“When once virtue has toughened the mind it renders it invulnerable on every side. . . Reason routes the vices not one by one but all together: the victory is final and complete.” – Seneca
Here are a few virtues I think are under-appreciated, especially in people my age. These are things I aspire to.
Simply, the ability to cope with discomfort. People who are tough do things they know they have to do, even if these things are painful physically or emotionally. The ability to step outside of your comfort zone, and to defer superficial happiness for long-term gains.
The ability to suffer without complaint. All my personal heroes who lived in less modern times dealt with things that are unimaginable to me today– disease, famine, stress, hard work, physical discomfort. Wooden beds, rough cloth, manual labor, poor medical care. And they took it all without complaint, living their lives the best they could with what they were given. But we still complain about these things.
Seriousness / Attention
The ability to focus intensely on a single task for an extended period. Do I need to point out how valuable this is? Or how rare?
Put more broadly, it’s the acknowledgment that it is possible for one to control his thoughts and that his life will benefit from thinking the right ones and rejecting the wrong ones. This is fundamental to many religions and philosophical traditions, but still somehow seems lacking in so many people. In a world where everything is a joke, a reference, or a comment on something else, I see beauty in single-minded focus on the task at hand and the purifying of one’s soul and the thoughts it produces.
Almost nobody doesn’t feel like they ought to exercise more, eat less, read more, watch TV less, work harder, manage money better, love more sincerely, and make their lives better in innumerable ways. But so many people fail from lack of discipline. Take control of your emotions, dampen your passions and desires. You know it’s good for you. Read a book about the topic you’re interested in. Suck it up and buy an embarrassingly titled self-help book if it’s going to help solve whatever problem you’re having. Take responsibility for the way you spend your time and the thoughts that flow from your mind. With the right approach, your life is more malleable than you think.
It’s a really fine line between bragging about yourself just enough to be an effective promoter and going so far as to come across like a charletan. But I feel like most people err in the direction of the latter. It is a law of power: Always say less than necessary. Another law of power: Never outshine the master. Just stay humble and stay diligent and there will never be any trouble.
I define this as the ability to see the world as it is with clarity, not as you want it to be or as you think it should be. When people feel uncertain about the future, they turn to the past. Look at the recent boon in 90s nostalgia among people in their twenties. This represents a disinclination to see the world for what it is– a new landscape to bravely enter and try to make the best of, despite a weak economy and you quarter-life ennui– in favor of an attempt to revert back to childhood.