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Is Virtue Over-Rated?


WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

Redbook Magazine LogoStop working so hard at being good!

Sure, being virtuous is seen as a positive attribute, but it can also take the fun and sparkle out of life by making you fret about your imperfections. Here, Veronique Vienne shares her list of the seven deadly virtues -- and how to overcome them -- all from her latest book of life lessons, The Art of Being a Woman . Born and raised in Paris, Vienne is also the best-selling author of the now-classic The Art of Doing Nothing.

1. Assuming that one is never too thin or too rich

If we didn't feel obliged to become a better person, we'd buy more steamy novels than self-help books, so there would be practically no risk of anyone's trying to become too skinny, punctual, compassionate, or wealthy overnight. And best-dressed socialites would be considered way too thin and too rich.

2. Constantly raising the bar

People should be encouraged to set professional goals and strive to reach them, but the bigger your paycheck gets, the later you'll have to work. Figure that with every promotion, you'll lose about 15 minutes a day with each of your kids. And too much talk around the dinner table about "making the numbers" will definitely have an adverse effect on your libido. Truth be told, earning money is relatively easy; the challenge is earning just enough to enjoy the life you make with it.

3. Having what it takes

Step back from time to time in order to see the big picture and perhaps come across brand-new perceptions. If you're a type A personality, pretend to be a type B: Deliberately stop to smell the electricity in the air before a storm, for instance. Make eye contact with a baby, or watch the twitching whiskers of a sleeping cat.

4. Wasting no time

A sure way to become chronically frustrated is to put excessive value on every God-sent instant. So instead of waiting passively for the next screw-up to disrupt your tight schedule, preemptively misspend precious minutes. Every so often, stare mindlessly out your window, refold the dish towels in the linen closet, or, when no one is looking, tap your fingernails dramatically, in mock exasperation.

5. Being organized

There's something strangely liberating about losing stuff. It often happens when you should be rushing out of the house to get to an appointment. You find yourself rummaging through your coat pockets, the kitchen drawer, and the medicine cabinet in search of...your grocery list? Cough drops? You already forgot! Revel in your disorganization. It slows down the relentless ticking of the clock.

6. Being goal-oriented

Always getting what you want can deprive you of serenity. For example, you go to the mall with the idea of buying the latest toaster. After shopping for an hour, you burn out and decide you've got way too much stuff already. Going home empty-handed, you feel elated. You -- instant wisdom! -- realize that you're already happy with what you have.

7. Being righteous

Perfectionism is overrated. That said, it's better to be a good person riddled with self-criticisms than to be someone who flaunts her imperfections, such as padding her resume like personal trophies. Believing in progress is better than being the type who presumes that her flaws are above the fray. Foolish optimism is not a deadly virtue.

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