Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

One way to find meaning to everyday life is to appreciate the beauty that is around you. It's a common perception that those who never visit nature will never see true beauty, but you can actually find beauty wherever you go; beauty is more about attitude and taking the time to observe the world around you than anything else. This virtue also covers the appreciation of "excellence," which you can take to mean the arts, literature, sciences, film, architecture—these are just a few examples of the mediums in human excellence can be demonstrated. While appreciating the arts or other areas wont give your life full meaning just by itself, it can make a significant impact. Knowing about all the wonderful and artful things that humanity has expressed throughout history can give you a more in-depth understanding of what it means to be human and why you and your fellow human beings are beautiful creatures.

Going into the details of this subject is always controversial, even if the need for the virtue itself is usually less so. There are all sorts of ideas, opinions, and schools concerning what constitutes true beauty or good art. Beauty can be difficult to pinpoint for because it is all in the eye of the beholder. One man might find beauty in a forest, while a different woman might find beauty in a cafe on a busy city street. Another woman might be able to watch the waves of the oceans for hours on end. Whatever the case may be, don't let the fact that beauty is different for everyone get you thinking that you're off the hook. Just because you have an opinion about beauty doesn't mean you appreciate it. Some people take so little time just watching and experiencing the world around them that they don't have a strong feelings about beauty. Others may have strong feelings about the beautiful world around them, but never take the time to appreciate it. Absorbing this beautiful world you live in is a significant source for finding meaning, no matter if you find it in nature or in the world created by man; just don't let this one get by! Ask yourself: "Is the beauty I'm appreciating every day truly giving me feelings of transcendence?" Remember that transcendence means something that is beyond normal experience, something of a spiritual experience (religious or not); don't forget that transcendence is the ultimate goal of this virtue.

Believe it or not the arts, movies, plays, or even the buildings around you can give you a sense of transcendence as well. While many people go to movies, for instance, for pure entertainment, at the end of the day these movies serve as nothing but a stress reliever—and there's nothing wrong with that. To get a full picture of our shared humanity, however, you should learn how to enjoy the finer "excellence" of our human creations as well. This may be something you're not used to doing on a daily basis, and you may not always be in agreement with critics as too what constitutes "good," but appreciating art and other works as objects of beauty is a skill; one you should learn and use on a regular basis. Hopefully you can find some form of expression that you can genuinely enjoy as entertainment as well something to appreciate. Appreciating the beauty found in the arts is something that can help you feel a closer bond with humanity in general and give a sense of transcendence.

Below you will find some exercises that will hopefully make beauty a more important part of your life.


  • "Stop to Smell the Flowers": We've all heard this one, but make sure you really make time and schedule it into your day. If you are always rushing right up until that moment where you wind down to get ready for sleep, then this philosophy will be nothing but a simple platitude. Go for walks, shop somewhere you've never been before (without a need to rush), read a book, take a bath instead of a shower. Think of activities where your mind is allowed to slow down a little bit.
  • Twist Everyday Activities into Opportunities to Absorb the World Around You: If you always order out, take time to sit inside a restaurant for a change. If you take your coffee break at a desk, maybe you should try going to the break room or simply relocating to where you can look out a window. Talk to people you don't usually speak to, or ask more familiar people about their day and lives; people can be objects of beauty too (just don't call them objects to their faces). Borrow music from someone that has differing taste from yours to listen to on the freeway. You can find little opportunities if you look hard enough.
  • Take Hikes: Go out to nature or to a interesting part of the city and take a significant hike. Don't just get lost in your thoughts (although they may be nice and pretty too), but make an effort to absorb what is going on around you.
  • Take a Class or Join a Club: Taking dance lessons or joining a book club will give you plenty of opportunities to enjoy the "excellence" that human beings are capable of (could a monkey have invented Salsa? Certainly not!). Classes and clubs are a great, organized way to experience things you wouldn't usually have the inclination or know-how to.
  • Look at Something New for Gosh Sakes: If you always watch a certain type of movie or TV show, do some research about some media from a different genre that critics and people everywhere seem to be enamored with. This will broaden your horizons, and it will also get you out of the mindset you are usually stuck in when you watch movies or TV. New things help you become unstuck because when you see something new, you have to pay closer attention to it in order to absorb it. And the good thing is that if it really is any good, maybe it won't be a totally awful experience for you.
  • Look at Art and Media from Other Cultures: People are just beautiful, and seeing creations from people other than your own culture helps you understand just how beautiful they really are—sometimes simply for the reason already stated above: you'll actually be paying attention to what's going on or what they're doing.
  • Travel: You might not be able to get far, but going somewhere unfamiliar forces us to pay attention and be alive in the moment, and that is usually a very positive, fun experience for us. Don't use limited finances as an excuse. Drive out somewhere or take a bus if you have to, but get out!

Your Record

If you don't have at least one moment in a day when you experience a moment of beauty that is at least pointing at transcendence, then mark yourself at "fault." When focusing on this goal, make goals and plans based on the activities above and mark yourself at fault when you don't follow through or meet your goals—and keep on experiencing new things long after your goal is "done"!


Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Confucius, Renown Chinese Philosopher and Teacher

The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.

Helen Keller, Author and Educator

Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.

Ashley Smith, Author of "Memoir about her Experience in a Hostage Situation"

Golden Mean

Ignorance, incompetence
Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence
Excessive, impractical aspiration for beauty

Recommended Reading

The Intrepid Art Collector: The Beginner's Guide to Finding, Buying, and Appreciating Art on a Budget — by Lisa Hunter

This book is all about developing taste in art and how to acquire your own art within a budget (yes, the title is very apt).

Appreciating the Simple: Reflections of Hope and Solitude in Nature, Home, Garden and Family — by Gary T. Czerwinski

This book contains various essays based on the theme of appreciating the beauty in everyday life.

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.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. John Muir