Some 2,500 years ago, Lao-tzu spoke of “the four cardinal virtues” and noted that when we practice them as a way of life, we come to know and access the truth of the universe. These four virtues don’t represent external dogma, but a part of our original nature—by practicing them, we realign with Source and access the powers that Source energy has to offer. According to the teachings of Lao-tzu, the four cardinal virtues represent the surest way to leave habits and excuses behind and reconnect to your original nature. The more your life is harmonized with the four virtues, the less you’re controlled by the uncompromising ego.

The First Cardinal Virtue: Reverence for All Life

The first cardinal virtue manifests in your daily life as unconditional love and respect for all beings in creation. This includes making a conscious effort to love and respect yourself, as well as to remove all judgments and criticisms. Understand that you are a piece of God, and since you must be like what you came from, you are lovable, worthy, and Godlike. Affirm this as often as you can, for when you see yourself in a loving way, you have nothing but love to extend outward. And the more you love others, the less you need old excuse patterns, particularly those relating to blame.

The Second Cardinal Virtue: Natural Sincerity

This virtue manifests itself as honesty, simplicity, and faithfulness; and it’s summed up by the popular reminder to be true to yourself. Using an excuse to explain why your life isn’t working at the level you prefer isn’t being true to yourself—when you’re completely honest and sincere, excuses don’t even enter into the picture. The second virtue involves living a life that reflects choices that come from respect and affection for your own nature. Make truth your most important attribute. Walk your talk; that is, become sincere and honest in all that you say and do. If you find this to be a challenge, take a moment to affirm: I no longer need to be insincere or dishonest. This is who I am, and this is how I feel. When you know and trust yourself, you also know and trust the Divinity that created you. If you live from honesty, sincerity, and faithfulness to the callings of your spirit, you’ll never have occasion to use excuses.

The Third Cardinal Virtue: Gentleness

This virtue personifies one of my favorite and most frequently employed maxims: “When you have the choice to be right or to be kind, always pick kind.” So many of your old thinking habits and their attendant excuses come out of a need to make yourself right and others wrong. When you practice this third virtue, you eliminate conflicts that result in your need to explain why you’re right. This virtue manifests as kindness, consideration for others, and sensitivity to spiritual truth.

Gentleness generally implies that you no longer have a strong ego-inspired desire to dominate or control others, which allows you to move into a rhythm with the universe. You cooperate with it, much like a surfer who rides with the waves instead of trying to overpower them. Gentleness means accepting life and people as they are, rather than insisting that they be as you are. As you practice living this way, blame disappears and you enjoy a peaceful world.

The Fourth Cardinal Virtue: Supportiveness

This virtue manifests in your life as service to others without any expectation of reward. Once again, when you extend yourself in a spirit of giving, helping, or loving, you act as God acts. As you consider the many excuses that have dominated your life, look carefully at them—you’ll see that they’re all focused on the ego: I can’t do this. I’m too busy or too scared. I’m unworthy. No one will help me. I’m too old. I’m too tired.  Now imagine shifting your attention off of yourself and asking the universal mind How may I serve? When you do so, the message you’re sending is: I’m not thinking about myself and what I can or can’t have. Your attention is on making someone else feel better.

The greatest joy comes from giving and serving, so replace your habit of focusing exclusively on yourself and what’s in it for you. When you make the shift to supporting others in your life, without expecting anything in return, you’ll think less about what you want and find comfort and joy in the act of giving and serving.

The four cardinal virtues are a road map to the simple truth of the universe. To revere all of life, to live with natural sincerity, to practice gentleness, and to be in service to others is to replicate the energy field from which you originated.

Wayne W. Dyer, Ph.D., is an internationally renowned author and speaker in the field of self-development. Wayne holds a doctorate in educational counseling from Wayne State University and was an associate professor at St. John’s University in New York.