According to Positive Psychology tenets and
Character Strengths and Virtues
Made by Chloe's hand
by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, there are six virtues that support an optimal life.
These were determined via research and through studying classical works by establshed thinkers. The six virtues include:
1. Wisdom and Knowledge: Creativity, Curiosity, Judgment and Open-Mindedness, Love of Learning, Perspective
2. Courage: Bravery, Perseverance, Honesty, Zest
3. Humanity: Capacity to Love and Be Loved, Kindness, Social Intelligence
4. Justice: Teamwork, Fairness, Leadership
5. Temperance: Forgiveness and Mercy, Modesty and Humility, Prudence, Self-Regulation
6. Transcendence: Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humor, Religiousness and Spirituality
From ancient philosophers to current day professionals, scholars have ascertained that these virtues are the source of a life characterized by meaningful relationships, satisfying work and overall contentment; a successful life. People with these qualities are likable companions and reliable workers. Integrity, most would agree, is a good thing.
But, perhaps such traits are not valued in our internet-heavy culture. Qualities like modesty and humility may not breed as much outward success as self-aggrandizement in the current milieu. Possibly, those with a solid dose of the six virtues are not seen as exciting or desirable if they are seen at all. Content in the background, they may be reluctant to self-promote. Plugging away in solitude at a gripping task is a gratifying process in and of itself. Hopefully, the work will speak for them. Sometimes it does and sometimes it does not.
A writer client of mine was depressed because he spent three years writing a novel that did not sell as much as he’d dreamed. A friend suggested that he be more active on social media but he squirmed at the prospect. “You have to be narcissistic to survive these days; self-promoting, aggressive, out there, clever. I just can’t do it. I don’t have the hubris.”
True, successful presentation in a virtual world might require savvy, craft, and bravado. But these qualities can co-exist with character and virtue. In fact, my client and I talked about how a bit of bluster could serve him well.
“Hubris” means false pride but pride does not have to be false. One can be confidant, excited and proud of one’s accomplishments without being arrogant. If you have something to offer – a novel can be a form of bibliotherapy –promoting it is a generous act.
Pushing past your comfort zone can take you to a healthy, authentic, satisfying place. Take the humility/hubris dilemma. Some people would fare better with more narcissism; the healthy kind that involves mining strengths, accepting limitations and maintaining self-esteem. Others need less narcissism; the unhealthy kind that involves entitlement, grandiosity and lack of empathy. Pride and humility are both perfectly healthy in the right dose. When you develop a new character style, as long as it is true to some part of you, it’s growth.
The culture may steer you one way or another but you can adapt without losing your core values. A “compromise formation,” an internal psychological position that respects both the realities we face and the desires or traits we have, is a good template for success. Plus, even if one is at one end of the spectrum or another, most people are a mix of pride/humility, ambitious/retiring, conversant/quiet, etc. Know your issues and leanings, figure out what is required and see what you can muster.
In the end, curiosity, open-mindedness, honesty and forgiveness for whatever irks or does not work is helpful; with regard to yourself and with regard to others. Awareness begets change and perseverance, courage and self-regulation lead to transcendence.
The six virtues plus appropriate pride are a good prescription for a life well lived.
In the words of writer Eudora Welty, “All serious daring starts from within.”