Would you like to be more deeply respected by others? Do you have a deep sense of respect for yourself? Maybe you’d just like to accomplish more or improve the quality of what you already do. To work toward all of these ends at once, work on your character.
What is “Character?”
“Character” is defined as “the inherent complex of attributes that determines a person’s moral and ethical actions and reactions.” In simpler terms, your character is what leads you to make the decisions you make and perform the behaviors you do in everyday situations.
Follow the 5 steps below to develop a stronger, more principled self:
- What rules do you follow? Think about the morals and principles that guide you. Where did you learn them? Are they connected to your own ideas, what your parents taught you, or your faith? Are they principles that you chose, or were they chosen for you, and you’ve simply continued the pattern?
An example of a rule you might follow in life is “The Golden Rule.” Maybe you learned it at home from parents or in church. It states, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” More succinctly, the Golden Rules says to treat others the way you want to be treated.
If you discover you have no “set” of guidelines that you follow, now is the time to compose your own rules and write them down. Alternately, look for morals that you aspire to, define them in your own words, using terms that resonate with you, and choose to use them from this point forward.
Talk to those you love about your personal guidelines. They can either help you clarify what you really want to live by, or perhaps give you reason to consider why you are choosing certain principles.
- Evaluate your life. Have you lived by your guidelines or someone else’s up to this point? An important step in strengthening your character is taking an inventory of your past behaviors/choices and what drives you (or drove you) toward them.
Did you make your decisions based on your principles? For example, if you consider yourself a Christian and vow to follow Christian rules and morals, have you actually been applying those rules in your life?
This exploration into your past is necessary whenever you hope to strengthen your character. Without knowing where you’ve been, it’s hard to see clearly where you’re at today, and where you’d like to go in the future.
- Do your morals match your past behaviors? If you discover you’ve avoided following the very rules you’ve adopted for your life, it’s important to reflect on what you did and what motivated you in those instances.
This reflection is crucial to character development. When you do this, you take steps forward to change your actions and decisions to better determine and then follow your guiding principles.
- Something needs to change. Consider frankly what you’d like to alter about yourself to more closely live by your rules. Next, make a list of what you’ve noticed.
Do you desire to be more honest with others? Are you ready to let go of manipulating others to get what you want from them? Whatever changes you plan to make, write them down. Ponder them, and then create action items that you can implement immediately to make your preferred changes a reality.
Find others who believe in the same principles as you do and make friends with them – having like-minded companions to bounce ideas off of and get positive reinforcement from can help make your changes “stick”.
- Apply your guidelines each day. From this point forward, focus on decisions you make and how you behave, keeping in mind your chosen set of rules. Vow to make the changes you’ve listed.
If you like, type up your life guidelines and place them where you’ll consistently see them. Consider reading them out loud at the start of each day to set that intention and implant seeds of positive change in your own mind.
Your principles might be summed up as simply as The Golden Rule. Or they may be a long list of rules and ideals that you aspire to. Whatever the case, stay in conscious contact with yourself every moment of each day.
Be fearless in your efforts to follow your morals. Stand guard over your daily decisions to ensure they match up with your guiding principles.
And remember: today is a new day. Whatever you did yesterday, while it may require an apology or amends, is now in the past. If you didn’t do as well as you would have liked, you can start over today.
Strengthening your character takes effort, discipline and courage. If you apply the above steps, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a person with integrity. You’ll live life according to the principles you’ve chosen. Discover your best “you” by strengthening your character. You’ll be glad you did!