There was one quote in The Happiness Project which intrigued me more than any other. I did not write it down, shame on me, and since it was a library book I no longer have it. However, the gist of the quote was this: According to Aristotle, a virtuous life is a happy life. (Here is a link to a really great overview of Aristotle’s take on happiness, in case this intrigues you, too.)
“Virtue, huh?” I thought dubiously. “Virtue is supposed to make me happy?”
Now, remember, I am married to a philosophy teacher and have been for almost 22 years. Not once in those nearly 22 years have my eyes not glassed over when he starts saying things like, “According to Saint Augustine,” or “Pascal once said…” I am not anti-intellectualism. I love ideas.
What really gets me excited, though, is how I can apply high-minded thought in a practical way to make my life and my family’s life better.
Selfish? Yup. Never said I wasn’t.
Voted #1 least sexy topic in the universe
Virtue, while not exactly what I expected to be a solution to my happiness deficit, was a subject that I could get excited about. As I said, my indulgent husband is an ideas person. Before Scalawag One was born, we had started a list of virtues we wanted to exemplify and inculcate in our children. This was an entirely separate exercise from the Aristotle quote, an exercise which predated my quest for happiness by several years.
We came up with a list of more than sixty virtues. Because at the time we had literally nothing better to do with our time, we rated ourselves and each other on a scale of one to ten for each of the virtues.
I took the twelve lowest scorers on my list and turned them into themes for my Happiness Project. The idea became, “If I can improve on these low-scoring virtues, even a little bit, maybe I will be happier.”
Before I put myself on blast for how unvirtuous I was and still am, please let me say this: Lack of virtue should not disqualify me from being a spouse or a parent. When I said I needed to improve in the virtue of love, it did not mean I didn’t love my husband or children. It meant that I was painfully aware of how unloving I could be sometimes and wanted to change. It also meant that I wanted to love them better and in more meaningful ways. I was giving myself a month to consider this, dwell on it and look inwards to how I could become more loving.
Without further ado, here were my twelve lowest scoring virtues: