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The Moral Compass: Why Do We Want To Identify Our Moral Values?

Identifying moral values is the first step to living a virtuous life. Stoicism originated in ancient Greece. The ancient Greek word for virtuous is arete. Arete is also defined as excellence. To live virtuously is to live excellently. To be your best self.


Building a moral code for yourself will improve each of the character traits (moral values) that you admire.. This guides us so we can bear the suffering of life without losing ourselves and becoming corrupt. One of the consequences of addiction is we have successfully formed bad habits. We have successfully rewired our nervous system Here's an example of the way our brains interpret our use of opiates.

Example: Rob a store—---—> Get Money—--------> Get High

(bad feeling) (good feeling) (good feeling)


Even though we did a bad action it was rewarded intensely with the chemicals that make us feel good produced by the opiate. Keep doing that, repeating the process and we have successfully formed a habit. Only this is a bad habit because it requires bad behavior to reach the reward. Now our brains find quicker and quicker ways to get the end result. All the bad behavior and setting of bad habits sets us up for failure. Eventually we reach a point where we have used opiates so many times that our brains have come to fully rely on the drugs. We replace the chemicals that our brain naturally makes with the drug.


Overlooking moral values becomes easier over time. We begin to lose sight of our moral values because this makes it hurt less when we do the bad behavior. Like robbing the store in the example above. We will even lie to ourselves and say things to ourselves like “it's a store not a person”. As our addiction progresses so do the lies that we tell ourselves. Eventually our entire view on ethical behavior is distorted and greatly effecting the quality of our mental health. We will conveniently ignore any negative consequences that happen as a result of the bad behavior. To fix this we need to start by finding the moral values we admire and making a list of what they are so we can easily identify them and figure out how to live by them. This is the first step to stabilizing our mental health and replacing our bad habits with good habits. Don't underestimate how good it feels to have good character and do the right things in life. Being a good person feels good. It produces positive results The more positive rewarding results you achieve the more you replace your bad habits with good ones.


The end goal is to become virtuous. We can’t successfully hit that goal without aiming at it. To aim at it you need to identify what moral values are important to you and your life. When we identify our values we can find the principles to live by. With direction from our principles comes responsibility, with responsibility comes purpose. With purpose comes meaning. The more positive meaning we find in life the better we live life well.


How Do We Identify The Moral Values You Want To Live By?


Start a list. Overtime you can add to your list as you have moments of clarity and come across new ideas. Some values come easy to the mind, others take deeper thought. It's helpful to look for the things you admire in people. Whether it’s a mentor, a friend, co-worker or even your own child. When someone behaves in a way that you enjoy and admire, take note of exactly what moral value that you are admiring and add it to your list.


Making a list and clearly identifying values can be scary because specifying our goals we worry we are setting up conditions for failure. When we keep ourselves vague it is easier to not see our failures as well. However, how do we expect to hit a goal that we don’t aim at? Don’t fear failure, desire and aim for success. Remember we need to fill our bad habits in with good ones. Identifying your moral values comes first. Next we need to learn how to live by them. The 4 virtues of Stoicism is a great tool for fine tuning your moral values. Think of it as a moral compass.


Melanie M.



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