Everyone should have a short list of “core personal virtues” that they understand well and that they consciously implement daily. Ideally, you’re able to count your core virtues on one hand (so that you don’t overwhelm yourself or become unfocused by too much recalling).
You should be able to define your core virtues clearly and psychologically access them at anytime.
In determining your core virtues, think about which guiding principles are most meaningful and most beneficial to you and to others.
Although your core virtues may change to varying degrees over time, try to establish and be clear about the ones that are most consistent for you, and that are most applicable across situations, and that are most likely to stand the test of time.
NOTE: It’s very important to consistently cultivate your virtues. This involves the conscious intention of attending to your virtues, defining and redefining them as needed, and actively engaging them so that they’re increasingly useful across a variety of contexts. Without cultivation, virtues will become ineffective and meaningless.
Here’s an example (my core virtues, defined with personal meaning):
Gratitude, or more specifically conscious gratitude, involves feeling grateful and appreciative as deeply and as often as possible. Gratitude is my key to overriding negative emotional states – I know I cannot remain angry or resentful or unsatisfied when I activate gratitude. Gratitude is an all-encompassing attitude and mindset of deep appreciation and humility. It’s being actively aware of all the “good” around me and in the world.
Compassion primarily involves understanding, or the genuine attempt to understand others. Compassion, based in conscious understanding, is outwardly expressed as patient attention, care, and kindness. First and foremost it involves understanding the human condition. All people are flawed. Life is often difficult, and everyone is inherently imperfect. Second, it’s understanding there are always many elements that we’re unaware of that are influencing why people are they way they are. Human emotion and behavior are remarkably complex, and thus harsh judgment should be suspended.
Trust involves two types: trust in self, and trust in life (which may also be considered God or the universe). Trust is the antidote to insecurity. It is the precursor for self-security, self-acceptance, patience, and confidence. Trusting in self involves genuinely believing that your capabilities will guide you and protect you, and genuinely believing that if they don’t, you’re resilient enough to bounce back from a mishap. Trusting in life itself involves knowing that so much of life is beyond our control (and thus we must accept what we cannot change) and ultimately knowing that life happens as it happens and could be no other way. Living with this in mind is very powerful.
Calm is an intentional and purposeful state of physical and mental relaxation. A commitment to calm helps with self-regulation and promotes harmony with others and environments. Mentally, calm involves a sense of emotional tranquility, equanimity, and peace. Physically, calm involves stillness, looseness, and gentleness. It’s important to consciously implement calm energy and calm attention. Calmness creates more efficiency, enables more effective action, and primes rational thinking.
These are my core virtues. Feel free to adopt them and personally expand on them if you’d like. At least, try to become more clear about a few of your own core virtues and intend to implement them (and do implement them!) – cultivate them – on a daily basis.