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Life is a question and how we live it is our answer.
What is character and why does it matter?
As we go through life, we are putting in place those qualities that identify and define who we are. It is a combination of things such as generosity, loyalty, devotion, etc., but even more important, our moral and ethical standards and principles.
- Am I honest? Can you trust my word?
- Do I live my beliefs and values?
- Do others know I have integrity and will stand up for what is right, even at a personal cost?
My principles, values, morals and ethics not only define who I am but help me make sound decisions that maximize my talents in positive and constructive ways.
With character comes wisdom.
Wisdom is the insight and knowledge gained over time that helps us make good judgments and discern right and wrong.
It helps us make sensible decisions and judgments based on the accumulated knowledge of what life has taught us over time.
Developing character is taking the ancient teachings and wisdom passed down throughout the ages and applying it to the here and now.
Mistakes can be costly and have lifelong consequences.
Character and wisdom are based on the values and beliefs we hold. A belief is what we accept as truth about something, someone, and ourselves. Each of us will develop our own perception and interpretation of the world. Reality is always filtered through this perceptual belief system.
A belief is also the acceptance of some thought, supposition or idea.
It may be a religious belief or a belief about how you should act, etc. Beliefs form the foundation of our value system.
Values, then, are the personal worth we place on an object, thought, belief or idea.
They tell us what is fundamentally and essentially important to us. Values are learned and become a blueprint or guideline for all our choices and decisions. They are more than just a set of rules and regulations. Values affect our choice of occupations, marriage partners, family and social interactions, political and religious activities and future goals.
Moral values are based on right/wrong, good/evil.
They form the basis for moral responsibility and guide ethical behaviors such as telling the truth, keeping agreements and not injuring others. It is our values that caution us to make thoughtful choices and keep us from making catastrophic mistakes.
We know what we are, but know not what we may be.
Each new challenge in life will test our resolve, ability to think and analyze and choose the solutions that fit our values and beliefs in order to live a life that is rewarding and happy.
How we live makes a difference to ourselves, our families and communities.
The University of Life will hand us some tough assignments, many filled with painful lessons attached. To gain from these lessons requires a willingness to learn. When I make dumb choices and blame others for the results, I am doomed to repeating similar mistakes. If we cover up, deny, or avoid addressing these errors in judgment, we also lose. Avoidance by shifting blame, doing drugs or indulging in alcohol will only compound problems.
While we try to run away from pain, pain serves a purpose.
Our values have an enormous impact on our satisfaction and happiness. Until we adopt values that we are willing to apply on a day to day basis, we will continue to search for meaning that will fill that empty spot within us.
Here are 5 ways to maximize character development:
1. Identify your personal beliefs.
Many beliefs left over from childhood reflect those of our parents and other adults. Reflect, evaluate and decide if they are yours as well. Know why they are important and why it is important to live by them.
2. Consider carefully the outcomes before you act.
Growing up, we learn the basics of right and wrong. As adults, we need to understand the truths behind them. Just doing whatever you feel like doing or following the culture crowd of today can result in serious consequences. There is a cost and benefit to all our decisions and behaviors. It is up to us to think about them beforehand.
3. Live your principles and values.
Decide what is important and why it is important. Make your values the centerpiece in governing your life. This will aid you in choosing your friends, finding good mentors and ability to live by the standards you put in place. Take charge of your life and become responsible for what you do.
4. Use character and wisdom to help you set and achieve goals.
Character and wisdom help turn dreams into reality. They enable you to risk time and energy in their pursuit. If you set goals or do things that are contrary to your values and beliefs, you will become dissatisfied. Enormous stress is generated when our beliefs and values are not in alignment with our actions and behaviors.
5. Character development answers the question, “who am I?”
Who am I to others and to myself? It gives you the opportunity at any point in time to evaluate what you are doing and adjust your thinking and refine your beliefs and goals. Develop personal boundaries and maintain them. It takes courage to stand up for what you believe.
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