Finding Your Virtuous Mean

After you've taken stock, pick the one activity above that if you were to do more or less of would most significantly improve your life or bring you more happiness + joy.

Finding Your Virtuous Mean

There is no right way to do things and no correct amount of time to spend doing them.

What's more important, rather, is to find what works for you.

Aristotle spoke of the virtuous mean. Though he sought to embody the appropriate amount of various virtues, I find it helpful to apply this framework to how we spend our time. If we do too much of a good thing, it loses its good-ness. If we don't get enough of something, we don't stand to benefit the way we could.

Without taking the time to check in and reflect on how we invest our time, we may not realize that we're getting too little of a thing we desperately need more of or too much of something that is no longer serving us. It's important to note: we'll never find and maintain our virtuous mean. What we need and desire will always be constantly evolving. That's why we have to be willing to check in with ourselves often.

Keeping in mind that there is no "right" way to spend our time, let's take a moment to do two things:

  1. List activities + hobbies that come to mind. These are things you do at least once per week or wish you had more time for.
  2. Next to the activity/hobby, without taking much time to think about it, write down whether you're doing too much, too little, or about the right amount of that thing. Keep the thinking to a minimum, simply feel it out, do I need more or less of this in my life?

I took some time to check-in myself:

  • Listening to Podcasts: Too much
  • Watching Movies: About right
  • Reading Books: Too little
  • Writing/Creating: Too little
  • Sleeping: Too much
  • Exercising: Too little
  • Spending time outside: About right

After you've taken stock, pick the one activity above that if you were to do more or less of would most significantly improve your life or bring you more happiness + joy.

When I look at the list I created I realize that I'm spending too much time listening to podcasts. I'm not going to invoke shame or make it a big deal, I'm just going to notice how I'm feeling about the way I'm living in this particular regard.

The third and final step is to take that one thing and ask: what's one specific way that I can do more or less of that thing today?

If you're wanting to do less of a specific activity, pick a time or place in which you typically do that thing. Next time you arrive at that time or place, how are you going to do things differently? Better yet, if you can hide the trigger or make it harder to do said thing, take the steps now to make that happen.

My plan is to avoid listening to podcasts while I do the dishes. This will help me move closer to my virtuous mean while allowing more opportunity to be mindful and contemplate ideas. Which, as a byproduct, may lead to helping me do more of that which I'm not getting enough of.

If you're wanting to do more of a specific hobby or activity, how can you make it super easy to make that happen? If it's an instrument or a craft, where can you visibly display this in your living space? If it's exercise, can you set up your workout clothes the night before? If it's to connect with loved ones, can you schedule outreach in your calendar?

Over time this can become a less regimented exercise, you can keep it simple and light. Hm, I feel I could use more reading in my life. I'm going to set a book out and plan to read at 7 PM tonight.

And I'll say it one more time: there is no right way or right amount of time to spend doing something. But how can you move towards what better serves you today? Take that small action that allows you to navigate to your virtuous mean today.