Why character is important in life and how you can reshape it

Why character is important

“That’s just who I am; I can’t change.” How often have you heard someone speak these words? And how often have you uttered them for yourself? Character and personality can often be confused with each other. Whilst personality is fairly embedded in us, character is influenced by a variety of factors and can, indeed, be reshaped. This can influence so many areas of our life it’s hard to comprehend – By tapping into character development, we can tap into our natural strengths and unlock potential. That’s why character is so important and needs to be evaluated. 

What is personality?

Before we dive into the influences of character, let’s get clear on what personality is. Personality is the mix of nature and nurture.

This means that it’s made up of what you’re born with: such as your temperaments like energy levels, adaption to change, and emotional responsiveness and curiosity.

But according to the personality models referred to by Psych Central, it’s also influenced by your environment. They go on to explain this saying, “the foundation of your personality is your biology. Your experiences and environment help you develop other aspects of your personality from that point on.”

As you read this, you might be feeling a hint of despair; you may have come to this blog, seeking for hope that a certain habit or default trait of yours can be rewired. Don’t lose hope just yet – personality only plays one role in our total responses and behaviour towards the world. 

What is Character?

Why character is important

Character is the values, ethics, and behavioural approach you apply within your personality. It’s built through time, experiences, and how we choose to respond to given circumstances.  It can therefore be established through these experiences. This means that displaying good character is something we can learn. 

Our personality will always effect our character, however. For example, if a character trait of yours is a firm belief in workers equality, your personality would impact the nature in which you take action. So, you might act in a quiet manner by writing an anonymous letter to your boss or signing petitions. Or, you might take action by speaking out publicly or starting initiatives.

But here’s why character is so important: it is influenced by far more than just your personality. There is a concoction of factors that shape our character and inevitably, shape us.

Yes, Character Can Be Changed

In some ways, character is a fruit of other deeply rooted aspects. you see powerful reflections or blind spots of our character when you face adversity. You may find yourself act in a way that disregards your deeper morals, therefore revealing a blind spot where perhaps a habit has created a default response.

Character is also what you consistently do, and therefore character is how you show up on good days as well. To judge a person purely on their low days can be a mistake. We all have those moments when life has been adverse, and we haven’t handled it as well as we could’ve. To reduce a person’s character to those moments can be unfair, and a mistake. Who of us wants to be judged by those moments alone?  

Siya Kolisi gives a good example of the importance of character. In his book Rise, he says, “I had too much fame and money before I had the character to handle them.” A great perspective of character is to think of it as your watch dog, observing the many trappings and temptations of life. But it needs to be developed in, and through, the process of life.

The Factors That Influence Your Character

“Watch your thoughts for they become your words. Watch your words for they become your actions. Watch your actions for they become your habits. Watch your habits for they become your character and watch your character for it becomes your destiny.” ~ Lao Tzu

This quote highlights that character is an outcome of how you think and how you behave. So, to change character requires a change in thought, words, and habits. This quote offers a nice way to dissect the factors that influence our character.

Why character is important

Thoughts and words

We become what we think. When your thoughts percolate for long enough, you begin speaking them out loud. And words have power – they tend to reaffirm our internal beliefs. If you find yourself feeding the thought that you are unworthy, your default stance will be from that space and you might miss the many signs of love and appreciation people offer to you.

If you want to change your internal beliefs, take control over your thoughts and words. Start to intentionally combat negative thoughts with empowering truths that breathe life into your mind. Use words to materialize these things and search for the evidence of this truth in your daily experiences.

Actions

“Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits.” This fantastic quote from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, reveals just how powerful tiny changes can be in our lives. Our actions become our habits – but if we change our habits, they influence our actions. For example, let’s say a characteristic of yours is that you greatly taking care of your health. But your actions and habits have completely abolished your sense of wellbeing. Create habits that encourage healthy actions; make sure your healthy snacks are placed in a visible space, that you carry a water bottle with you, and you remove the temptation to eat sweets by simply not buying them. Do this for long enough, and our healthy actions will form healthy habits.

Habits

“Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits.” This fantastic quote from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, reveals just how powerful tiny changes can be in our lives. Our actions become our habits – but if we change our habits, they influence our actions. For example, let’s say a characteristic of yours is that you greatly taking care of your health. But your actions and habits have completely abolished your sense of wellbeing. Create habits that encourage healthy actions; make sure your healthy snacks are placed in a visible space, that you carry a water bottle with you, and you remove the temptation to eat sweets by simply not buying them. Do this for long enough, and our healthy actions will form healthy habits.

Develop Your Own Character

Now you know that you have more in your hands than you may thought you did. What can we do with that knowledge? We can take action, investing in the type of character we want to create and inevitably the type of life we want.

In Give And Take, Adam Grant talks about 3 reciprocity styles. He doesn’t use the term character, but it definitely relates to the importance of character. And in some ways a type of character that we so need in our world today is the style he calls a ‘giver.’

Character is important enough for us to spend intentional time developing it. Not only does it improve our work life, but our personal life too. Take a minute to define the type of character you most want. Then, ask questions that support this development, such as “what habits and mindsets are aligned with such a character? Create a description of the behaviours that would be useful in your character development, ultimately asking the powerful question, “who is the person I want to be? How do I want to show up?”  

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