Are you a “virtuous” virtual worker?Virtue

Most freelancers would probably answer “Yes.”

But what does it actually mean to be virtuous? Are there specific things you can do to cultivate virtue in your work life?

Let’s take a closer look.

What is Virtue?

Recently, I’ve become a big fan of The Taylor Marshall show.

For those of you not familiar with Dr. Marshall’s story, he was a very devout Episcopal priest who converted to Catholicism. He now spends his time teaching theology through the miracle of the Internet.

Anyway, I was listening to this episode about virtue, which I highly recommend by the way (it’s a free download). Early on in the episode, Dr. Marshall made a very profound statement (paraphrasing here):

A good habit is a virtue, while a bad habit is a vice.

In case you’re interested, the Catechism teaches there are actually seven particularly important virtues.

The Four Cardinal Virtues are:

  • Prudence
  • Justice
  • Fortitude
  • Temperance

The Three Theological Virtues are:

  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Charity

As I listened to Dr. Marshall explain each virtue, I started thinking about how these apply to my daily life as a freelancer. What can (and should) we do to cultivate virtuous actions? What are practical examples of virtuous behavior? How can I become more virtuous?

This post contains a few humble suggestions.

Note: This article is not intended to be a “holier than thou” diatribe – I’m certainly no expert on this topic. Also, while all seven virtues are important, this post will specifically focus on how the Cardinal Virtues relate to our daily lives as virtual workers. Maybe I’ll address the Theological Virtues in a future post.

Examples of Prudence

Prudence is regarded as the most important Cardinal Virtue. In short, it’s knowing the next right thing to do. To make prudent decisions, you must continuously learn from past experiences and then be decisive when it counts. Examples of prudent decision making may include:

  • Giving good advice to clients
  • Knowing which contracts are worth pursuing
  • Dealing gracefully with unhappy customers
  • Accurately evaluating the performance of a subcontractor
  • Filing your taxes on time

Examples of Justice

To be just, we must give our fellow man that which is owed to him. Ideally, we should do this with a positive attitude – and do it every time. Virtual workers can exhibit justice by:

  • Billing clients accurately
  • Avoiding time-wasting activities, especially while on the clock
  • Paying subcontractors on time
  • Treating colleagues courteously
  • Identifying new productivity and value for clients

Examples of Fortitude

Fortitude is often likened to courage and endurance. Successful virtual workers rely heavily on the virtue of fortitude. Unlike a real job, no one is looking over your shoulder. When things get tough, it’s up to you to take on adversity.

  • Persevering to achieve your entrepreneurial goals, despite criticism from skeptical friends
  • Confronting a fellow worker who is stealing
  • Increasing your hourly rate as to better provide for your family
  • Committing to a regular examination of conscience, particularly with regard to business dealings
  • Living up to client obligations, day in and day out

Examples of Temperance

Temperance helps us control our desires, especially those which tempt us. In today’s culture of doing what “feels right,” temperance has unfortunately become an oddity for many. For long-term viability of your personal and business health, temperance should not be overlooked.

  • Controlling the urge to check social media
  • Restricting anger toward colleagues who have wronged you
  • Balancing the amount of caffeine consumed each day
  • Giving people the benefit of the doubt
  • Continuing to work, despite the beautiful weather
  • Avoiding the use of foul language or gossip

Commit to a More Virtuous Work Life

You’re on this earth for a very important reason. By seeking virtue in both your personal and professional life, you’re likely to find a more rewarding and productive version of yourself.

Go for it!

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Matt Keener is the original "Executive in Sweatpants," having built a successful online consulting business (from home). His best-selling book offers tips for capitalizing on outsourcing and freelancing. Matt holds an MBA and has been featured by many recognizable brands, including Upwork (formerly oDesk), Elance, Insightly, the Dave Ramsey Show, and

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