By Bill CottringerÂ Â
Â Â Â Â If you do a Google search on â€œcharacter-building programs in schoolsâ€ you will uncover nearly a quarter of a million hits. Why is character-building such an important topic getting so much attention in our schools? First of all it is not only getting attention in schools, but also in work and sports settings and marriage counseling. Character-building is emerging as the number one topic of interest in our world today.Â
Â Â Â Â Why is character-building important? One simple reason is because it is the main purpose of our livesâ€”to discover what good character is and then work on developing it in order to pass the life tests that come our way to measure our progress. Another related hot topic is success. Most people who have studied success understand that it is what you get from doing what is necessary to get it, which of course is to act in good character. So put another way, you really canâ€™t get what you want in life without having a clear idea of what good character is, and learning, growing and improving into it. In that sense there is nothing more important than good character-building.Â
Â Â Â Â What is good character? Simply put, being your best, ideal self in the toughest of adverse circumstances. Another way to define good character is to identify the most important traits that people who have good character possess. But to mean anything, there has to be a consensus on what these traits are, without any disagreement or confusion.Â
Â Â Â Â In the late sixties, a good character was called something elseâ€”your ideal, fully self-actualized self. This ideal self displayed success in moving from your real self to your ideal self in the areas of physical, mental, emotional, social, vocational and spiritual development. People who were considered self-actualized were characterized by:Â
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Being in good physical shapeâ€”eating right, exercising, practicing temperance, Â resting properly, and remaining free from illness.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Using successful intelligenceâ€”logic, rationality, creativity and practical common senseâ€”to get results in moving from where you are to where you want to be in life and work.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Showing emotional maturityâ€”having self-esteem, controlling negative emotions and other negative aspects of self, being sensitive to own and others feelings, and being calm in difficult situations.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Using social skills to get along with other peopleâ€”being assertive to resolve conflicts, communicating effectively, and being likeable, positive, honest, empathic, a good listener, polite, agreeable and unselfish.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Serving and helping make life better for others by carrying out your unique vocational purpose and using your special talents and gifts to be successful at it.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Gaining a sense of spiritual groundedness, by diminishing your ego importance, pride and sense of separation from life and opening up to and aligning yourself with a higher power and love energy; integrating all these other things into living a life of high character.Â
Â Â Â Â Another way to understand good character is to see what it looks like. The consensus is that good character looks like this:Â
- You follow through by doing the right, moral and ethical thing when no one is watching and you are certain you can easily get away with doing the wrong thing.
- You do a good deed for someone else without any expectation for acknowledgment or return of the favor.
- You choose to do the thing that is most difficult right now, but will have the best long-range benefit and gain for yourself and others.
- You can keep your mouth closed when you feel most compelled to say something derogatory or negative about someone who you desperately want to get back at.
- You get dumped by your girlfriend and walk away holding your head high, learning something positive form the experience and not giving into your obsessing or retaliation desires.
- You view a pending conflict with someone as an opportunity to step up to the plate, use your best form and hit a home wrong, rather than wanting to run and hide from the situation.
Â Â Â Â Still another way is to build an ideal model of character, by listing the most important personal values that help define it accurately and completely. Again, here is the consensus thinking on the most relevant values that define good character:Â
Â Â Â Â Moreover, good quotes are often effective in capturing the essence of something; here are a few good ones:Â
â€œFew men have enough virtue to withstand the highest bidder.â€ â€“George Washington.Â
â€œCharacter is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it, the tree is the real thing.â€ â€“Abraham Lincoln.Â
â€œWhat a manâ€™s mind can create, manâ€™s character can control.â€ â€“Thomas Edison.Â
â€œThe goal of education is intelligence plus character.â€ â€“Martin Luther King.Â
â€œCharacter cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.â€ â€“Helen Keller.Â
â€œTo arrive at a just estimate of a renowned manâ€™s character, one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours.â€ â€“Mark Twain.Â
â€œGood character is when your head, heart, soul and hands agree to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons and the combined effort gets the right results in the midst of the most adverse of conditionsâ€ â€“William Cottringer.Â
Â Â Â Â Finally, good stories capture good character. Here is one of my favorite:Â Steven Spielberg is the most successful filmmaker ever. Everyone knows some of his blockbusters, such as Schindler's List, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Men in Black and E.T. What you may not know is how some of his early heartaches taught him to emotionally connect with his audience.Once, when young 24-year-old Spielberg was directing a TV episode at Universal, the head of the camera department stopped an associate and said, ''You've got to go down to the soundstage. It's something you'll never see again. Your friend Spielberg is directing.''The associate responded, ''I've seen people directing before.'' The camera man insisted, ''You've never seen a crew stand there and cry.''So how did he learn the empathy that can't be taught in film school? Spielberg says that as a young person he experienced his grandmother's death with his family at her bedside. As a minority Jew in school, he experienced anti-Semitism through bullies. He learned what it's like to be an outcast, to be rejected. Fellow students thought he looked goofy and called him "Spielbug."He learned the anguish of divorce by seeing his parents go through it his senior year. No one wants to experience these tragedies, but I doubt Spielberg could have learned to produce heart-felt films without them.Says Spielberg, ''E.T. was about the divorce of my parents, how I felt when my parents broke upâ€¦. My wish list included having a friend who could be both the brother I never had and a father that I didn't feel I had anymore. And that's how E.T. was born.''Â (Copyright 2002 by Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved. Source: Steven Spielberg, by Joseph McBride, Simon and Schuster, 1997, p. 72.)Â Â
Â Â Â Â Knowing clearly what good character is provide a sure prescription for us all to strive towards ourselves, to demonstrate it for others to see and encourage us all to resign to the reality that the main purpose of our lives is to learn, grow and improve in the journey to become the ideal self we pretend to be.Â
William S. Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue WA, as well as Success Coach, Sport Psychologist, Photographer and Writer in North Bend, WA.. He is author of several international best-selling books including You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Passwords To The Prosperity Zone, â€œPâ€ Point Management, Reality Repair RX and Do What Matters Most. Bill can be reached for comments and questions at 425-454-5011 or firstname.lastname@example.org