Pick a Character Trait to Work On
Character is destiny, or so goes the quote attributed to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus.
This is shorthand to suggest that a person’s character shapes the trajectories and outcomes of their life. The strength of a person’s character is an inner resource developed through experience, commitment, and personal values. Character grows stronger or weaker with each task and challenge people face.
Purposely working to strengthen one’s character is not as difficult as people think. Improving character begins with an inventory of the character traits you view as essential for success, both professionally and personally. Here’s a short list of examples: loyal, humble, resilient, principled, honest, flexible, courageous, patient, compassionate, creative, empathetic, ambitious, meticulous, curious, disciplined.
No one has mastered all of the traits, nor will they in a lifetime. That’s not the goal. The key for leaders is to make steady improvement on one trait at a time, strengthening their character through focus, reflection, and practice.
Pick a trait to work on and keep it in focus for several months. Seek opportunities to put the trait into action both mindfully and purposely. For instance, let’s say you want to work on patience to strengthen your character. Look for tasks and episodes that will try your patience.
Do your best to make incremental improvement with each opportunity. Experiment with new strategies and approaches with which to make progress. Stay with this for an extended period of time. Keep a journal of your experiences, noting the progress you have made and the setbacks you have encountered. This is the blocking and tackling of character work.
After a few months, take stock of your self-improvement. Next, pick another trait to work on. In the words of Heraclitus, “Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.” Today is a good day to get started.