What is a virtue?
A virtue is a trait or quality that is morally good. The word originally meant manliness or valor, however, it’s evolved to simply mean moral excellence.
A common question men ask themselves is “How do I live a more virtuous life?” or more broadly "How can I be better?". In this article, I cover the most important virtues of men.
The philosopher Marcus Aurelius produced a handbook of stoic principles known as Meditations. These personal writings are filled with practical wisdom and guidance for living a better, more virtuous life.
Top 10 key virtues of successful men
Wisdom is the first of four virtues practiced by the Stoics. It is the ability to know what is good, bad, and in your control. We can become wiser through more life experiences. This is why you often hear “older and wiser”, older people have lived longer and therefore learned more from their experience. Of course, this isn’t always the case.
No man was ever wise by chance - Seneca
A simple way for men to practice the virtue of wisdom is to try new things often and become good listeners.
Courage is the ability to do something we’re afraid of. It is to be brave and confront our pain, fear, and uncertainty. It is one of the harder traits to practice as it requires us to accept uncertainty.
“Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.” - Epictetus
Through self-reflection, we can acknowledge our fear. Once we know what we’re afraid of we can force ourselves out of our comfort zone.
The modern definition of temperance is to have self-awareness and self-control. The Stoics suggested we should moderate our indulgences in pleasure. This is more important than ever given the increasing addiction to social media.
Men do not become successful without being disciplined and having self-control. Success in business, fitness, and relationships all require self-awareness and self-control.
“Stop allowing your mind to be a slave, to be jerked about by selfish impulses, to kick against fate and the present, and to mistrust the future” - Marcus Aurelius
A great way for men to practice this virtue is to set a schedule or routine that aligns with their values. Building positive habits will make it harder to give in to temptations. Journaling is another easy method to help with self-awareness.
[Related: The Simple Guide to Journaling for Men]
Justice was the fourth and most important virtue to Marcus Aurelius. It tied all the other virtues together. Justice is the concept of morality, equity, and fairness. According to the Stoics, everyone should be given what they deserve.
There is but one thing of real value - to cultivate truth and justice and to live without anger in the midst of lying and unjust men. - Marcus Aurelius
An easy way to practice this virtue is to speak up when you see something wrong. Instead of being a bystander or partaking in something you know is wrong, just speak up.
Trust is having a firm belief in the reliability and truth of someone or something. It’s what cements relationships together by allowing people to live, work, belong, and feel safe. Trust requires us to be better and live up to what we say. It also means we need to take an element of risk and vulnerability to place our trust in someone.
He who does not trust enough will not be trusted - Lao Tzu
To truly become trustworthy you should be transparent and accountable. Try not to make promises you can’t keep or say things you don’t mean. It's best to start new relationships with trust.
Loyalty is faithfulness to commitments, obligations, or people. It is so valuable because it allows us to take risks by predicting who we can trust.
Nothing, however, delights the mind as much as loving and loyal friendship. — Seneca
A loyal man puts the people he is loyal to first. Be authentic and transparent with those you’re loyal to. Try not to let them down.
Respect is to hold someone in high esteem or regard. To be respectful is to be polite, open, appreciative, and considerate.
Be loyal to those who are loyal to you. And respect everyone, even your enemies and competition - John Cena
Acknowledge other people and ensure there is reciprocity. Regardless of how trivial. People remember how you make them feel more than anything.
Excellence is the virtue of being extremely good at something. Successful men achieve nothing less than excellence in their endeavors. This is often achieved by ensuring they’re a true man of virtue. Committing to all the traits above including wisdom, courage, and temperance.
“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” Seneca
Excellence requires commitment. Chase excellence through building positive habits will move you toward your goals.
Persistence is the ability to continue your course of action despite the adversities you face.
“If it's endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining.” - Marcu Aurelius
If you have clear motivation behind your goals it will be easier to keep pushing when times are tough. Developing a sense of purpose makes it easier to endure hardship.
Optimism is having the ability to be hopeful about the future. Being optimistic helps us be happier and healthier people.
“No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” — Epictetus
Observing your thoughts through meditation will help you become more aware of how positive or negative they are. Through this, you can analyze your thoughts are find positive aspects.
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