Magnanimity is the ability to keep your cool in situations of extreme distress, whether they are emergencies that last a few minutes or a struggle that goes on for months. While no one should suggest that recognizing the difficulty of a situation or wanting to speak to someone about it would be wrong in any way, keeping your frustration, fear, and anxiety under control, however, makes you more likely to be successful in these trials, makes you happier during those times you do have to struggle, and makes you more of a pleasant person to be close to. The path to achieving this is going to be different for different people because the problems that could prevent you from keeping a level-head are numerous. It could be anything from anxiety, anger, depression, or something else that isn't even readily apparent to you. This means that the methods you choose to develop your magnanimity should reflect your personal impediments in this arena.

Naturally then, your first step would be to find out what exactly happens that makes you "lose your cool." You could simply be prone to bout of anger when stress or trials hit you, or you may be more prone to a bout of depression when you have a difficult situation in your life. It's possible that instead of a bout of strong emotion, you simply lose you head to anxiety and simply start making poorer decisions. Whatever the case, you need to attack this virtue at the angle of your biggest weakness.

It's possible you have a pretty good idea what your issues are—some are more obvious than others. If you know you have an issue with anxiety, or an issue that only seems to crop up on occasion and you're not sure why, you need to start paying close attention to what you're doing and feeling before and when you begin to lose control. Does it happen when you try to direct your children in public? Or when you feel like a friend or partner who should be sharing in a struggle isn't doing so? Is it more of an environmental thing, like being in an area with loud noises? You should look carefully into everything, even into obscure areas like what you ate for breakfast that morning if you think that might help. You can't strangle a weakness you haven't got a firm grasp on.

The best step to take next is to cheat. Instead of trying to become a different person over night, try to do what you can to change your environment. Make better plans for meeting deadlines with less stress. Be better prepared for difficult treks with the children. Find more personal, quiet time. Get more sleep. These are all the sorts of things you can do to either improve your ability to cope with stress or, better yet, avoid those moments of weakness altogether.

Once you work on improving your environment, you can begin the long journey of tweaking your habits, knee-jerk reactions, and even a little bit of your personality. Using the techniques that develop better self-control can help you take great strides in overcoming the anger of the moment. Having better organizational skills can make you less anxious. Having a different attitude about the things you can change and can't can make a lot of your hopeless moments much less dreadful and terrible. Through building different habits in your behavior and the way you think, you can eventually change how you react to these emergency situations and even affect who you are.

Naturally, this can be a difficult journey, but I have provided some ideas that might help you, or at least get you started. If you are suffering from something more than a little trouble with Magnanimity, then I urge you to consider seeking professional help.


  • Keep a Stress (or "Freak-Out") Journal: Although writing your feelings in detail always makes you more aware of what's going on inside of you, that isn't absolutely necessary for this record (although I would still suggest it). What I mean is that you need to keep a record of each time you lose your self to anger, stress, anxiety—whatever. Try to discover the answer to these questions: What situations cause me to lose control? How do I feel during these situations, and after? Is there anything (or anyone) bothering me that I'm not fully aware of? What could be done to make these situations better, or to avoid them altogether? While a detailed journal might give you more detailed answers, the important thing is to start a record that you'll keep up on.
  • Brainstorm Solutions to Your Environment: Think about everything in your life that causes you to lose yourself. Is it procrastination? Coping with upset children in certain situations? Feeling pressured to host dinner guests? School tests? Getting ready for the day in the mornings? Certain living situations with a spouse or boy/girlfriend? These are all just a few examples of the sort of situations that could set you off and make you "lose your cool". It's okay to feel strong emotions, but it isn't pretty—and your not pleasant to be around—when you lose control over the decisions you make. Write all of these situations down on a piece of paper, and next to each one, brainstorm ideas on how you can change the environment that surrounds you so you can avoid letting a situation escalate to a point where you don't have a full grasp of your bearings. Some of the more common solutions to the environment are: pre-planning (avoiding stress by being better prepared), communicating with others to enlist their help with trouble situations, communicating and working with others in order to improve stressful relationship problems, and removing yourself from these situations entirely whenever possible. Note: Sometimes focusing solely on changing the environment and those around you and never yourself will make you unintentionally behave selfishly. Be careful that you don't forget to look inward as well.
  • Brainstorm Coping Mechanisms and Skills to Help: Like above, write down all the situations and problems that make you "lose your cool". Instead of focusing on your environment, you focus on you and your response to these problems. If you lose yourself to anger during stress, for example, there are plenty of different coping techniques you can try to calm yourself down. Whether it be counting backwards, going for a walk, or meditation, or whatever, only you can discover what works best for you—and it's your responsibility to discover just what those techniques are. You can find ways to help control other problems with magnanimity as well, whether it be anxiety, depression, or whatever. Brainstorm some ideas that work best for you, and if you are not sure, come up with some ideas or read a few books and then test them out! Besides coping techniques, it will be beneficial to brainstorm skills that you could develop to help you be better prepared for these situations. For the difficulty-with-children example, there are plenty of books and classes available that will teach new parenting skills that might help you better respond to special problems. Brainstorm the skills you think will help you better manage each situation as well.
  • Change Yourself: It may just be that changing your environment and simple coping mechanisms might not be enough. You may want to look into taking on your of anger, anxiety, depression, or whatever head on. This could be focusing on some more character-driven virtues, getting some self-help books, or seeking professional help. Changing your inner-environment can sometimes be the biggest step you can take to bring more peace into your life.
  • Make a Plan of Attack: Most of the activities above involve learning more about your self and planning. After you do all this, make sure you bring all of that knowledge to good use. Make a plan on how you will make all of the reasonable and appropriate changes to your environment, your behavior, and yourself, and implement that plan. Make a series of checklists like the ones on this website or some other system to hold you accountable. Doing this will not only make you a more beautiful and pleasant person, but also make your life more fulfilling.

Your Record

Every time you over-react to a situation or lose control of your actions to emotion during stress, mark yourself at "fault"--that's right, no matter how justified you feel. Whenever you make a situation worse for panic or get yourself virtually sick from worry, mark yourself at fault. Plan some goals using the activities above and your own research as a guide. If you fail to meet your goals or participate in the activities for that day, mark yourself at fault.


What makes saintliness in my view, as distinguished from ordinary goodness, is a certain quality of magnanimity and greatness of soul that brings life within the circle of the heroic.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, American Author, Wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin"

Let us bear with magnanimity whatever it is needful for us to bear.

Seneca, Roman Philosopher

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

Benjamin Franklin, Renown Founding Father, Inventor, Author, and Statesman

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

Mayra Mannes, American Writer

Golden Mean

Petty-mindedness, pettiness

Recommended Reading

The Practicing Mind: Bringing Discipline and Focus Into Your Life — by Thomas M. Sterner

This book is about being learning how to be satisfied with the present, and not being focused on filling in every moment with exaggerated, emotional content. A good guide for those looking for new ideas on how to get control over your emotional response.

Awaken Your Strongest Self: Break Free of Stress, Inner Conflict, and Self-Sabotage — by Neil Fiore

The author of this book intends to help you awaken your "strongest self," and provides a program to help you keep control of your stress and bad habits, as well as keeping your self-commitments. This book focuses on more than magnanimity, but all of these skills and changes will help you in this virtue as well as others.

Building a Life of Value: Timeless Wisdom to Inspire and Empower Us — by Jason A. Merchey

This book is a collection of classic and modern philosophies of leading a meaningful life. It aims to help you live a live of "value," and while magnanimity is only one of its subjects, living a full life of value will make keeping you head about you all that much easier and personally rewarding.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

The possession of arbitrary power has always, the world over, tended irresistibly to destroy humane sensibility, magnanimity, and truth. Frederick Law Olmsted