The 4 basic pillars of a meaningful life, according to philosophy

In one of my first philosophy classes, the professor introduced us to the four pillars of a meaningful life — according to ancient and contemporary philosophers. Namely, these were wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice. It was a revelation to me, to think there could be more to life than the pursuit of success or happiness.

I was intrigued by this concept and decided to delve deeper into it. I read books, attended lectures, and engaged in countless debates with my peers. The more I learned, the more I realized how different these pillars were from what I had been taught growing up. It was a stark contrast to the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality that had been ingrained in me.

After graduating, I tried to apply these principles in my life — with varying degrees of success. But despite the challenges, it felt like a journey worth undertaking.

Now, after years of introspection and self-discovery, I’ve come to understand and appreciate these pillars on a much deeper level. And surprisingly enough, they’ve led me back home — not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. As I reevaluate my life’s purpose through this new lens, I find myself experiencing an unexpected sense of fulfillment.

So what does it really mean to live a meaningful life, according to philosophy? Let’s delve into it.

Discovering the four pillars

At the heart of my philosophical journey was the exploration of the four pillars — wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice. These four core concepts became my guiding lights, helping me navigate through life’s complexities.

  • Wisdom wasn’t just about accumulating knowledge for me. It was about understanding and applying that knowledge in day-to-day life. It was about making mindful decisions, not just reacting to situations.
  • Courage was about facing my fears and obstacles head-on. It was about embracing vulnerability and not shying away from difficult conversations or situations. It meant standing up for what I believed in, even when it was uncomfortable to do so.
  • Moderation taught me the importance of balance in all aspects of life — be it work, relationships, or personal pursuits. It made me realize that excess of anything can lead to instability and discontentment.
  • Lastly, justice made me realize my responsibility towards society. It reminded me that my actions have consequences and that I should strive to uphold fairness and equality in all my dealings.

Applying these principles wasn’t always easy. There were times when I faltered, when I gave into fear or tipped the balance in favor of excess. But each time, I found myself coming back to these four pillars, using them as a compass to guide me back on track.

The pursuit of happiness and success — a misguided focus?

Growing up, I was led to believe that happiness and success were the ultimate goals in life. The American dream, in all its glory, preached that with hard work and determination, you could achieve these goals.

However, my philosophical journey made me question this belief. I started wondering if happiness and success were truly the end-all-be-all of life. Could there be more to life than just these two facets?

I realized that while happiness and success are important, they are not the only components of a meaningful life. They are more like by-products that come when we live our lives according to the four pillars of wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice.

This realization was a game-changer for me. It made me question the conventional narrative around life’s purpose. It made me realize that there is more to life than just chasing after happiness or success.

Integrating the four pillars into daily life

The journey to integrate the four pillars into my daily life was gradual, but profound. I started with small steps, making conscious decisions based on these principles.

For example, when faced with a tough decision, I would filter it through the lens of wisdom. I would ask myself, “What is my understanding of this situation? Am I making a mindful decision or just reacting?”

When I was afraid or hesitant, I reminded myself of courage. It was not about being fearless but being able to face those fears.

I practiced moderation by creating balance in my life. I learned to say no when it was necessary and to prioritize my time and energy.

And finally, in every interaction, I tried to uphold justice. It meant treating others fairly and standing up for what’s right.

This approach didn’t just change my perspective – it transformed my life. It made me realize that a meaningful life is not about pursuing happiness or success alone. Rather, it’s about living in accordance with these four pillars.

If you’re on a similar journey, remember that it’s not about perfection but progression. Each step you take towards integrating these principles into your life brings you closer to living a more meaningful life.

Stepping back and embracing self-empowerment

In this transformative journey, I learned some invaluable lessons that go beyond the four pillars. These lessons may not be directly related to philosophy, but they’ve played a crucial role in my personal growth and self-improvement. So, let me share a few:

Taking responsibility for my situation was empowering. Even when things were not my fault, owning up to them gave me control and helped me navigate through challenges.

I learned the importance of thinking for myself. Society, culture, and even our families can impose expectations on us. But it’s crucial to identify and pursue our own ambitions and desires.

Facing reality was another key lesson. It’s easy to fall into the trap of blind positivity, but acknowledging your dissatisfaction or struggles is the first step towards improvement.

Breaking free from societal expectations was liberating. It allowed me to align my life with my true nature, and not what others expected of me.

Lastly, dedicating time daily for self-improvement techniques became a non-negotiable part of my routine. It was no longer about feel-good mysticism but practical self-development.

To sum it up:

  • Take responsibility for your situation.
  • Think for yourself and pursue your own ambitions.
  • Acknowledge your current dissatisfaction or struggles.
  • Break free from societal expectations.
  • Dedicate time daily for practical self-improvement.

Embracing these lessons has empowered me to reshape my own reality. It’s been a journey of self-exploration that I continue to embark on each day.

Picture of Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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