"Christian perfection consists not only in the habit of charity, i.e. the possession of sanctifying grace and the constant will of preserving that grace, but also in the pursuit or practice of charity, which means the service of God and withdrawal of ourselves from those things which oppose or impede it...
The perfection of the soul increases in proportion with the possession of charity.
He who possesses the perfection which excludes mortal sin obtains salvation, is united to God, and is said to be just, holy, and perfect.
The perfection of charity, which excludes also venial sin and all affections which separate the heart from God, signifies a state of active service of God and of frequent, fervent acts of the love of God. This is the perfect fulfillment of the law (Matthew 22:37), as God is the primary object of charity. The secondary object is our neighbor. This is not limited to necessary and obligatory duties, but extends to friends, strangers, and enemies, and may advance to a heroic degree, leading a man to sacrifice external goods, comforts and life itself for the spiritual welfare of others. This is the charity taught by Christ by word (John 15:13) and example.
...Seculars are obliged to perfection by the observance of the precepts or commandments..."
For those of you who came into contact with any of the 'conservative' movements that occupied the void after V2, the trad means to achieve this, that is, the means through which the Grace of God flows through our lives, excites our cooperation and leads us to Heaven are not much different from what you've been taught:
The old catechisms and books teach us to lead an ordered life where the love of God (love for God) takes precedence, motivates and guides all our endeavors. Several devotions and practices are mentioned: Morning and evening prayers, the rosary, prayer, spiritual reading, daily Mass, frequent confessions and communion, the practice of virtue, the works of mercy, fulfilling the duties of state, voluntary mortification, joyfully accepting the Will of God in all circumstances of life, following the motions of the Holy Spirit (and not the other spirit), etc...
The spiritual readings are much better, though.
I bought Divine Intimacy a few years ago (the original edition, not the aggiornata edition published after the author's death). Ever since I laid my eyes on it I understood that this was the real thing. I wouldn't go as far as stating that we were "given watered down milk and been told it was wine", but there is indeed a certain degree of watering down in more recent writings.
There's something more to it. When you read pre-V2 catholic books and manuals available for free at archive.org and elsewhere you can hear the Lord's 'rigid, legalistic, unmerciful' command: "if thy hand, or thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee to go into life maimed or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee having one eye to enter into life, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire".
Other sources tend, in practice, to be more open to compromise with the modern world and try to accommodate sin to contemporary sensibilities: Compare any recent pastoral pronouncements with the Curé D'Ars' fight against religion ignorance, the profanation of Sunday, taverns, blasphemy and dancing ...