“The happy life is regarded as a life in conformity with virtue. It is a life which involves effort and is not spent in amusement….”
“Only the good can be happy, and only the virtuous can be good.” — Aristotle
This is the philosophy behind the LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS enshrined in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. To paraphrase, the Declaration says that among the inalienable rights the individual is endowed with the right to pursue a life in conformity with virtue (moral goodness). Aristotle emphasizes that this is a life of effort not the happy-go-lucky care free existence at the mercy of happenstance (chance circumstance).
Aristotle taught that the well reasoned individual seeks excellence. (Remember the book In Search of Excellence?) Excellence is virtue–the best good. Developing a virtuous character produces virtuous actions (the right thing, at the right time, in the right way.) At least in those being true to themselves. The well reasoned person seeks virtue because it encompasses that which promotes human flourishing, which in turn brings maximum pleasure.
The first step in the pursuit of virtue is, then, to develop ones character–right thinking. Using reason, what are the best good traits in the human character? There are lists from many sources. Many have been identified as universal–for example kindness. Once I pick out a virtue how in the world do I incorporate it into my character as an ingrained habit of thinking? Here are a few links that got me thinking:
“What is Character? Its 3 True Qualities and How to Develop it” by Brett & Kate McKay ————– “As we are faced with varying circumstances each day and judge and decide how to act, our actions become our habits, and our habits become our character….“
“How to Build Character Through Integrity” ————– “Be conscious every day of the decisions you make, however big or small, and how close they bring you to being the person you really want to become.”
“Six Steps to Developing Character” —————- “Understand the Quality. Grasp Its Actions. Realize Its Benefits. Practice Its Actions ”
“How to Develop Character” byChuck Gallozzi —— “How do we develop character? First we decide what it is that we value. A value is one of many goals that we consider more important than passing desires. It is the rudder of a ship that guides us to our destination. And the fuel for the ship is self-control.“
“Critical Success Factor: Developing a Moral Character to Achieve Greatness” by Brian Tracy ———- “If you want to change your outer world, you must go to work, like a computer programmer at a keyboard, to reprogram your subconscious mind, your world of values, beliefs, and inner convictions so that the person you are inside is exactly the mental equivalent of the life you want to enjoy on the outside.”
As I understand it, I need to decide what to value–pick a moral concept, define it, and decide at the deepest level whether or not I believe it is right. Then find out how that is made manifest as right action at the right time.
So, where are those lists….