Monday, January 02, 2012

Goals and the virtue of prudence

Are you one of those people who set goals at the beginning of a new year? I like to do it too, and it can help to accomplish things. One obstacle to achieving goals is that they never get translated from paper to action. That's a common trap. I've done that too, setting goals only to never accomplish them! There is a virtue that can help--the virtue of prudence. This virtue has three parts: 1) deliberating well over an issue 2) making a good judgment about it With these first two steps, we haven't left the realm of theory. These are important and necessary steps. But if we don't go beyond them, the goals won't get done. They'll sit in a drawer until next year. We need the third step: 3) putting it into action; an executive command of the will. St. Thomas says that this third step is the heart of the virtue of prudence. It's not just a wish or a general intention; it's a concrete decision. It's an executive command. It's like the command a military officer gives the troops. The command is effective--it gets done. With prudence, though, we give the command to ourselves. This is the "push" that moves us from the realm of theory to the realm of action. You've done this--we all have at some time. Recall some thing you really wanted to get done. Perhaps you considered it for a while and nothing ever happened. But then some determination came over you, the resolution that yes, now is the time to do that thing. And you did it. That's the difference the virtue of prudence can make.