In addition to the tally you’re keeping of unhealthy feelings and desires, you’re going to simply add another very quick and easy measure. At the end of each day, give yourself marks out of ten for virtue!
That might sound very simplistic but it actually works quite well in practice as a rough subjective measure. You can always make the process more sophisticated if you want by rating your actions in specific situations or giving yourself a percentage score across several different character strengths, such as “integrity”, “self-discipline”, and “friendship”, etc. However, to begin with, you may find it suffices to use the simplest approach and just rate yourself from 0-10. You’ll find this much easier to do, of course, if you managed to set specific goals for yourself in the morning and carefully reviewed your actions at the end of the day. Nevertheless, we’d like everyone to try to rate themselves in this way.
Think of this as a kind of “learning cycle”, consisting of three stages:
- Beginning: Preparing each morning by planning what you’re going to do differently, to act in accord with virtue, and preparing to accept setbacks with equanimity.
- Middle: Acting as best you can in accord with the plan you’ve created, and recalling the link between your actions and core values throughout the day, mindful of how things are going in the “here and now”.
- End: Reviewing how things went each evening, rating your progress, and considering what you can learn from your experience and where improvements might be made.
Setting goals and rating consistency with your most important virtues at the end of each day is a powerful way of remaining connected with a sense of value and purpose in life, as well as identifying areas for improvement. It should help you to pause more often throughout the day and ask yourself: “How does this fit with my core values?” Likewise, people often report that anticipating the review of how well they did at the end of the day makes them more mindful of their character and actions, from moment to moment. So from now on, to recap, you’re going to keep a tally of your negative thoughts, feelings, or actions – the bad habits you want to change – but you’re also going to rate your actions out of ten on a positive scale, measuring how well you’ve acted in the service of your core values.
However, sometimes you may find that you struggle to think of specific changes to your behaviour or activities you could engage in to make better use of your time each day, in line with your core values. In that case, as we’ll see, you may want to set aside time simply to connect with your core values through meditation by contemplating the nature of virtue. That’s something we’re going to ask you to do at least once each day anyway, in your daily meditation practice…