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The Meaning and Definition of Virtue

August 5, 2018

Virtue is defined in the dictionary as ‘a behavior that shows

high moral standards.’ 


This means that one with virtue behaves and acts in ways that demonstrate goodness and integrity. When we act with virtue we behave with respect, dignity, and good character. Virtue dictates that we do what is right, not what is simple, easy, convenient or self-serving. Virtue guides us to behave correctly, taking into consideration not only our own values and needs, but also the needs of others. In the book: 7 Virtues for Success and Happiness, we will explore how the seven virtues establish a foundation for creating a truly successful and happy life. 


Virtues for Achieving Success and Happiness


The seven virtues that we will discuss are courage, temperance, diligence, justice, humanity, wisdom, and transcendence. All of these virtues except diligence, are spoken of and classified in positive psychology as universal virtues.  According to Dr. Seligman, the universal virtues are widely valued by people and cultures from all over the world. I have included diligence in my writing, as many other systems recognize it as a virtue, and I find value in including it since diligence is essential for achieving success.  In the positive psychology framework, diligence would be most closely related to perseverance, which is considered a character strength of courage. (Seligman, 2002)  


Virtues Relate to Character Strengths


Each of the virtues recognized in positive psychology have associated character strengths which are keys to both success and happiness. The character strengths according to Seligman are moral traits such as bravery, prudence, leadership, kindness, creativity, and gratitude.  These strengths may be cultivated and improved upon, and each of us has natural character strengths that come to us more easily than some of the others.  For instance, kindness may come to you more easily than creativity.  Similarly, for some bravery may come more naturally than hope.    


When developed, the virtues and strengths guide and fulfill our lives in many ways. They can give us a greater sense of meaning and purpose in life, improve our relationships, and reward our careers and business.


In fact, in every aspect of life we can benefit greatly by acting with virtue and character strength. The virtues can guide us in personal development, achieving health goals, managing finances, making difficult decisions, finding inner contentment and much more.


When we bring the virtues into our daily lives, act accordingly to their principles, and fill our moments with virtuous behavior, we will naturally advance in having more life satisfaction, success, and fulfillment.


As we reflect on what success is, we may also conceive of success as living as a sincere human being with courage, loving-kindness, and wisdom. 


If we cultivate these virtues as a foundation for successful living, how will this influence our lives? What treasures, prestige, honor, respect and influence will we command when the virtues shape the inner structure of our lives?  When we cultivate the virtues and develop our innate character strengths, how does this influence our internal states of mind and overall feelings of contentment?


Many of our positive emotions come from having meaning and purpose in life, and the virtues and their associated strengths can fulfill our needs for both.  The virtues give us meaning by representing some of the most significant qualities in life such as courage, love, justice, and wisdom. Our strengths are also closely aligned with our purpose and goals, and by using our natural strengths we can accomplish our goals.  


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