The older I become the more I am finding that my values are probably deeper and stronger than they have ever been in my life. I rely less and less on beliefs, which I seem to have fewer of as I age. What’s the difference? Values don’t change, but beliefs do — all the time. Every time you learn something new, your beliefs adjust. In my lifetime I have let go of dozens and dozens of beliefs that I once possessed just because I learned more or experienced more.
Today I am far less interested in certainty about many things (beliefs) and much more interested in clarity about the few things that matter. And though I am certain about fewer things, I have more clarity than I have ever had before in my life. A benefit of being older and having lived through many things in life and survived. The things that are crystal clear are my values.
Why put so much emphasis on values? Because values create the foundation of character, and character provides the foundation for success in all aspects of life.
The idea of building character isn’t flashy or exciting. It’s not something we regularly add to our list of annual goals. But the results of developing character are life changing. It’s one of only two or three things I can think of that are most important in life.
Here is why character is so important and why you should make the choices needed to develop your character capacity….
1> Good character is a choice you can make every day
Every day you either grow your good character or shrink it. When you choose to do the right thing based on a positive value, your character expands. With each right choice, you develop the strength to make other right choices, and more-difficult right choices. In contrast, every time you choose to cut corners, compromise on your values, or turn your back on what you know to be right, it shrinks your character. The smaller and weaker it gets, the more difficult it is to make another right choice.
What are you focused on day to day? Making your work more lucrative? Making your company bigger? Rising up through the ranks in your organization? Building your ministry? Or making your character better, deeper, stronger? The choices you make every day make you!
2> Good character speaks louder than words
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are” (Coach John Wooden).
Who we are inside is much more important than how others see us. Character represents who you really are on the inside: the moral and mental qualities that make you, you. And that is what speaks to people. It speaks more loudly than your words or the words others say about you. Your character represents you to the world.
3> Good character is consistent in all areas of life
When a person has good character, he or she has it in every area of life consistently, regardless of circumstances, regardless of setting, and regardless of context. There’s no such thing as business ethics – there’s only ethics. People try to use one set of ethics for their professional life, another for their spiritual life, and still another at home with their family. That gets them into trouble. Ethics are ethics. If you desire to be ethical, you live by one standard across the board.
Good character uses the same standard in every situation. If something is right, it’s always right. If it’s wrong, it’s always wrong. People with good character are consistent. People who try to use multiple standards with different people and in different situations live fragmented lives.