Uphold Moral Values
“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 your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” Do you believe this to be true? Your answer will reveal if you are willing to devote time to building your character. But character can be eroded if we do not adhere to our highest values when it matters. This is because it takes time to build and encompasses the choices we make. Habits build character. Our actions correspond to the sum of our character and are formed behind closed doors, revealing ourselves 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, we must align our values with our highest good and the good of others, through altruistic actions rather than self-serving interests. To uphold our moral values is not enough, abiding by those values so our 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. Therefore, we must build a strong foundation upon which our character is formed.
Excellence Helps Form Character
“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 weaknesses. Think of character as spinning plates on a stick, whereby each plate represents an aspect to which we must pay attention to. If we 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. We must widen our circle of development to encompass greater attributes, indicative of the person we wish to become.
Is this beginning to resonate with you, insofar as character is a moving target that we must keep within our reach? 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 we 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 our life, so it coincides with our greater self. Developing strength of character is vital to pursuing excellence and is not tied to success alone, but connected to constant improvement.
In an article I wrote titled: The Road to Excellence Is a Journey of Self-Discovery, I discuss how pursuing excellence helps to form character. That which we 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. 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 our highest values.
True Character Is Formed Behind Closed
“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 we act in accordance with our 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. 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.
Finally, to build strength of character we 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 we cannot tell a great deal about a person until they are tested. Yet, in solitude they form the bedrock of their 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 we think of ourselves. Knowing this, give some thought to what you believe is the foundation for good character? Whom do you regard in your circle as having good character? What is it they do or not do that defines their character? Ultimately, it is the opinion of ourselves that is of importance and the foundation of our strength of character.
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