The following questions are more indirect. That means some of them may not make sense to you or may not be helpful, whereas others will hit the nail on the head. So you may be selective about which ones seem most appropriate to spend time considering right now. If you don’t have time, write down six key questions from this list, or bookmark this page on the Internet. You can come back to these questions and spend time really contemplating one of them in depth each day, if you want…
- Think in general terms of the types of people you admire. What qualities make them admirable?
- Think of three specific people, real or fictional, that you admire. What qualities make them admirable?
- Try to imagine the ideal Stoic Sage, someone perfectly wise and good. What virtues would they possess?
Pick some examples of things you currently spend your time voluntarily doing, such as visiting friends, or going to work, etc. Ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve by doing those things? For the “sake of what” do you do them? Keep repeating this question and probing further in the direction of your underlying values. You may find this sheds light on your priorities in life. Alternatively, it may lead you to question the importance of some of the things you’re actually doing. (Aristotle described a similar technique.)
- If you knew for certain that you only had one month left to live, how would you want to spend the remaining time before you die?
- If you didn’t have to contend with anxiety, or other uncomfortable feelings, what would you choose to spend your time doing?
- What would you choose to spend your life doing, if you were free to do anything, and if you knew you couldn’t fail and were always guaranteed to succeed?
- If you had one opportunity to give advice to your child about life, what would you tell them is most important?
Additional Questions for Reflection
- What do your answers to these questions tell you about your core values in life?
- What do they tell you about the type of person you might want to be or the virtues you’d like to possess?
- How do the virtues compare to each other?
- Which, if any, is most important?
- Fundamentally, is there just one, or are there many virtues?
These questions may seem overwhelming to some people. Just be patient and reflect on one at a time, if that’s easier. Keep your purpose in mind, though, and look for other ways you can help yourself. How else could you really clarify your core values and conception of virtue?