage, and integrity.
By practicing the following six virtues, your life can radically improve in the form of better relationships, peaked performance, and fulfillment of your dreams.
Without commitment, we have little direction or purpose in life. We fall victims to our circumstances, rather than being captains of our ships. But to commit to a worthy cause, to something that holds meaning for us, whether it’s a highly noble one like starting a nonprofit or simply promising to exercise regularly, is when things turn around. Now we have focusing power, there are no more questions, no more being on the fence or wavering in the face of fear, temptation or criticism. The moment we commit to something, thoughts become action and with true commitment, we become unstoppable.
Think about what you are committed to or not committed to in life. Our commitments either move us towards our goals or further away from our goals. The beauty is that we have a choice. We can continue committing to things that are not working for us or to nothing at all, which can lead to frustration, unhappiness and even addiction, or we can commit to things that matter to us and give our lives purpose.
How hard is it to have faith when things are not going well in life? This bad economy has surely tested the faith of many people. People have lost their jobs, foreclosed on their homes and lost their 401K’s. Yet, without faith, it’s tough to even get through another day. Having faith provides a spiritual foundation that allows us to push through difficulties again and again.
Take for example Nelson Mandela who endured 27 years in prison through faith. He had faith in what he stood for, the people’s support and in his eventual freedom, which gave him the will to persevere and keep his sanity. However, faith can be a challenge because we are trusting in things that we cannot see, and that’s not always easy. But when you are faced with a difficulty, practicing faith and trusting in the journey can help you press on and give you peace knowing that things will work out.
When Dr. Wayne Dyer, a well-known personal development author and speaker, forgave his deceased father for abandoning him at just 4-years-old, his life turned around. Before he forgave his father, Dr. Dyer was overweight, in a bad relationship and drinking too much. His writing was not doing what he wanted. But after he forgave his father and released a lifetime of anger and bitterness, his whole life took off. He wrote the book Erroneous Zones, and 14 days after he wrote it, the book became a worldwide bestseller. He got back into shape and stopped drinking.
Forgiveness can change the course of our lives as it did with Dr. Dyer’s. It allows us to place our attention on other things in life instead of dwelling on our anger and resentment towards the offender. If there is someone you have not forgiven, think about how your lack of forgiveness is affecting your life and consider making amends with the person so that you can live your best life.
Gratitude is one virtue that, if practiced, our lives can improve right away. Our natural tendency is to think negatively, which can hurt our well-being. Gratitude helps us to shift negative thoughts to positive ones, and positive thoughts prevent negative emotions.
Also, grateful people, according to scientific research, recover more quickly from illness, cope better with stress, and benefit in greater physical health. There is always something to be grateful for in life. It’s not always easy to be thankful, especially during hard times, but by practicing gratitude we focus our thoughts on what is working in life and this can help us to make positive change.
What incredible insight C.S. Lewis had when he said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” It sure does take great courage to persevere through obstacles. You need courage to be honest with someone about how you really feel. Integrity requires courage because you are doing the right thing no matter how tough it may be.
Think about being courageous when practicing virtues and you will find that becoming more virtuous will start to come easier.
With love, all things are possible, fulfilling relationships, self-confidence from loving ourselves and service to others, for example. And when we look at any situation through the eyes of love, we will experience more peace and harmony and create the same for others. This may seem like a Pollyanna approach to life, and not always easy, but it’s a more enlightened way of being and peaceful path to follow rather than feeling angry and hurt.
Next time when a person or situation causes negative emotions, step back for a moment and make a choice to see that person or situation in a loving way. For example, if someone criticizes you, instead of getting defensive and angry, take a deep breath and make a choice to tell them how you feel, but with kindness and love. You will find that this practice can make for a more peaceful and happier experience for you and for them.