How to Develop a Meaningful Life: Resume Virtues vs. Eulogy Virtues
Article by: Paul Larez
Have you ever looked back on your years and thought, “What will people say about me when I die? What will they remember about me?” For many of us, our lives consist of building up our talents and accomplishments to appear attractive to potential employers, coworkers, our friends and family, and romantic interests. In our day-to-day grind, we are often seeking what sociologist David Brooks calls “Resume Virtues.” Our society typically measures success in the form of these resume virtues, and many of us spend our time and energy focusing on engaging our lives in this way.
Success Isn’t Wrong
Resume virtues in and of themselves are worthy of being celebrated, and accomplishments and achievements do bring a measure of satisfaction when you are confidently about to meet your goals. The problem is when we build our lives on pursuing a longer resume without grounding our values in deeper meaning and purpose. So how do we move beyond pursuing resume virtues and develop a meaningful life? Cultivate a practice of identifying your “Eulogy Virtues.”
What are Eulogy Virtues?
Unlike Resume Virtues, those who have cultivated Eulogy Virtues are able to engage life with a sense of purpose, love, compassion, wisdom, courage, and integrity that affects their community in a deep way. Research in positive psychology shows that instead of happiness, we should focus on developing meaning and purpose in our lives, that is focusing on others. Eulogy Virtues fundamentally focuses on the benefit of others rather than our own personal fulfillment. In this way, we are able to gain a greater sense of meaning and connection in our lives and our relationships.
How to Develop Eulogy Virtues:
Define Your Personal Values - Start by outlining what you want to be remembered for. What are your personal values? Above and beyond your successes and happiness, what do you want to live for?
Focus on Creating Value For Others - How can you use your values and interests in combination with your resume virtues to create value for others?
Find Meaningful Relationships to Invest In - Find new ways to invest in your closest relationships and develop shared meaning, either in a new activity, volunteering, or mentorship.
Dr. Andy's Take
Interestingly, this concept of eulogy virtues is something that I can appreciate and relate to on a very personal level. My grandfather built a very successful business in Southern California - and it was nearly impossible to go anywhere without people recognizing him and being in awe of his “resume.” However, my grandpa had such an incredibly clear understanding of his core values, priorities, and principles - and impacted his family, employees, and community in such a profoundly positive manner - that his eulogy virtues actually far exceeded his impressive resume virtues.
This reality was made abundantly clear to me as my grandpa experienced a series of significant challenges and adversities late in his life - but despite this - I witnessed him being even more resolute in being a man of character and virtue. As a result of the life he lived and how he impacted so many peoples lives - his actual funeral had over 2,000 people attending - and he was eulogized with such love, reverence, and admiration. I feel so extraordinarily grateful to have been such close friends with my grandpa - and I was beyond honored when I was asked to eulogize him at his burial site.
As I think about eulogy virtues now - I realize why I am so passionate about helping people to find their core values, priorities, character strengths, and principles - as I was the gracious recipient of being impacted and transformed by the life and legacy of a man who lived with such great commitment to his eulogy virtues.
Next Step Resources
Bucket List Exercise (PDF Download)
My Gravestone Exercise (PDF Download)