This isn't the easiest virtue to tackle, simply because this value means different things for different people! Some people will find happiness and meaning through religion, while others will find meaning without it. Some will want to find it through their profession and others will look to their family. No matter how you want to find meaning, you need to develop that sense of purpose that will drive everything you do and make your life worthwhile.

Some readers will want to improve on this after they tackle some of their more fundamental problems, but those who can't find the motivation to improve their lives, or have started their studies in virtues with a goal to find meaning or overcome depression in mind will want to give transcendence more expediency. No matter where you are, however, you will need to face the greater meaning of your life sooner rather than later.

Most of the traits under transcendence involve making everyday life more enjoyable on a higher level. Spirituality, on the other hand, involves finding the greater goals and ideas that will serve as a backdrop for your days, months and years. If you are not sure about the good you can accomplish with your life or are feeling down in general, you might want to first work on the skills that will make day-to-day life more enjoyable and also give you the motivation to try your best. If you are living well from day-to-day but are troubled because you feel your successes has no meaning, you will want to focus more on your spirituality. Whatever the case may be, you might not be able to do the work you need to improve your life if you are not excited about its potential and destination.

Success in a lot of these goals is simply based on changing your attitude. If you can try to push negative thoughts (that serve no purpose) out of your head, you will naturally have more hope and develop a better sense of humor about the world around you. If you develop the attitude to enjoy and improve the life you have rather than construct the ideal world that you (or others) have envisioned for you, you will be much more open to living a life in a way that is transcendently happy.

The other task you have on the journey to transcendence is a lot of self-evaluation; you need to learn to see your life for what it is, along with all your faults and good traits, and not give into the urge to justify your shortcomings or beat yourself up over your faults. It is indeed know you are an imperfect being and still love yourself and have hope for your future—learning how to do this is, in fact, essential for almost any growth. Once you know your potential and where you need improvement to reach that potential, then you are better prepared to construct a greater goal and life-story that you will use to give your life meaning. If this doesn't make full sense now, don't worry, it will be explained in detail later.

While trying to achieve this virtue, you will be benefited by taking the time and energy to experience life and enjoy new things. You will also benefit from keeping a record, not only to track your progress like we advocate throughout the rest of the site but also for constructing the story that you will use to ponder over your life and give it purpose.

Strengths of Transcendence

These are the traits that can help you achieve transcendence:

  • Appreciation of beauty and appreciation of excellence — This is the ability to see beauty in nature, art, people, and common experiences, and also to appreciate the excellence in yourself and also others.
  • Gratitude — If you learn to be thankful for what you have, your attitude will be better prepared for contentment.
  • Hope — If you have no hope, then every task and goal you attempt will be impeded by the weight of your hopelessness.
  • Humor and playfulness — This trait helps you cope with the negative aspects that pop up in life, and helps you heal both your wounds and the wounds in others.
  • Spirituality — Finding a goal and self-story gives your life more meaning. This trait is about finding a purpose greater than getting through every day.


To mature is in part to realize that while complete intimacy and omniscience and power cannot be had, self-transcendence, growth, and closeness to others are nevertheless within one's reach.

Sissela Bok

This is the true joy in life: Being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

George Bernard Shaw

Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others...for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.

Albert Einstein

Golden Mean

Mundaneness, Cynicism
Otherworldliness, Starry-eyed idealism

Recommended Reading

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment — by Martin Seligman

This book focuses on incorporating strengths into your life rather than fixing weaknesses. A great book for finding happiness and contentment.

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living — by Dalai Lama, Howard C. Cutler

This book contains an interview of the Dalai Lama on the subject of finding peace and happiness. It provides good insight no matter what your beliefs are.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) — by Don Miguel Ruiz

This book is about a code of conduct developed by the ancient Toltec peoples. It provides good advice for anyone making a fundamental change to their lives toward peace and happiness.

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.

Life without industry is guilt. Industry without art is brutality. John Ruskin