“Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.” — Stephen Covey
Head coach John Wooden once proclaimed: “Be more concerned with your character than you reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
Character is engraved within and follows you throughout life. It encompasses your reputable qualities and is the bedrock of your existence.
But character can be eroded if you do not adhere to your highest values when it matters. This is because it takes time to build and encompasses the choices you make.
Habits build character.
Your actions correspond to the sum of your character and are formed behind closed doors, revealing yourself to the world.
It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said: “Sow an act, reap a habit; Sow a habit, reap a character; Sow a character, reap a destiny.”
Still, you must align your values with your highest good and the good of others, through altruistic actions rather than self-serving interests.
To uphold your moral values is not enough, abiding by those values so your actions are congruent is of greater importance.
For example, objecting to gossip while showing resentment to others in the workplace does little to uphold good character.
Those with strength of character know the difference between right and wrong. They draw a line in the sand and do what is right because it reinforces their commitment to personal excellence.
However, we are all human and make mistakes. The person of strong character acknowledges their mistakes and seeks to reconcile them by showing remorse.
You must build a strong foundation upon which your character is formed.
As Emerson once put it: “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.” He recognised the power of actions to be more significant that words alone.
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. ” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The person with a strong character is willing to upgrade their knowledge to become a better version of themselves.
They are not perfectionists but are mindful of the wholeness of their being. They do not amplify their weaknesses, but see them as something to improve upon.
Think of character as spinning plates on a stick, whereby each plate represents an aspect to which you must pay attention. If you give too much consideration to some plates at the expense of others, they are likely to break. Therefore, to keep the plates in motion can be viewed as upholding good character since it cannot be re-established once it is broken.
True strength of character is reinforced by continuous self-improvement. You must widen your circle of development to encompass greater attributes, indicative of the person you wish to become.
It was the late American motivational speaker Jim Rohn who said: “Work harder on yourself than you do your job.” He knew of the importance of self-improvement, not only for the success it brings, but the person of character you become.
Self-improvement is developed through a Growth Mindset instead of a Fixed Mindset, according to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, author of the international bestseller Mindset.
The Growth Mindset individual appreciates character is a transformative process that changes over the course of your life, so it coincides with your greater self.
In a similar vein, motivational author and speaker Brendon Burchard emphasises the need for constant improvement in High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way: “Confidence comes from being truthful with yourself and others. You have to avoid the little lies that can easily tear at the fabric of your character. If you lie about the small things, you will cause a catastrophe when faced with the big things.”
Developing strength of character is vital to pursuing excellence and is not tied to success alone, but connected to constant improvement.
I wrote an article titled: The Road to Excellence Is a Journey of Self-Discovery in which I discuss how pursuing excellence helps to form character. That which you value and give importance to, will be appreciated.
True character develops when it is expressed to others, yet it must be apparent within the individual for it to be known.
“Our virtuous actions demonstrate our basic goodness. They are the building blocks of self-respect, character, and integrity. Virtues are inborn gifts for some of us, but all of us can become virtuous by practice,” writes psychotherapist David Richo in The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them.
The individual must be willing to discard their previous knowledge in light of new information. With more insight comes more freedom, leading to personal power.
Therefore, character is an ongoing commitment to uphold your highest values.
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. ” — John Wooden
Character requires maintaining integrity, where you act in accordance with your highest values and treat people alike irrespective of their race, religion, education, gender or political affiliations.
Integrity is the cornerstone of character. A crack in one’s character is attributed to being inconsistent with their actions.
French author André Gide wrote: “Be faithful to that which exists within yourself.”
Those with strength of character are honest and trustworthy for they stand by their word as the pillar of their existence.
The honest individual is not swayed by self-interest or political agendas, financial betterment or that which jeopardises their moral compass. Their word promotes their true character and so they guard it with dignity.
The Greek tragic playwright Sophocles said: “All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.”
Strength of character is evident in those who possess self-control and emotional intelligence. They are in alignment with their core values and stand by their commitment not to weaken their principles.
Self-control is related to acting in a way that does not jeopardise one’s character or moral values. Building character is a lifelong practice, so a momentary lapse of judgement can destroy it, where it took years to build.
James Hollis writes in What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life of upholding self-control yet recognising our moments of weakness: “Though character can be formed, and modified, we all have inherent tendencies. The truism that sports builds character is of course a lie; rather, as sportswriter Heywood Hale Broun suggested, “it reveals character.” None of us would admit to having “bad character,” although we have all done bad things.”
Finally, to build strength of character you must be self-sacrificing in the context of the greater good of others or a greater cause.
For true character is shaped behind closed doors, since you cannot tell a great deal about a man until he is tested. Yet, in solitude he forms the bedrock of his character and shapes it like a blacksmith forming steel.
Basketball coach John Wooden recognised character to be more important than reputation because it is closely aligned with what you think of yourself.
For it was the late Dr. Wayne Dyer who once said: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” It is the opinion of yourself that is of importance and the foundation of your strength of character.
Originally published at medium.com