How Do You Build Character?
Start With a Blank Canvas
Spring is here and this is really my favourite time of year; when we actually have the chance to plant the seeds that will last all year and some maybe even a lifetime. This is your chance to cultivate the real beginnings of creating the perfect landscape for a lifetime of bliss. I was going to focus on using that spring energy to tap into your willpower: the willpower you need to lose that 20 pounds; or the willpower you need to replace a bad habit with a good one; the willpower to finally get healthy and fit and really step into wellness; or the springboard you need to achieve your dreams once and for all.
But as I started writing this column, I realized that no willpower is even possible unless you begin with a really fresh, clean white canvas, and that to me is all about character building, and being the best that you can be. When you have character, the sky is the limit for what becomes possible, achievable and available to you. In "How Children Succeed : Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden power of Character", Paul Tough writes that there are 24 character strengths that are universally respected, and cultivating these strengths represents a reliable path to the good life -- a life that is not just happy, but meaningful and fulfilling.
So grab this opportunity as the tulips and crocuses are blooming, to think about blossoming yourself, and really develop the kinds of character traits that will make you soar. Building character leads to bliss faster than anything, because when you truly feel good about yourself, the sky is the limit for what is possilble, acheivable and available to you.
In the book "Making Ethical Decisions", Michael Josephson talks about the six pillars of character, and he colour codes them, which is so brilliant, because not only can you remember them easily, but you can associate each one of the six pillars with a different colour of the rainbow.
Trustworthiness is blue and evokes the expression of being a "true blue" person. Developing honesty, truthfulness, being loyal to your friends and family, and meaning what you say and saying what you mean will take you a very long way.
The second pillar of character building, and this is a "golden rule", is the colour of a sunflower, which represents respect and regard. Treat everyone you meet with respect and regard, and you will feel good and so will they. Never resort to bullying or using your power to hurt anybody. If you have any position of authority, use it to make the world a better place, and when cultivating your garden, surround yourself with people who are sunny and positive and be respectful of those who are different.
Responsibility is the third pillar and it is the colour green. So what this pillar means is to be responsible for your ‘garden’. Do what needs to be done. Give it daily care and love, sunshine and attention. So whether it is a weight issue or family or relationship issue, when you tend responsibly to it, and water it regularly, not just when you feel like it, you will reap the rewards of a beautiful garden in full bloom.
Fairness is orange. When you treat all people equally and fairly, (don't tend exclusively to the rose garden more than the vegetable garden) you will deepen your character. Orange represents that burst of passion and vibrancy that will enter your life when you treat all people equally like the sections of an orange.
The fifth pillar is caring, kindness, and putting love in your heart, not only when it suits you, but all of the time. It's the colour red, and represents goodness and generosity to others. Making sure that you speak softly and kindly, saying only good things about others, is another example of this pillar. Studies have even shown that plants grow best when spoken to softly and lovingly. Be a gentle person.
The sixth pillar is community service and is represented by the colour purple, because it is so regal to think beyond yourself and give back to others.So with that in mind, armed with your honesty, integrity, kindness, caring and generosity, you are in a position to lay the groundwork for a thriving and magnificent garden. Now you can focus on believing in yourself and setting forth to really achieve what you may have wanted to back in January, but now you have a chance to begin once again.So the fresh, clean slate has been prepared and now you can really blossom into your true potential.
A marvelous place to get started on tapping into this potential, can be found in the book, "Mind Gym: An Athlete's Guide to Inner Excellence". I love the athlete as an image here, because professional athletes often possess all of the qualities of good character, along with a talent and a mental toughness to make it happen. As Bruce Jenner once said, "You have to train your mind like you train your body". So you can train yourself to become more confident, more respectful, more loving, and more forgiving.
As Gary Mack and Casstevens talk about in Mind Gym: "What do you do well? What don't you do well? Where are the holes in your game? Develop your own action plan to turn your shortcomings into strengths."
Treat yourself to a spring makeover and watch the new spring in your step and lightness in your heart!