This is quite a long and involved post describing the transition from values to virtues, and demonstrating the revised framework. I think it’s important because I intend to purposefully shape my life around the results of these reflections over the next year. I’ll be experimenting on decision making by virtue; from purchasing to organising my life to event planning to what to do in my “spare” time. However, if you are still reeling from my project introduction, my next series of posts planning out virtue development will include a short summary of each.
As I mentioned in Project Worthwhile Life: introduction, my original values concepts needed some refinement. I am so pleased to be working through this in front of a live studio audience, because you are making me think more deeply in order to explain my ideas more fully. In many ways this refinement, or more properly redefinition, needs to go back to the basics of what makes a worthwhile life…
For the Ancient Greek Philosophers, a worthwhile life consisted of the state commonly translated as “human flourishing”, or sometimes just happiness. And as you would expect when you get more than two people together, they disagreed about what human flourishing is. For some it was just developing and using excellence of character (commonly translated as “virtue”), and for others virtue as well as achieving and maintaining health and wealth – a kind of old old school Hierarchy of Needs. It must be noted that in this context, morality in the sense of right and wrong is irrelevant – for the Ancient Philosophers developing kick-arse physical perfection was a virtue, and a lifetime spent in the pursuit of awesome plumbing skills was equally virtuous.
I think a life of virtue, sounds tremendously satisfying. It is also in keeping with my thoughts about becoming a more complex person, and can be seen as a life spent learning who you are and living according to your nature. Let’s use the virtue of Beauty as an example – sadly I don’t have the Ancient’s interpretation of beauty to hand, but we can take a guess at what the modern equivalent might be. It would cover the physical aspects of pursuing health (diet and exercise) as well as aspects that might ordinarily be considered vain such as bodybuilding, cosmetic surgery, teeth whitening, skin and hair care, makeup or even curating a shoe, handbag and clothing collection. It might also include aspects of deportment (or suavity – isn’t that a great word!) such as manners, charm and carriage. All equally worthy of time and effort spent in development.
Another useful aspect of working with virtues rather than values (aside from aiming at excellence), is their connotations.
- “Virtue” is often overlaid with notions of honour, integrity and character. As I said in flourishing and again in spirit, I am hoping to develop what you might call a more sophisticated operating system so the concept of virtue combines neatly with that.
- “Value” is usually associated with cost or profit, e.g. the value of your house, the cost of your education, or the amount of money your bank made off you last year. I mentioned in prosperity that I am only interested in sufficient income to meet my needs so I am not really comfortable placing finance at the heart of my Worthwhile Life.
That just leaves the question of what the virtues might be. I haven’t gone through a second process to develop virtues – I’ve just taken the overlapping values (e.g. meeting friends for lunch) and kind of reimagined them as schools for excellence. Perhaps in some other universe there really is a school that you can attend to develop your friendship skills, but in this one, I will have to develop them on my own. The virtues I have chosen are:
|beauty||I take care of my physical wellbeing and surroundings. I live the authentic me||combines aspects of flourishing and household to create one category for aesthetic pursuits|
|friendship||I trust and treat other beings as well as I want to be treated||combines aspects of relationships, household and growth relating to how I deal with others|
|pleasure||I pursue activities for their own sake; meeting friends, international vacations, relaxing and recharging.||renaming pastimes to denote things that are done for their own sake|
|wisdom||I have the capacity for choice so I challenge my thinking, live intentionally and courageously act on my convictions.||combines aspects of flourishing and spirit to create one category for mental pursuits|
|wealth||I feel prosperous, my income meets my needs||just renaming prosperity as a single focus on income sufficient to meet my needs|
The table below summarises the values/virtue reshuffle.
|flourishing||body||Taking care of my body: diet, exercise, taking my medicines||beauty|
|mind||I am merging mind with growth, because on further reflection it seems to me that developing my mind is more of a growth activity.|
|presence||Developing a “look” or style that indicates who I am, e.g. tiger stripes telling people to tread carefully!||beauty|
|household||home||Creating a comfortable, happy, cheerful, welcoming and calm home that reflects who we are right now||beauty|
|garden||Constructing a lush garden for summer shade, winter storm protection, food production and mystical defence||beauty|
|creatures||Establishing a safe and fun space for my dogs that includes safe haven for native creatures||friendship|
|relationships||db||Maintaining and improving relationship with significant other.||friendship|
|friends||Maintaining and improving relationships international and e- friends, making new friends, especially local.||friendship|
|family||Managing and constraining relationships with family.||friendship|
|pastimes||fun||I am deleting fun – I see no point in keeping an aspect I can’t adequately define. It also seems a reasonable conclusion that I would not pursue a pastime/pleasure if I did not enjoy it.|
|adventure||Taking risks and international vacations.||pleasure|
|recharge||Resting, relaxing, recharging.||pleasure|
|spirit||growth||Becoming a more complex person by challenging beliefs.||wisdom|
|contribute||Giving something back to the community and the planet.||friendship|
|fortitude||I am merging fortitude with mind into growth – I’m not sure you can plan to develop fortitude unless you have something like a deep-seated phobia to work on.|
|prosperity||income||Having sufficient income to meet my needs.||wealth|
|choice||Having the capacity to make choices||wisdom|
|time||I am deleting time –having time to do things is kind of implicit in pastimes (finding pleasant things to do).|
And the resulting virtues look like this
I take care of my physical wellbeing and surroundings. I live the authentic me.
|body||Taking care of my body: diet, exercise, taking my medicines|
|presence||Developing a “look” or style that indicates who I am, e.g. tiger stripes telling people to tread carefully!|
|home||Creating a comfortable, happy, cheerful, welcoming and calm home that reflects who we are right now|
|garden||Constructing a lush garden for summer shade, winter storm protection, food production and mystical defence|
I trust and treat other beings as well as I want to be treated.
|db||Maintaining and improving relationship with significant other.|
|friends||Maintaining and improving relationships international and e- friends, making new friends, especially local.|
|family||Managing and constraining relationships with family.|
|creatures||Establishing a safe and fun space for my dogs that includes safe haven for native creatures|
|contribute||Giving something back to the community and the planet.|
I pursue activities for their own sake; meeting friends, international vacations, relaxing and recharging.
|adventure||Taking risks and international vacations.|
|recharge||Resting, relaxing, recharging.|
I have the capacity for choice so I challenge my thinking, live intentionally and courageously act on my convictions.
|growth||Becoming a more complex person by challenging beliefs. Understanding and developing my mind: critical thinking, self-reflection, subject expertise. Having the courage of my convictions, choosing me for me.|
|choice||Having the capacity to make choices|
I feel prosperous, my income meets my needs.
|income||I have sufficient income to meet my needs.|
And that’s where we leave it for now (oof!). If you made it this far – congratulations. Go have a stiff drink, cup of tea or coffee according to your circumstance (stiff drink for me). Or spare a moment or two to tell me what you think about my new approach. I’ll see you in a couple of days to talk about beauty.