Some might say that virtuous qualities are innate or developed early in life, but you can also learn and cultivate virtues so that they become more prevalent and habitual in your daily life. By practicing being more virtuous, you can live a more intentional life with greater fulfillment, peace, and joy.
Here are seven common virtues. Focus on one a day for a week to gain insight into yourself and bring more joy to those around you.
1. AcceptanceAre you facing a challenge in your life right now or experiencing an emotion you would rather not face? Join the club—this is part of the human experience. The trick here is to reduce resisting experiences that come your way, where you are unable to affect change. Practicing acceptance does not necessarily mean you like, want, support, or endorse everything you cross paths with. Rather, it means you're choosing to allow it to be there without resistance, when you can't change it anyway.
To practice acceptance, identify anything in your life you feel you may be resisting. Notice if there is something you can do to change the situation for the better, and if not, begin the process of releasing that resistance and embracing acceptance. Just as the familiar Serenity Prayer states, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
2. AuthenticityTo be authentic is to feel at home in yourself and be true to your values. Authenticity is important in creating healthy relationships, but it can also be challenging to practice on a daily basis due to fear. You may fear that if you showed up as you truly are—saying, doing, and feeling the things within you without censoring yourself—that others might reject you.
To practice authenticity, do something that truly reflects your deepest needs, wishes, and values. Give up changing your behavior because of the desire to be liked. Speak up for yourself and say/do what’s in your heart.
3. CompassionSara Schairer, founder of Compassion It, a nonprofit dedicated to the social movement of fostering daily compassionate actions and attitudes, defines compassion as “the willingness to relieve the suffering of another.” It can be difficult to sit with your own suffering or observe/feel it from someone else. But like the other virtues, compassion is a skill that gets easier with practice.
Practicing compassion for someone (this can be yourself) who is suffering can come in many different forms. To get started, read Sara’s article and follow its four steps. Before you know it, you will be connecting with others and yourself in a more meaningful way.
4. CuriosityWhen you’re curious, problem solving becomes easier because you see more options, paths, and ways of solving a problem than your non-curious counterparts. You question more; you gather more opinions; you don’t stop at the first solution–which can lead to greater possibilities.
To truly embrace an attitude of curiosity means you begin to question things in your life and the world around you with no attachment to the answer. This last part is the key. Even if the subject at hand is something you know a lot about–pretend like you are getting to know it for the first time and with wonder, begin to inquire, observe, and learn. To do this without judgment requires an incredibly high degree of openness. Embracing curiosity involves playfulness, lightness, and openness–all fun qualities to practice, so remember to enjoy the process!
5. ForgivenessForgiveness can be difficult to achieve, especially toward loved ones who you feel have wronged you in some way. To forgive is to let go of anger and bitterness, making room for peace and love.
To begin practicing this virtue, focus on someone to start forgiving. Read Deepak Chopra’s 7 Steps to Forgiveness to get you started, and then put those steps into action.
6. CourageThere are different types of courage, including physical strength, endurance, mental stamina, and innovation. No matter the type of courage you’re trying to embrace, the presence of fear is part of the process. Ultimately, courage doesn’t mean that you aren’t afraid, it means that you take action despite your fear. As Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
To practice being courageous, you’re going to have to face a fear in your life. It can be something small, like singing in the shower, or something big, like confronting a friend. You choose where to begin. Another good way to practice courage is do something new every day. This widens your comfort zone and allows you to experience things you may not otherwise try.
7. DetachmentThe Law of Detachment states that you should detach yourself, and your ability to be happy, from a desired outcome. Otherwise, attachment to a specific outcome will show up as disappointment when/if that outcome doesn’t happen.
Find out what you’re attached to—is it a goal? An object? A person?—and follow these five steps to detach for a happier life.
If you’ve made it this far and kept up with the recommended practices, you’ve probably gained some wisdom along the way. Wisdom—another virtue—is about utilizing knowledge and experience with commonsense and insight.
Which virtue did you find the most challenging to practice? Which was the most fun? Take the knowledge and experience you’ve gained from these exercises and see how you can incorporate these virtues into your everyday life.
Remember the intention of focusing on your virtues is for you to become more aware of your actions and live a value-driven life—not to master each virtue after one day. See if you can find ways to practice virtues each day. Over time, they will become daily habits.