6 Timeless Virtues for Fulfillment in the Modern World

Malinda Fusco


Photo by Colton Duke on Unsplash

Anne Frank was only thirteen when she started her diary.

How anyone can be so wise after thirteen years of life is a mystery to me. But Anne left us a wealth of wisdom beyond her years. Despite being persecuted by the Nazis, she managed to believe in humanity, love, and herself. That amount of mental fortitude and compassion is impressive.

Not only do her words inspire, but they can also lead to a more fulfilling life if you take her advice.

Let’s take a look at Anne’s thoughts on happiness, gratitude, cherishing loved ones, avoiding self-pity, daily fulfillment, and believing in humanity.

Anne Frank on Happiness

“I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I’m free, and yet I can’t let it show. Just imagine what would happen if all eight of us were to feel sorry for ourselves or walk around with the discontent clearly visible on our faces. Where would that get us?”
“Whoever is happy will make others happy.”

Despite her horrific situation, the fear of discovery, and the desire for life to return to normal, Anne was wise beyond her years. She knew that self-pity and negativity would only cause further anguish. For her sake and her family’s, it was imperative to maintain some level of happiness.

The flipside of “whoever is happy will make others happy” is whoever is miserable will make others miserable.

She’s not wrong.

There have been many studies done about the contagious nature of emotions. According to some of them, when a friend is happy, your happiness can go up by 25%. That’s a lot! Now, don’t misunderstand. You’re not responsible for anyone’s happiness, but at the same time your emotions can impact others.

Think about it. Do you have a coworker, or even a family member, who is always negative? Just thinking about being around them can often be downcutting…let alone actually interacting with them. So being happy isn’t only important for your mental health, but the mental wellbeing of the people you spend the most time with.

How can we be happier? It’s old news, but smiling can increase your mood. Engage in self-care. Stay clean. Eat and hydrate. Do things you love. Make happiness a priority.

Anne Frank on Gratitude

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”
“As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?”

Even without World War II raging outside, life is stressful. Work, family, health — it’s not always easy to juggle these. And the struggles the world is going through right now? It can be downright hard. However, Anne’s got the right idea. Beauty remains, even in hard times.

There are so many things to appreciate and be grateful for. Anne has named a few for us: sunshine and the sky. Chances are, you can think of some as well. Warm showers. Coffee. A lover’s smile. What are a few simple things you enjoy?

At Thanksgiving, my family has the tradition of going around the table and saying what we’re thankful for before eating. As a kid, I would put so much thought into this leading up to the meal. As an adult, it’s often easy to forget those things we’re grateful for. So, start remembering.

I’ve started to keep a list on my phone of things I love and cherish. When I’m sad, I’ll read through my list. If you’re struggling to find the silver-linings, take five minutes and reflect. Every day, come up with just one thing, whether it’s a luxury, a moment, or a concept.

How can we be more grateful? Keep a gratitude list or journal. Write down what you’re thankful for. Use as many details as possible.

Anne Frank on Cherishing Loved Ones

“Dead people receive more flowers than the living ones because regret is stronger than gratitude.”

This quote hit me hard. It goes back to gratitude, as Anne articulated. However, instead of just feeling gratitude, this one’s about showing it to people we care about.

Be mindful of your relationships and express gratitude and love. We often think we have infinite time with our friends and family. The sad truth is that we don’t. However, because there’s not a clear end in sight, we often put off showing gratitude until “later” or “tomorrow.” Later is often too late, so start showing gratitude today. Doing so will eliminate a lot of potential regret in the future.

How can we cherish loved ones? Call up a relative and spend some quality time together by checking in. Or shoot a text. Do nice things for the people you love, whether it’s helping out with a project, getting them their favorite flowers, or cooking dinner.

Anne Frank on Avoiding Self-Pity

“There’s only one rule you need to remember: laugh at everything and forget everybody else! It sound egotistical, but it’s actually the only cure for those suffering from self-pity.”

Laughter’s the best medicine. I’m a firm believer of that.

I once dropped hot chicken tenders on the cafeteria floor at work. For a split second, I wanted to cry. I was so hungry. The line was horrendously long. I was going to be late coming back from lunch. Instead, I laughed my clumsiness off and bought some new ones. Where would self-pity have gotten me?

A lot of the time, we place emotional value on things that don’t matter. At all. People’s opinions about you — who cares? Your crush doesn’t like you — their loss. You didn’t score the goal/land the sale/do the thing — you can try again. You dropped your chicken tenders — you can order new ones. These things don’t matter. Are they a bummer? Sure. They can be. And there’s some level of loss within each of them, but can you change any of them? No.

Once you realize you can’t change something (like opinions, missed goals, or dirty tenders), you have two options. Option 1: You dwell in self-pity. Option 2: You move on, laughing it off, if possible.

I choose laughter.

How can we overcome self-pity? Ask: Can I change it? If yes, do so. If no (which is the most likely answer, as many things are out of our direct control), then let it go and find humor in it, if possible.

Anne Frank on Daily Fulfillment

“An empty day, though clear and bright, is just as dark as any night.”

First of all, what is an “empty day”?

Empty days are the ones that are filled with little joy or productivity. You know the ones. We’ve all had them. They’re the ones where you just glide through in a daze of doing next to nothing. And worse, appreciating next to nothing. Gratitude, as we’ve discussed, is so important. Gratitude alone can fill an otherwise empty day and brighten it.

I’m sure Anne Frank was tempted to give in to those empty days. Why wouldn’t she be? Her situation was bleak and terrifying. Instead, she did something she enjoyed; she wrote. She appreciated the sunshine, laughed, and made an effort towards happiness.

Don’t give yourself an empty day. Instead, fill it with things that make you happy and/or are productive. Preferably, a combination of those. That list or journal you started on gratitude? Read it. Did you write that warm showers make you happy? Take a shower. Appreciate life. Or do something productive. If I’m feeling down, washing the dishes is oddly therapeutic. There’s a sense of pride in looking at the empty sink and being able to say, “Hey, I did that.”

How can we avoid unfulfilled, empty days? Fill your days with things that make you happy and productive. Spend time with loved ones. Practice happiness. Complete one small task.

Anne Frank on Believing in Humanity

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.”

It’s easy to get annoyed at people nowadays.

We see these crazy news stories about people doing the “coronavirus challenge” (You saw that too, right? If not, look it up…), and teenagers heading to crowded beaches with little regard for guidelines. It’s easy to get mad and think, “What a selfish jerk.” Trust me, I’ve been there. I’m still there some days.

Anne was persecuted for being Jewish. And yet, she still chose to see the good in people. Did she succeed every day? Maybe, maybe not. But she consciously considered the idea that people are good at heart. Even if they’re not, how can you have any hope if you dwell on the negativity and misery?

I would never have been that insightful at thirteen years old. I’m still not that insightful now.

But maybe Anne was onto something.

You can’t judge someone unless you can look at the situation from their perspective. And is that really possible? Even if you “know” the details of someone’s life, you haven’t lived it. And, often, we don’t know the details of everyone’s life. Heck, I don’t know the details of my boyfriend’s life, and we’ve seen each other nearly every day for years. I’m not inside his mind. I can’t feel what he’s feeling. And he has battles I’ll never have.

How can we choose to believe in humanity? When it’s tempting to judge, try to cut people some slack. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Remind yourself that you don’t know their struggles. Besides, you can’t control them. So for your sake too, build your foundation on the benefit of the doubt.

The Takeaway

Yes, Anne Frank was only thirteen when she started her diary. Yet, her words have made an impact across the world. She wrote about many different topics that we can all relate to on some level. Gratitude, happiness, avoiding self-pity — these are all things that impact everyone’s life.

So, take a page or two from Anne’s book. Strive for happiness. Be conscious of gratitude. Cherish loved ones. Laugh off self-pity. Fill and enrich your days. Don’t lose faith in humanity.

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