I’m trying to decide what makes a life worth living, and for me, this takes place in an ideal universe. And this ideal universe is organised by virtues (though some others might call them values). They’re half decision-making procecss and half goals.
But ideal universes don’t just come into being by themselves. We have to decide what they are, and work towards bringing them into reality through goals. And by doing so, achieve a worthwhile life.
Goals are generally accepted as things that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound – and my values are anything but that.
They need to be refined into tangible/objective/hard (e.g. lose 5kg) and intangible/subjective/soft (e.g. feel better) outcomes. Some of mine will simply be decisions, processes or habits that will save time and effort later.
Once these outcomes are defined, it’ll be easier to bring them to fruition. Kind of like a project – Project Worthwhile Life. I need to make decisions, plan and execute, monitor and control. And over the next few years, evaluate, redefine and redevelop.
Planning a Worthwhile Life
Fortunately, I’m good at planning, organising, and project management, so that’s a big help!
- define scope
- decide and schedule the activities required to achieve each aspect
- determine the costs, risks and so on
- formulate plans to control the costs, risks and so on
You can see from my initial brain dumping mind map that there is a fair bit of overlap in some of the focus areas.
- On the one hand, this is a disaster! It will make it very difficult to plan and implement activities, and measure their outcomes.
- On the other hand, this is great news! It means a worthwhile life is messy and interconnected and folds in on itself and spirals out again – beneficial impact in one area flows through to other areas, reinforcing and magnifying effort.
- On the first foot, it requires some virtues consideration to see if the amount of overlap can be reduced.
- On the other foot, it will be easier to work this out before I put too much effort into developing the plan.
So my next step is to reconsider the virtues boundaries.
Which sounds a bit tedious, Worthwhile Life or not, but if you spent as much time working through the mind map as I did making it, you’ll see it’s more or less all there in the picture.
The Life End of the Project
Over the next few years, I intend to purposefully shape my worthwhie life around the results of these reflections.
I’ll experiment with virtue based decision making; from purchasing to organising my life, to event planning, to what to do in my “spare” time.
For the Ancient Greek Philosophers, a worthwhile life consisted of the state commonly translated as “human flourishing”, or sometimes just happiness. And as you’d expect when you get more than two people together, they disagreed about what human flourishing was.
For some it was just developing and using excellence of character (commonly translated as “virtue”), and for others virtue, as well as achieving and maintaining health and wealth, was a kind of old old school Hierarchy of Needs.
It must be noted that, in this context, morality in the sense of right and wrong is irrelevant – for the Ancient Philosophers developing kick-arse physical perfection was a virtue, but a lifetime spent in the pursuit of awesome plumbing skills was equally virtuous.
The Place of Virtues in a Life Worth Living
I think a life of virtue, sounds tremendously satisfying.
It’s also in keeping with my thoughts on becoming a more complex person, and can be seen as a life spent learning who you are and living according to your nature.
Let’s use the virtue of Beauty as an example – sadly I don’t have the Ancient’s interpretation of beauty to hand, but we can take a stab at what the modern equivalent might be.
It would cover the physical aspects of pursuing health (diet and exercise) as well as aspects that might ordinarily be considered vain, such as bodybuilding, cosmetic surgery, tooth whitening, skin and hair care, makeup or even curating a shoe, handbag and clothing collection.
It might even include aspects of deportment (or suavity – isn’t that a great word!) such as manners, charm and carriage. All equally worthy of time and effort spent in development.
Another useful aspect of working with virtues rather than values (aside from aiming at excellence), is their connotations.
- “Virtue” is often overlaid with notions of honour, integrity and character. As I said in flourishing and again in spirit, I am hoping to develop what you might call a more sophisticated operating system so the concept of virtue combines neatly with that.
- “Value” is usually associated with cost or profit, e.g. the value of your house, the cost of your education, or the amount of money your bank made off you last year. I mentioned in prosperity that I am only interested in sufficient income to meet my needs so I am not really comfortable placing finance at the heart of my Worthwhile Life.
That just leaves the question of what the virtues might be.
I’ve gone through a process, starting with the aspects of my life I feel are valuable to me, and mapping out the virtues I believe relate to them in a schools of excellence kind of way.
Perhaps in some other universe there really is a school you can attend to develop your friendship skills, but in this one, I will have to develop them on my own. The virtues I have chosen are:
I take care of my physical wellbeing and surroundings. I live the authentic me.
|Taking care of my body: diet, exercise, taking my medicines
|Developing a “look” or style that indicates who I am, e.g. tiger stripes telling people to tread carefully!
|Creating a comfortable, happy, cheerful, welcoming and calm home that reflects who we are right now
|Constructing a lush garden for summer shade, winter storm protection, food production and mystical defence
I trust and treat other beings as well as I want to be treated.
|Maintaining and improving relationship with significant other.
|Maintaining and improving relationships international and e- friends, making new friends, especially local.
|Managing and constraining relationships with family.
|Establishing a safe and fun space for my dogs that includes safe haven for native creatures
|Giving something back to the community and the planet.
I pursue activities for their own sake; meeting friends, international vacations, relaxing and recharging.
|Taking risks and international vacations.
|Resting, relaxing, recharging.
I have the capacity for choice so I challenge my thinking, live intentionally and courageously act on my convictions.
|Becoming a more complex person by challenging beliefs. Understanding and developing my mind: critical thinking, self-reflection, subject expertise. Having the courage of my convictions, choosing me for me.
|Having the capacity to make choices
I feel prosperous, my income meets my needs.
|I have sufficient income to meet my needs.
And that’s where we leave it for now (oof!). If you made it this far – congratulations. Go have a stiff drink, or a cup of tea or coffee according to your circumstance (stiff drink for me).
Or spare a moment or two to tell me what you think about my approach.
Next stop, the specifcs of beauty.
Mind map by me!
You can find my monthly reports and other planning related information on the Life Worth Living page.
Planning a Life Worth Living
Let’s face it, life is short. If you don’t stop to think about how you’re going to make it count, at the end of the day, it won’t.
Planning a Life Worth Living applies business techniques to personal concerns. Using these techniques, you’ll get to the end of the year satisfied with what you’ve achieved.
Discover how to put your life back into your life planning. Buy now: