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Four reasons to develop and gain character
Its vital importance, beyond trite
To be a person of character
What character is about
The one overarching character factor
Plus it contributes to the bigger picture
And it is not about "judgment"
What do I do now?
Resources, readings, videos
Inspiration and examples
FOUR REASONS TO DEVELOP AND GAIN CHARACTER
The reasons, of course, must be based on value received (vs. cost, of course).
Persons who develop and have "strong, good character"
1. Get better results in life
2. Are happier, as one of the three key elements are "thinking well of yourself."
3. Have better relationships, are respected more and trusted more so they are more likely to be given goodwill, good jobs, etc.
4. Experience far less stress!
Note that character is developed and not a matter of "morality" but more one of learning and strategy - and, you've got to "do the work" in order to reap the character that will have you living your greatest life!!!!
A way of being, the aggregate of features, attributes and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing. A number of other meanings have been attached to it. Remember, all of these are strictly learned (or not learned) ways of being and behaving - so they can be altered by learning. They are not a fixed implicit part of a being, not a true part of a human, but an acquired attachment - which can be learned anew in a way that works better! It is akin to the idea of a habit.
It implies strength, but in our use here there is not a morality element;
it is about what works (and therefore it implies ethical strength and Integrity.
Integrity is strictly "the whole working together in harmony" to get what we
want in life. It is not a morality thing.). This is discussed in
Character is not magical nor from a mysterious place nor as it is in movies. It is simply defined in the dictionary as a collection of developed "abilities", traits, and attributes (ways of being). It is also not a matter of perfection, as perfection cannot be attained in terms of flawlessness but can be attained overall in the form of living a balanced life, allowing for inevitable errors, mistakes, so-called failures, and "not knowings". Our culture has added a good/bad to the definition, but character in and of itself is neither good nor bad (but can lead to good if is is tweaked to what is effective in life. Attaining character: In the same way that you develop any way of being, one learns and then trains oneself, using practice and repetition to have it become a Habitual way of being, but one that is chosen for one's greater good instead of by default in life. It takes time and intentional learning and training - there are no shortcuts, though it is easier if parts of it are installed effectively due to good parenting. We develop "character strength" by developing the muscle of character the same way we build physical muscles.
ITS VITAL IMPORTANCE, BEYOND TRITE
Character is the fabric of life, misunderstood by many and sown by few. It is the very conduit to having a great life. But many just obliquely refer to it and/or misuse it.
Remember in the Happiness section how one of the definitional pieces of happiness was a good opinion of oneself.
That is what character gives you.
Plus the success that character generates adds to that confidence in oneself and correspondingly in one's opinion of oneself, essentially circling back on itself in a reinforcing upward spiral.
Character also is the creator of the confidence that one can deal with life as things come up - and so it is a good part of the basis for Fearlessness . (Note that such a state is not achievable by one who takes on the mantle of victim, if only occasionally - victimhood is a killer of life and character is the foundation of a successful, happy life.)
If one compromise one's character, one gives away something of enormous value. Even in what might by some be considered trivial and of rational expedience, one erodes one's whole foundation by a simple not keeping of one's word. As in The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, it is vital to be impeccable with one's word. That means not to take shortcuts, not to compromise that great tool that determines much of the quality of life and of confidence. Not keeping one's word, to oneself and/or to others, has too great a cost. See if you agree, as you (hopefully) learn more about this.
TO BE A PERSON OF CHARACTER
To be a person of great character one needs to gain knowledge about what it is and clarity about the value of character in one's life - and then commit fully and powerfully to it - then keep being reminded through a system that works.
If one does not properly understand character and its value, then one can easily improperly weigh the expediency of the short term benefits against the long term effects.
"Growing up" is the very embodiment of learning to see the overall consequences and to weigh them against the costs rather than letting the short term gratifications rule one's life, into a randomly occurring, wandering life. Accordingly, mastering the installation and maintenance of character is the key to growing up to be an effective, balanced, powerful adult - you can't achieve that without mastering and having character.
WHAT CHARACTER IS ABOUT
Character is not about "morality" and "right/wrong" but about what "what works in life" to have people's lives be fulfilling and happy - and to have the type of mentality that promotes cooperation and mutual benefit, whether on a two person basis or on a world-wide basis. It is not, in this use, about morality, but about what is effective.
Our character is an essential determinant of our happiness. Without "good" ("what works") character, we cannot possibly achieve true happiness.
This topic is not in the psychology section, although it affects psychology, nor in the philosophy section, although it is an integral part of our philosophy. It is in the Power In Life section (of the Life Management section), which contains those elements that contribute to one's power. The kind of power is "kind" power but "effective" power, which is simply the ability to achieve what you want in life that has true value. The elements of character are similar in name to "qualities of being", and they include them in the overall components that make up character: our innermost convictions, values and virtues.
I agree with Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher: "Character is destiny." It determines one's very life.
Character is adopting as your characteristics that which works for a better life.
THE ONE OVERARCHING CHARACTER FACTOR
You'll find that if you just ask one question "is this in integrity" you will address responsibility, compassion, and all the elements of character that comprise the foundation of being "whole" and consistent with all the other parts. Read The Integrity Factor .
PLUS IT CONTRIBUTES TO THE BIGGER PICTURE
It is interesting to note that almost all of what is considered part of morality also is effective.
That makes sense, since morality, though often off in a number of areas, is an attempt by a culture (religion, etc.) to impose on others a standard of behavior that works for society overall. It's weakness is often that it appeals to the lower characteristics of man, to use it as a judgment tool to "force" people to comply. That is "well-meaning" but can be damaging, as it includes everything from inflicting suffering on another in an attempt to get desired behavior all the way to warring between groups - all very "stupid" in that they are not truly effective.
Although we would like to have these be effective for overall society, our focus here is mostly on what works for the individual. We want the individual to be effective in his/her life, and we want to have groups of higher character individuals develop so that the members are better off and have to spend less time and effort offsetting the damaging effects of people's dysfunctional behaviors and insufficiency of good character.
As part of this, I hold that we all want to "do better", though limited awareness and wrong targets cause us actually to do harm or less good than we could reasonably do.
AND IT IS NOT ABOUT "JUDGMENT'
There is no blame in this conversation at all. If we say a person needs to develop more character, we're not saying that there is something wrong with or bad about him/her or that he/she is not a good human being worthy of love and respect.
We are simply saying that developing certain character strengths will serve those people and make them happier - which is the end goal of this site!
Of course, a person with the components of character we put forth as being effective for the individual helps that person to be more effective for society.
In the examples of people who have attained an excellent life, it is my intention to show people how to gain the character that helped them achieve that life. They are not to be used to compare oneself with, to feel inferior, or to blame oneself for not doing more. There is no justifiable blame in life, as we each are simply doing the best we can based on our limited understanding and knowledge - the key lies not in judging but in enhancing that knowledge! In building your character, it is highly beneficial to read about those who have attained excellence in character - read their biographies, philosophical writings, or at least some brief intros, such as in the Inspiration section, People. You will attain a huge payoff to become quite knowledgeable about character, as it will help you to be better able to formulate your own. It's all about living the best "experiencing" of your life, creating it as you want it in terms of what really matters most deeply in life (not the societal teachings about comparison and having "things"! See Success In Life.).
WHAT ARE THE KEY COMPONENTS?
The components below are "owned" through learning and the revision of values and beliefs that get in the way or don't yet support those character traits/strengths. For instance, the perseverance and/or discipline to achieve desired goals is a desired character trait, but to get there one must revise beliefs around fear and neediness in the short term. And also one must learn to have perspective in life and what works in life, so that one can develop these character components. (Again, this includes no implication of right/wrong, judgment, or morality.) I've listed a few key character strengths and/or qualities of being. Note that a number of "belief systems" are included below. The full list is in Power In Life.
Develop these as if your life depended on it - for it does!
Its major sub-part is "keeping one's word, impeccably".
Fear dissolution and management No-Blame (and no judgment of oneself and others)
WHAT DO I DO NOW?
I would recommend that you write out which character strengths and qualities of being you would like, ones that support your values so that you can attain certainty. For sure, go to the Certainty page to review the process that includes values, character, and beliefs. (If you want to fully develop all these, you must, must, must write them out and be complete about it!)
Keep all of this in a notebook as you compile it.
As you write these out, since they are "goals" (probably) at first, you would use the same idea as in the goal planning sheets in The Planning Notebooks. For now, it would be sufficient for you to list the strengths you want, state how much you want them (on a 1 to 10 scale, 10 highest), and why you want each (what will it get you?). The rewards are certainty, confidence, knowing how you will operate and being able to rely on that (it builds and "synergy" happens, see The Progression Curve).
Watch the Pausch video below, taking notes as you go, as this will help formulate and choose the values and character you want. (Do not compare yourself unfavorably here, as you would have accomplished something close to or at that level if you had the same traits and values.)
Read the links in the components section above. Look at the character sites listed and linked below and write down the character traits you want and where to learn more about them.
Your "end" product, for now, is to develop this list. The next part will be to develop them, which will be part of your ongoing learning and implementation program - at this stage we are doing the required first part: choosing, naming, and deciding them.
Having all this written down will produce benefits beyond your imagination.
One of the things we do as humans is try to wrestle with the end result, rather than realize that everything is a process and that we can build (or modify) from the ground up, with the simple, earlier-in-the-causal-chain factors. Then we can do it a piece at a time, just as we would do to eat an elephant rather than trying to do it all in one gulp. The principle is that it is easiest and the most effective to intervene as early in the causal chain as possible.
RESOURCES, READINGS, VIDEOS
Inspiration, grounding resources
Winners Never Cheat, by Jon Huntsman, billionaire who is giving all of his fortune away and a man who is an example of character (integrity, responsibility) like very few others are. His philosophies are well worth reading! Character Education Resources: See the resources listed after the introductory discussion. This type of education and some specific resources are listed in our sister site: TheLifeUniversity.com.
As soon as possible, we need to take a stand to repair the values and character that is destroying our country and some other parts of the world.
From the umbrella organization for character education, character.org: "Character education holds that widely shared, pivotally important, core ethical values - such as caring, honesty, fairness, responsibility, and respect for self and others - along with supportive performance values - such as diligence, a strong work ethic, and perseverance - form the basis of good character."
How do we get this into effect
One question is how to get this type of education into use. I would hope that we create a "suggested curriculum" and a baseline for adequacy and then get funding from the Federal Government to do a specific curriculum or number of hours.
Hopefully, a suggested number of hours and formats for each grade of school would be suggested plus additional materials that could be accessed.
With proper funding so that we could have excellent resources, this is what I would like to create through The Life Management Alliance (although it might be a separate organizational entity initiated by the alliance). To fund this, we would need support from major contributors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Click on the link to the page I have set up about the foundation and how I think it could have an even greater impact by adding to its already great programs a higher, deeper, more profoundly impactful form of education.
Some website resources:
Goodcharacter.com - Appears to be an excellent resource, referring also to other organizations. Read the site to learn more about character and its impact on people's lives whom you care about. Building Character At Hilltop Elementary - This sounds initially like "kid stuff", but until we implement these we cannot operate at an adult level. Rate yourself in these. Rate your politicians before you "hire" them.