Your character is your calling card. It arrives before you do and sets the stage for your arrival. It’s what draws people to you or pushes them away. It can propel you forward or hold you back. Either way, your character is paramount to any happiness or success that you want to achieve in this life.
While your character is overarching, with many different things that go into it, there are five traits, that when taken together, will have the most significant impact on your present and your future.
Resilience Under Fire
Inner resiliency is key. Your ability to overcome and stay calm during moments of stress says a lot about who you are. Not only that, but it allows you the ability to slow things down enough to think your response through.
Stress has a way of distorting a things true shape or form. It can turn a small stumbling block into an entire mountain range or a minor setback into a life-altering tsunami of a failed life.
Stressful situations, if allowed to, will cause a crack in your facade that can unravel years of hard work by exposing your inner turmoil to the outside world. Much like microexpressions will tell you more about what a person is saying than the words they use, stress, and how you handle it will tell others the real story of You. Take away a turtles shell, what are you left with?
Resilience is the process of adapting to trauma, stress, change, health issues, and tragedy. It’s about being able to bounce back from adversity, in all its shapes and forms. Being resilient doesn’t mean that you don’t feel the pressure of life’s challenges; it means that you have learned how to adapt to whatever life throws your way. Resilience is more than how you cope with the world around you; it’s how you continue despite your setbacks.
The ability to overcome is etched into who we are. Some may be better at it than others but rest assured that becoming more resilient is a learned trait. It’s something that you can AND SHOULD reach for. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be developed.
The developing of your resilience is a personal journey. I don’t know what you have or will have to overcome to build it but understand that we all experience life’s traumas differently. While what follows is by no means an exhaustive list of how to build your resilience, it’s a great place to start.
The Crises of Life Aren’t Insurmountable
To experience a crisis is to live. Things happen. Stressful moments will always happen, but that does mean that your life is over. Yes, there will be things that happen that will seemingly bring the world down around you, but if you focus on the future, instead of the now of the situation, you’ll give yourself enough breathing room to change how you both interpret and respond to your potentially life-changing events.
So, slow yourself down. Respond only after thinking about how you want each moment to shape you. Once you have decided on how you want a stressful moment to affect your life positively, set out to make it a reality by ensuring that every decision made moves you towards the end YOU wish it to.
Self Discovery and the Power of Self Reflection
Ask yourself, what have I learned? Now that tragedy has struck, and you have shifted your thinking surrounded how you should respond to it, reflect on what you did right and what you did wrong.
Learn to ask yourself the tough questions and be honest with yourself. How could you have handled things better? Did the way you handle the tragedy fit with how you wanted it to affect you? If not, why?
What did you do right? Reinforce why doing what’s right for you is the best thing for you.
Nurture a Positive Self Image
Be confident in who you are. See yourself as the best version of yourself. Understand how you tick and why you do things that attribute to a negative self-image.
From there, stop doing what you feel is negative and replace them with something positive. Easier said than done? Yes, but this is how you build your resilience. By changing your thoughts, how you react to outside stimuli, and how you see yourself.
Confidence is resiliency. It allows you the ability to overcome and will see you through. Be confident in who you are and the road you travel. This is important for those times when you hit a bump in the road. Confidence in one’s self is the difference between a totaled car and a quick DIY tire change.
Take Action, Never Stagnate
It’s easy to get stuck. It’s even easier to convince yourself that inaction is the less risky option. That you’re okay with where you are. That’s not true. The best place for you to be is where you see yourself when you close your eyes and dream.
Stop sitting around. Be more. Do more. There is no better way to build your resilience than success after trauma. Make it happen.
Take Care of Yourself
Your health is vital for a lot of reasons, but when it comes to being more resilient, it’s paramount.
Exercise regularly, eat right, do things for yourself that make you happy. The less resilient you are, the more stressed you become and the more isolated you feel. If you practice self-love during the up times, it becomes more natural to do it during the downtimes.
Yes, it’s okay to put yourself first sometimes. Go for it, love yourself.
The opposite of this is to build relationships. Not just acquaintances but real relationships. Put the time in. Get to know your spouse and children better. Spend quality time with them. Build deep relationships with the people that will be there for you. We all need a hand up now and again. Surround yourself with people that are willing to give that to you. Be prepared to do the same.
Finish the Work, Keep Your Word, and Build Your Integrity in the Process
We all start things that we don’t finish. Many times these things are important to us, but we decide somewhere between “this is harder than I thought” and “this is taking too long,” to quit. It’s not that these things aren’t important to us, because they are. We just come up with a reason why we should settle for NOT doing them. We’re all guilty of convincing ourselves to go against what we want. Most of the time because it’s just too damn hard, or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.
A person with a strong moral character finishes what they start. They. Just. Get. Things. Done.
Failure to meet deadlines, renigging on your commitments, and going against your word will cause chaos in both your personal and business life. Here are a few things to consider:
It’s More Than Just Getting It Done
It’s one thing to complete a task and check it off; it’s another one entirely to do it right. Don’t cut corners. Take the time required and do it right.
We often think of follow-through as an action, as something that needs to get done. While that’s partly true, building character traits that will improve your life requires that you figure out the how. As in how to do it right instead of just seeing it as a thing to finish. This requires that you set goals for yourself before you get started. Break down the goal into action steps, create a plan, and don’t forget to write down how it’s supposed to get done and what the completed work will look like. Do this before you start or you run the risk of cutting corners.
Keep Your Word
There is nothing quite like measuring the worth of a person than if they keep their word or not.
Words hold a lot of power. They can start and stop wars, end marriages, win the hearts of others, or bring people to their knees.
That’s why it’s so important to monitor what you say and to do what you said you would. Even if what you said was heard by only yourself, it’s vital that you follow through. Your words are the building blocks of your very existence. It makes you who you are. Not only the words you speak out loud but the words you only tell yourself. Either way, do what you said you would do.
Building your Integrity
Do what’s right. Always. Consequences be damned. A lack of integrity in one part of your life will bleed over into the next. You can’t compartmentalize your integrity.
Sometimes, acting with integrity can be counterintuitive. It can go against the preservation of self and system 1 (read more about system 1 and system 2 in a post I wrote last week called, The Devils Among Us Rarely Look the Part). That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be honest. It just means that you’re going to have to work harder towards it.
Believe me, when I say that integrity is important, it’s an essential building block of character.
- Keep your promises. Always do what you say, refer to the Keep Your Word section above.
- Keep your appointments. If you say that you’re going to be somewhere, be there. Don’t just skip out, show up. The same goes for personal appointments, like going to the gym.
- Work on your communication skills. Most breakdowns happen due to poor communication. Reread that email before sending it. Are you getting your message across?
- Be careful how you react in the moment. Knee jerk reactions will kill your integrity quicker than just about anything else.
- Be okay with saying no. I’m a recovering people pleaser myself. I don’t like saying no. But, the more you say yes, the thinner you’ll be spread and the fewer tasks you’ll be able to complete.
- Avoid others who lack integrity. Lack of integrity is contagious. Don’t hang around people who lack it.
Tolerate People’s Differences
We’re all different. If you continually dislike somebody because of the color of their hair, skin, sexual orientation, religion, or political affiliation, then you’re only going to be able to attract one type of person into your inner circle, people like yourself.
Living in a herd isn’t good for your character. It’s the herd mentality that prevents most people from living a full life. It’s been said that we are the sum of the five people closest to us. Take a look at those five people, a real close look. Have they achieved what you’re looking to achieve? Are they of strong moral character? Do they exhibit the kind of traits that you wished you had? If the answer is no, consider removing those people from your life altogether.
Get used to people being different, not only in how they look but also in how they believe. It’s okay to be accepting of the fact that we’re all different. That doesn’t mean that you agree with them; it just means that you are accepting that there is a difference.
Being open to the fact that you don’t know it all and that others that you don’t agree with can teach you something is a sign of real intelligence. I’m not saying that you have to be swayed by their arguments but by being open to the fact that you can be influenced goes a long way to building the type of character that will change your life.
Being intolerant of other people’s differences is dangerous. It closes you off from others and locks you into a group of people that all think the same way. Some people might ask, “why is that so bad?” To that, I would say because that’s where racial/political/social class lines are drawn. That’s how walls are built. It will stifle your growth and limit your potential. Worse, it makes the whole world a nastier place in which you live.
When we define our differences by the groups we place ourselves in, we start to dislike other groups because their traits don’t match ours.
Instead, we should reach across those lines and focus on what makes us the same. While there will be differences, we are all the same in what we want out of life — each of us what’s to be secure, to belong, and to be free. What differs is how we go about achieving that, but at the root, we’re not all that different.
Think: The Long Game
While A may lead to B, B may lead to C, D, and Z. Focus on the details and think of the long game. It’s easy to allow a knee-jerk reaction to make all your decisions for you, but if you take a closer look at the chain reaction of your choices, you begin to see the unintentional consequences of your actions.
A person of strong character understands the unintentional consequences of short-term logic.
Using short-term logic is like playing chess while standing on the chessboard of life-size pieces. You quickly make a move by only surveying the pieces around you. You neglect the other side of the board because you’re having a hard time seeing around your pieces. However, when you elevate your perspective so that you see the entire board, you are better able to see and think multiple moves ahead.
It’s our ability to think ahead that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. In our everyday lives, it becomes too easy to make snap decisions. We’re all so busy that we have stopped taking the time necessary to process the consequences of our actions and the potential chain reactions that they set off. However, if we take the time we need to fully understand the ramifications of our actions, then we put ourselves in a better place to make the right decisions.
This is easier said than done and requires training on your part to master, but master it you should.
Mastering Long Term Thinking
- Building your character helps you think in the long term because to do anything that doesn’t give you instant results requires you to think about how it will change your life down the road.
- Remind yourself, with every decision, to think about how this will affect you in one month, in one year, and five years. Think about how things would look if they worked out the way you wanted it to and what the worst-case scenario would look like. Then, ask yourself the same thing about those closest to you and how it will affect them. This gets easier the more you do it.
- Long term thinking can be tough when there are mental roadblocks in the way. So, stop thinking about not having enough money, your current health limitations, and any other self-limiting beliefs. Remove your constraints.
- Set goals for your life. Don’t just focus on the monetary aspects of it, also set goals for your health, your relationships, and your spirituality. Keep in mind that spirituality doesn’t necessarily mean religion. Knowing what you want allows you to work on the present with an eye towards the future. If a decision doesn’t bode well with your goals, decide a different way.
- Understand that not every failure is the end of your story, and not every success is worth pursuing. Think strategically.
Work Well with Others
We’re social animals. While there is nothing wrong with working alone, there is something wrong with not being ABLE to work well with others. It’s no surprise that we live in a society that prizes working with others so much. At work, you will be promoted based on your ability to work with others, to lead them, to understand how the team is better off working together than separate. The same can be said for organized sports, your family, and your group of friends. More gets done, together.
Here are a few ways to work well and play well, with others:
- Keep your head up. When talking with somebody, put your phone down, step away from the keyboard, and give them your full attention.
- Show sincere interest. You don’t have to be best friends with everybody but at least show interest in them and what they have to say. Yes, that means you have to start conversations.
- Share the credit. Say we and us. If somebody else deserves more credit than you, that’s okay, give it to them.
- Do what you said you would do. Carry your load and do it to the best of your ability; your team is counting on you.
- Speak clearly.
- Be positive.
- Be respectful of others.
- Assume the best in others. Give others the benefit of the doubt and stop with the judgment. Be a team player and help others reach their potential.
There are a lot of different ways and ideas when it comes to the how behind working together but let’s focus on the why.
To have a meaningful career, teamwork is paramount. It brings fresh ideas, allows the team to function, and helps to solve problems when they arise.
Teamwork helps to build morale and fosters a healthy work culture. It makes your co-workers feel valued when they have teammates that are all focused on the same goal and help each other out to achieve it.
It makes your spouse feel valued. When you include them in the decision making, you are showing them that their opinion has value. When we feel valued, we open up more. We smile more often, and we’re quick to forgive.
The same can be said about your children. Show them that they have value by spending time with them. Play games, take them out on dates, be present. You could even help them with their chores from time to time.
This teaches them the power of teamwork and tells them that they can come to you with any problems that they may be dealing with. If you want to get your children to open up to you, be present, spend time with them, and show them that you care enough to listen without judgment.
Take the time necessary to build your character. Note your flaws. Ask a trusted friend what they are if you’re having a hard time coming up with any and focus on what it takes to build a strong moral character. While this is a long post, it’s only the start of what you’ll need. Learn all that you can. Read more. Listen to podcasts. Watch more videos. There is a lot of good information out there to be had, seek it out, and become a life long learner. We can all improve. We all have things that we can do better. Work on yourself and the life you’ve always wanted will follow.