To live a virtuous life, we must consciously attempt to aim for the highest amount of good we can consistently achieve. This should be done on as close to a daily basis as possible. The reason why I am refraining from using definitive statements is due to the fact that there cannot be perfection or one hundred percent consistency based on our ever changing needs, our ever changing environment, and the combination of the two in simultaneous action. Our needs are constantly changing as our environment changes. Despite these facts, it is still important to be as intentional as possible each day, so that we can focus on the day.
To have intention or intentions is to have an aim or a set of aims at one thing or multiple things, depending on how many aims we have. This often has to do with potential, as is, “we have the potential to set a standard(s) to reach the highest level of virtue” hence why we must aim at that. When this is set, it gives us a blueprint on how to act in the world because specific aims require specific actions in order to be achieved. This is where responsibility and sacrifice come into play.
When we make a fundamental decision on changing our way of being through our actions in the world, we must often sacrifice in order to reach our potential, and fulfill our aim(s). For example, if an introverted person wanted to improve their social skills in hopes of becoming less introverted, they’ll have to sacrifice their tendency to allow people to pass by, and take on some of the responsibilities necessary to become less introverted. This could take the form of looking people in the eye more often, shaking more hands and introducing themselves more often, or carving out time in their schedule to interact with people. Not all at once of course because that would be too daunting of a task, especially if that person has essentially lived under a rock most of their lives. It would be best to choose one of those ideas to begin and slowly make progress in order to minimize the fear and anxiety that would inevitably be pulsing through that person’s system.
Now, back to how this relates to aim(s). An aim for this person could be to firmly shake someone’s hand each time they greet a new person. This could be a jumping off point to be built upon. Once the handshakes are consistently firm, their next aim could to make eye contact each time and saying their name, so that they are fully introducing themselves. How does all of this relate to virtue you might ask?
It has to do with being in harmony with our culture and community. The reason being is that many cultures, families, and communities from all over the world including the United States, Greece, Japan, South Korea, and the Middle East have defined virtue as contributing to something greater than oneself. With that, people need to be in alignment, so to speak, with the cultures and communities they are a part of. The more harmonious and synchronized we can be within our cultures and communities, the more good we can do, and the more positive influence we can have. We often overlook our day-to-day interactions because we’re far too focused on personal agenda, which is understandable, but what we don’t always realize is that our personal agenda can often be realized if we attempt to live a virtuous life.
Some ways that we can do that is to think about the changes we want to make in ourselves, so that we can be a person who others can look to for wisdom and strength. We cannot be of service if we are not fit for service, so it is important we sharpen ourselves like a warrior would sharpen their sword. This is on multiple levels. We should strive to sharpen ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Once we recognize where we need work, that’s exactly where we should start. Once that starts to get squared away and improvements are being made, we can take on more responsibility.
Responsibility can come in many shapes and forms, but underneath the surface of that responsibility lies the positive influence others can receive, which increases an individual’s virtue. For example, let’s say your parents or grandparents are not doing well. It might not be a bad idea to check in on them and perhaps try to help out in some manner to decrease their load, especially if they are not physically capable. They will be appreciative, you will feel better because you’re doing something that is beyond yourself, and the relationship you have with the people you’re helping will only strengthen, resulting in more harmony between all parties.
Let’s say you’re doing something that could be considered “selfish” at the surface level and you want to pursue some form of higher education. It can be considered selfish because people might think you’re doing it merely for a higher level of knowledge and more than likely a salary increase, but whatever degree you receive upon completion of that higher education will make you more competent and useful in your field of work. That will help whomever you work for (even if it’s yourself) tremendously because you will now be providing more value with what you do as long as you become more of a practitioner than a theorist.
With all of this, however, comes a lot of challenge. Nothing virtuous will come very easily. These challenges are subjective and relative according to the actions being taken in accordance to the environment where that action is taking place. The catch is that the environment tends to contain some type of community whether that be family, friends, co-workers, neighborhoods, unions, club members, or anything that can be really categorized as some form of team. Usually, when the team is functioning well, each individual is contributing “their part”, by using their skill set, in order to attempt to achieve the team goal, When everyone is doing “their part” and doing it well, the team goals are more likely to be achieved.
To conclude, virtue is contributing to something larger than an individual. Often times, we need to simplify the idea of “doing our jobs”, to simply try to good people. Good people to ourselves, good people to our family, good people to those we work with, and any person we may meet because we’re all a part of the same game. That game, is life, so try to be good, try to challenge yourself, and try to be of service to others. If you can do that and do it well in accordance to both yourself and those around you, you can be virtuous. You can live a virtuous life.