In order to make ourselves and our world better, we need to develop our skill at the art of living. During these ten weeks, we think about the concepts and competencies which help us live well – both in terms of large, categorical virtues and in terms of smaller, more concrete skills.
Thinking about virtue entails slowly changing the way we perceive the world and molding our reactions to it. We seek to build up our characters and cultivate habits which over time produce human flourishing. During the virtue weeks, we follow the research of (among others) two modern psychologists, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman. We take our structure from their classification of the virtues and many of our resources from the VIA Institute on Character which continues that work. Peterson and Seligman enumerate six main virtues – wisdom, courage, justice, humanity, temperance, and transcendence – with multiple sub-virtues belonging to each one (they call these character strengths). You can test your own character strengths on the VIA website.
In order to successfully navigate life, we also spend time this season acquiring more direct skills. Getting around in the world is no simple matter, and there are many domains of everyday life which require specialized knowledge. These skills, which many of us pick up incompletely in an ad hoc way, are worth addressing intentionally. Because there are many such skills, and because they are less categorical than the virtues, we shall not return to the same ones each year.