Character is the sum of the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life that determine his or her choices regardless of circumstances.
Character consists of the unique qualities that define each one of us. It guides our responses to any situation or circumstance. It determines why we do the things we do and how we do them.
Good character is perhaps the single most essential quality necessary for success. Without it, no one will want to hire you or do business with you. In fact, a flawed or weak character will eventually cause others to avoid having anything to do with you.
Character includes multiple character traits. Some traits that I believe can lead to a happy, successful and meaningful life include honesty, integrity, honor, truthfulness, dependability, diligence, humility, punctuality, sincerity, tolerance and generosity. In Seize Your Destiny, I sometimes refer to these positive character traits as “core values.”
Honesty is broader than truthfulness. It extends beyond what you say and includes all of your actions and dealings with others. It’s being fair, just, forthright and truthful. At all times, in all circumstances, be honest.
Integrity means being true to your word. It means honoring your commitments, being dependable and trustworthy. A person who has integrity is a person you can count on. Have integrity and surround yourself only with people who have integrity.
Honor means taking personal responsibility to uphold what is pure, right, true, and just. A person with honor always does the right thing regardless of consequences. A person of honor is a beautiful and enlightened individual. Of all the great values, honor is perhaps the most important and rare. If you have honor, you are, simply by virtue of that quality, already successful. Be honorable.
Truthfulness means never lying or withholding information. Even a small lie can ruin an individual’s career, destroy a marriage, or end a lifelong friendship. Be truthful in all your dealings and accept nothing less from those with whom you associate.
Dependability means doing what you agreed to do, even if it means making unexpected sacrifices. It means showing up for work on time, doing your job well, meeting your deadlines and supporting others. It is a cornerstone of success. You cannot be successful without it. Be dependable.
Diligence means perseverance, hard work and constant effort to accomplish a given task. It means using your best efforts to overcome obstacles and achieve your objectives. It means doing whatever is required to meet your goals. Success requires diligence. Be diligent.
Humility means being modest and selfless. It means giving credit where credit is due. It is the opposite of being boastful. It includes being willing to undertake unglamorous tasks and graciously accepting the sacrifices involved. Having humility is a sign of strength. Be humble.
Punctuality means showing respect and esteem for others by showing up on time and meeting deadlines. Not being punctual is extremely inconsiderate and disrespectful. Successful people pride themselves on being punctual and expect others to be punctual. Be punctual.
Sincerity is authenticity. It means being who you are. It means saying only what you believe and meaning what you say. Sincerity is extremely persuasive and compelling because it is real. It comes from the heart. Be sincere.
Tolerance means accepting others for who they are. It means being open to new ideas, people, cultures and customs. It means being open to alternative points of view. It means understanding the value of diversity. Be tolerant.
Generosity means treating all people with respect even when they can’t do anything for you. It means being gracious and kind to everyone you meet. It means recognizing that every human being, regardless of status, deserves respect, consideration and happiness. It means helping and caring about others. Be generous.
You may be thinking, “How can anyone live up to all of these standards?” The answer is—no one can. None of us can. Absolute perfection is neither expected nor required. To err is human. We all make mistakes. But we can try to do what is right, and it is by constantly trying that we build, over time, both our characters and our reputations.
In my view, having great character does not require that you never make mistakes. If it did, no one could be said to have great character. Instead, it requires that you work hard to avoid mistakes and make good choices. Each person that you deal with will judge you based upon his or her own personal standards. Some may require less of you. Others may require more.
In the end, your character and your reputation will be assessed based on your words and your deeds. Your mistakes will be evaluated based upon their nature and your intent. Innocent and trivial mistakes may offer some insight into your character, but are unlikely to significantly impact your reputation unless they are ongoing. More significant mistakes or errors in judgment, especially those that are intentional, can say a great deal about your character and have a profoundly negative impact on your reputation. We all make mistakes—people with great character simply make fewer of them. Their mistakes are also normally unintentional and less significant.
Given that you are bound to make certain mistakes in your life, it is important that you know what do when that happens. Having great character requires that you admit your mistakes. It requires that you do whatever is required to correct your mistakes. It requires that you accept responsibility for your mistakes and graciously accept the consequences of your mistakes. To do otherwise only compounds your mistakes and evidences a serious lack of character.
Part of accepting responsibility for our mistakes includes apologizing to those we have hurt or disrespected. Be honest and humble. Admit when you are wrong, acknowledge your mistakes and always be willing to apologize. I cannot overstate the importance of this message. Never allow your poor handling of your mistakes to say more about your character than the mistakes themselves.
Successful people understand and embrace these core values. Moreover, most of them expect that all of the people they work with and associate with, both personally and professionally, embrace these same core values.
Regardless of your social or economic condition or circumstances, when you practice these core values, others will respect and admire you. You will build lasting and important personal and professional relationships. Conversely, failure to adopt and practice these core values will undermine and/or preclude such relationships and lead to failure and despair.
A person’s reputation is his or her most valuable asset. It can take a lifetime to build and only a single poor choice to destroy. Build your reputation by practicing these core values. Then guard and protect your reputation zealously. Nothing you possess will ever be more important.
“Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of. ” (Socrates, Greek philosopher).
The Importance Of Character | OPEN Forum
Hunting Ground, The. 2015. CNN.com. Film clips and information. At http://www.cnn.com/shows/the-hunting-ground.