Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” I particularly like this quote because as the new year has started, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a good man, specifically about being a man of good character and a man of virtues. I know that I haven’t always been a good man. I’ve done some pretty shitty things in my life, but at the same time I am grateful for my experiences and struggles because they have forged and changed my character for the better.
As a result, I’ve learned there are a lot of things I can’t change. I can’t change my eye-color, my height and I certainly cannot change my past. Yet, I believe anyone can change their character… it’s not easy, but it is possible. For me, the first step was defining my values. I noticed that when I lived in accordance with my values I developed virtues. I found that with practice and dedication to living within these virtues I am becoming a good man.
Character is reflected in our behaviors and often our behaviors are influenced by our beliefs. By defining our virtues, we solidify our beliefs about our values. Once defined, we have a blueprint to guide our actions as we strive to live a virtuous life. Here are 25 foundational virtues that I use as my map for living.
Honor is respecting those over you and acting in a way that is deserving of respect from those under you. Honor is the reputation and alliance that you earn from those you serve and those who serve you.
Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s the strength to move forward in the face of fear. Courage is perhaps the most vital virtue to develop. When we feel the fear and do it anyway we develop courage.
The ability to step outside of yourself and perform an act of selflessness: this is the foundation of compassion. To be compassionate is to value others above yourself for the sole purpose of contributing to the greater good.
The respect you show to others is a reflection of your self respect. For this reason, respect is something you do for yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with others, but you simply value yourself enough to give others respect.
Staying true to yourself and standing by someone else’s side when they face adversity is mastery of loyalty. Never giving up on someone, no matter how hard it gets, for as long as it takes: that is the true measure of any great relationship.
You are only as good as your word. If your word isn’t worth anything, then you have lost a piece of your soul. Being honest is difficult, but it is the bedrock of character. A house is only as strong as its foundation.
Prudence is the capacity to face reality squarely in the eye, without allowing emotion or ego to get in the way, and do what is best for the team.
Grace is giving something to someone who hasn’t earned it, doesn’t deserve it and yet we give it anyway. Simply put, grace is giving someone dessert even though they didn’t eat their vegetables.
When we forgive we are giving up our right to collect on a debt. “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind,” said Gandhi. When I no longer have the need for revenge, then I have forgiven.
Humility is the leadership quality of taking the brunt of the blame when things go south and giving away the majority of the credit when things go well.The leader who practices humility will never ask anyone to do what they themselves cannot do. Humility is leading from a position of service.
Being true to yourself isn’t easy. Pulling off the mask that hides your flaws and living in the fullness of who your are creates a contagion that gives others the courage to do the same.
Excellence is striving is to be better than the day before, never giving in to the voice that says, “That’s good enough.” Instead, listen for the voice that says, “Now that’s awesome!”
Excellence has a price tag, and the price is practice, practice, practice.
There is strength in kindness. A simple smile, a kind word or even an arm on a shoulder can change someone’s life for the better and thereby change the world.
Kindness is your super-power.
Did you know you can’t be resentful and grateful at the same time? Try it.
To be truly grateful is to consider all the gifts you have been given and to understand that no matter what, there is always something for which to be grateful.
There is no truer act of love than patience…. just ask anyone who has raised a two-year-old.
Do what you say you’re going to do without excuse. Suit up, show up everyday and give your best effort.
Tenacity is the ability to stick it out and never give up, to keep going when things are tough and there is no end in sight. This is the only way to live a life of contentedness because regret only happens when we give up.
Be honest, but be tactful. Remember there is another human being on the other end of your words. Strive to live by the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Maya Angelou said, “People won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Be generous with how you treat everyone… they will feel amazing and so will you.
Empathy is the ability to put aside your ego, step into someone else’s shoes and experience their emotions. When we do this, we create connection. The number one emotional need we all have is for connection.
Dissatisfaction is the misconception that you need more than what you already have. Contentment is a mind-set: it’s choosing not to look at lack but see the abundance that already exists.
Unapologetically go after what you want in life. Be assertive and let the world feel the full weight of who you are. Live with passion… without being a jackass.
The most important virtue for success is the ability to cooperate. If you can’t play well with others you’re going to get kicked out of the sandbox. Learn to cooperate and you’ll be successful.
“Improvise, Adapt and Overcome” is the mantra of the United States Marine Corps. Adaptability is the ability to be flexible to change and gain the advantage in any situation. Things that aren’t adaptable break…things that aren’t adaptable don’t survive.
Integrity is the solidarity of our virtues; it is the quality by which we live out our values and prioritize our principles. It is the culmination of character in action. To act with integrity is to be a good man.
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