The Importance of Friendship

The causes of modern social problems, from divorce to homelessness and obesity, are often thought to be based in areas such as poverty, stress or unhappiness. But researchers suggest we are overlooking something crucial: friendship. It would appear that our society is ignoring its importance.

The philosopher Aristotle said, “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.” Friendships are vital for wellbeing, but they take time to develop and can’t be artificially created. No wonder they are at risk of being neglected.

Nevertheless, the Gallup Organization’s director, Tom Rath, believes that we are all aware of the value of friendship especially during difficult times. In his book, Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without, Rath makes the point that if you ask people why they became homeless, why their marriage failed or why they overeat, they often say it is because of the poor quality, or nonexistence, of friendships. They feel outcast or unloved.

Rath undertook a massive study of friendship, alongside several leading researchers. His work resulted in some surprising statistics: If your best friend eats healthily, you are five times more likely to have a healthy diet yourself. Married people say friendship is more than five times as important as physical intimacy within marriage. Those who say they have no real friends at work have only a one in 12 chance of feeling engaged in their job. Conversely, if you have a “best friend at work”, you are seven times more likely to feel engaged in your job.

The book was very well-received by the business world as well as by readers who could identify with the points made about these often unexplored relationships. On its release, Time magazine stated, “Let friendship ring. It might look like idle chatter, but when employees find friends at work, they feel connected to their jobs. Having a best friend at work is a strong predictor for being a happy and productive employee.”

The book recommends carrying out your own “friendship audit”, in order to recognize which of your friendships provide you with the different things you need, then to sharpen each friendship in line with its strength. Of course, it’s not always a good idea to judge friends in a detached way, or to doubt a friendship just because you can’t easily identify its rewards. The closest friends like each other for who they are in themselves, not for what they deliver. In fact, Aristotle made the point that it is better to give than to receive in friendship. Aristotle also believed that friendship can only arise indirectly, like happiness. It comes with living what he called a good life, including strong personal values such as honesty, character and passion. Our contemporary culture, for all its benefits, tends to focus more on commerce rather than to help us live Aristotle’s “good life”.

British writer Mark Vernon found support for this idea. He quotes the philosopher Epicurus, “The noble man is most involved with wisdom and friendship.” Oscar Wilde also emphasized the altruistic aspect of true friendship when he said, “Anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s success.”

In his search for the essence of friendship, Vernon explored a variety of definitions from well-known personalities. For example, Ralph Emerson said, “A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere.” Vernon’s book, The Philosophy of Friendship, makes the point that we have now established that money does not buy happiness. He suggests that we take the lead from Aristotle, and spend at least a fifth of our time with our friends. “Is this not what children do in their persistent requests to play with their friends?” he asks.

Vernon writes that a close friend is a mirror of your own self, someone with whom you realize that, though autonomous, you are not alone. He adds that friendship is also important in politics because it “cultivates the virtues, such as creativity and compassion, which are essential to a flourishing society”. He concludes that if we cultivate friendship, we can “lift some of the burden from our apparently unhappy, isolated selves”.

References

www.vitalfriends.com
Rath, Tom. Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without. Gallup Press: September 2006.
Vernon, Mark. The Philosophy of Friendship. Palgrave Macmillan: November 2006.

Today’s article was written by Jane Collingwood and is shared from the following website: https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-importance-of-friendship/

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Ideas and Consequences: The Power of Positive Example

A good example is far better than a good precept Dwight L. Moody

As an academician and former professor who taught at the college level for seven years, I feel that being with students again is much like coming home. There is much about the academic environment that shines as a beacon for the rest of society—not the least of which is the principle of genuine intellectual inquiry—tolerance, an openness, and indeed, an encouragement of new ideas and a wide range of perspectives.

An institution of higher learning is a marketplace of ideas, where ideas are shared, discussed, debated, sometimes debunked, but always treated with respect, never dismissed without thought or reason, and never feared. In the spirit of true academia, truth is not advanced by stereotyping, by shallow epithets, by innuendo or insinuation, or by suggesting that those with different views should not be heard. Those who labor and study in our centers of learning must be made of stronger stuff than that. If they are not, the prospects for a free, virtuous, and compassionate society as a whole are slim. We should judge ideas as we should judge the people who bring them to the marketplace—on their merits. The thing I have always found refreshing about the traditional academic environment is the premium it places on thinking. True thinkers can disagree without being disagreeable. By nature, they reject the thought police.

Graduates, you are about to step into a world you will shape for years to come. I know it’s customary, maybe even hackneyed, for commencement speakers to say at least a dozen times in their address: “You are the future.” We all know that. What I would like to prompt you to think about is, How do you want to shape that future? How do you want your influence to be expressed?

I would like each of you to close your eyes for just a few seconds and think of one or two people who have motivated you, encouraged you, spurred you on . . . . Ask yourself, was it because of what they said, or what they did?; how they talked, or how they behaved?

My guess is that for most of you what those people did and how they behaved—in other words, the example they were (or are) for you—has had the more lasting and meaningful impact. Certainly, no one is inspired in a positive way by the hypocrite or by the unprincipled. Paraphrasing Emerson, “What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you’re saying.”

If you reflect further, I believe you will agree with me that each of us is inspired far more by the power of positive example than by command or threats. This is not to say that those who have wielded great power at the point of a gun have not had a profound impact. But doesn’t it mean so much more to us to earn the respect of others as opposed to commanding it? How much have we really won, if others pay attention not because they want to but because they have to?

I can think of so many things I wish more people would do. I wish they would value education more highly and read to their children. I wish they would show more concern for those around them in need and do something about it. I wish they would work harder at being the very best at whatever they’ve chosen as their life’s work. I wish they would take more seriously the responsibilities of being free citizens in a democratic society. I wish they would show more respect for the lives and property of others. I wish they would be better neighbors, more caring friends, more honest politicians, more responsible business associates.

I suppose we could devise all sorts of laws that would attempt to coerce more people in these directions and that would penalize them if they failed to comply. But that approach, frankly, leaves me with a feeling of hollowness. I don’t want a society in which people do the right thing just because they have to when they really don’t want to. And I believe strongly that the most effective teaching method and at the same time, sadly, the most underappreciated teaching method—is the power of a positive example. It isn’t a quick fix, it doesn’t promise instant gratification, but in the long run, it makes all the difference in the world.

Forcing a person to go to church doesn’t make him religious any more than forcing him to stand in a garage makes him a car. You don’t make a person truly loyal by forbidding disagreement. You don’t make a person charitable by robbing him at gunpoint and spending his money on good things.

The test of a true leader, it’s often been noted, is not how many people you can coerce into submission or intimidate into silence, but how far others will go to follow you because they are attracted to your mission of their own free will. The attraction is the power of your example.

The late Leonard Read, the founder of The Foundation for Economic Education, was fond of relating a story which I would like to paraphrase here and apply to myself: I’m terrible at golf, but I golf anyway. When I show up at the course, not surprisingly, no throngs appear. No one watches me to see how it’s done. But let a Palmer or a Nicklaus or a Watson or a Trevino show up, and instantly the crowds gather, seeking his tutelage. The British statesman Edmund Burke once said, “Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.” I especially like the way Mark Twain said it, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”

I am sure that no one here is entirely happy with the world the way it is. To some extent, all of us are would-be reformers of the world, whatever our personal philosophical inclinations may be. What we sometimes forget in our haste to reform the world is that we must first reform ourselves, one at a time and none of us has yet done all we can in that regard. We chronically underestimate how much influence for good we can be by simply being better individuals—not pontificating about doing good, but actually being good—and doing it with our own resources, not someone else’s—living it, serving as an inspiration for others. By underestimating our ability to shape the future of society by shaping ourselves first, we sometimes meddle in the lives of others while allowing our own to fall into disrepair.

In recent years, we have been treated to a great deal of public moralizing from some who have postured as our self-appointed moral authorities. But moralizing and morals are two different things and sometimes are not found in the same person. Individuals who preach about the morals of the rest of us while living their own lives to the very standards they prescribe do certainly exist, but I suspect that the greatest influence for good comes from those quiet folks who make morals, not moralizing, their vocation.

An item from a newspaper caught my eye some years ago because it made this very point. The story came from the little town of Conyers, Georgia. When school officials there discovered that one of their basketball players who had played 45 seconds in the first of the school’s five postseason games had actually been scholastically ineligible, they returned the state championship trophy the school team had won a few weeks before. If they had simply kept quiet, probably no one else ever would have known about it and the school could have retained the trophy.

The really amazing thing was that the team and the town, dejected though they were, rallied behind the school’s decision. The coach was quoted as saying, “We didn’t know he was ineligible at the time . . . but you’ve got to do what’s honest and right and what the rules say. I told my team that people forget the scores of the games; they don’t ever forget what you’re made of.”

In the minds of most, it didn’t matter that the championship title was forfeited. That coach and that team were still champions, and in more ways than one. We should ask ourselves, “Could I have mustered the courage to do the same?”

I suppose some of you might be thinking, “Okay, so he’s telling us to be good. So did Mother. What else is new?”

What I’m saying is, keep your youthful zeal for doing good and for changing the world. Some may call you idealistic, but progress is never made without ideals, and those who champion them are the examples we most admire and remember.

Resolve that you will indeed make your mark and shape society for the better, but understand that it is not enough to preach to others, no matter how good it might make you feel inside. It is not enough, indeed it’s almost always counterproductive, to try to shape the world by the use of force or political decree. You have it within your power to wield great influence. Just recognize that how great that influence will be, is in direct proportion to your ability as a shining example to attract others to your cause.

Graduates—with the degrees you’ve worked long and hard to achieve, you have a head start on success in life. Now it’s up to you to rise to the duty of becoming the very best examples you can possibly be in every aspect of all that you do.

Today’s article was written by Lawrence W. Reed. Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education and author of Real Heroes: Incredible True Stories of Courage, Character, and Conviction and Excuse Me, Professor: Challenging the Myths of Progressivism. This article is an adaptation of the commencement address delivered on May 7, 1994, by Lawrence W. Reed to an audience of 6,000 at Central Michigan University (CMU) in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. This article is shared from the following website: https://fee.org/articles/ideas-and-consequences-the-power-of-positive-example/

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Ten Secrets to a Successful Marriage

Love must be as much a light as it is a flame Henry David Thoreau

Successful couples are savvy. They read books, attend seminars, browse Web articles and observe other successful couples. However, successful couples will tell you that they also learn by experience — trial and error.

Here are 10 principles of success I have learned from working with and observing hundreds of couples:

  1. Happiness is not the most important thing. Everyone wants to be happy, but happiness will come and go. Successful couples learn to intentionally do things that will bring happiness back when life pulls it away.
  2. Couples discover the value in just showing up. When things get tough and couples don’t know what to do, they need to hang in there and be there for their spouse. Time has a way of helping couples work things out by providing opportunities to reduce stress and overcome challenges.
  3. If you do what you always do, you will get the same result. Wise couples have learned that you have to approach problems differently to get different results. Often, minor changes in approach, attitude, and actions make the biggest difference in marriage.
  4. Your attitude does matter. Changing behavior is important, but so is changing attitudes. Bad attitudes often drive bad feelings and actions.
  5. Change your mind, change your marriage. How couples think and what they believe about their spouse affects how they perceive the other. What they expect and how they treat their spouse matters greatly.
  6. The grass is greenest where you water it. Successful couples have learned to resist the grass is greener myth — i.e., someone else will make me happy. They have learned to put their energy into making themselves and their marriage better.
  7. You can change your marriage by changing yourself. Veteran couples have learned that trying to change their spouse is like trying to push a rope — almost impossible. Often, the only person we can change in our marriage is ourselves.
  8. Love is a verb, not just a feeling. Everyday life wears away the “feel good side of marriage.” Feelings, like happiness, will fluctuate. But, real love is based on a couple’s vows of commitment: “For better or for worse” — when it feels good and when it doesn’t.
  9. Marriage is often about fighting the battle between your ears. Successful couples have learned to resist holding grudges and bringing up the past. They remember that they married an imperfect person — and so did their spouse.
  10. A crisis doesn’t mean the marriage is over. Crises are like storms: loud, scary and dangerous. But to get through a storm you have to keep driving. A crisis can be a new beginning. It’s out of pain that great people and marriages are produced.

Today’s article was written by Mitch Temple and is shared from the following website: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/daily-living/keeping-romance-alive/ten-secrets-to-a-successful-marriage

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The Power of Personal Responsibility

The secret ingredient to true happiness? Decisive optimism and personal responsibility. Amy Leigh MercreeLife blooms when we take responsibility for our full human experience. To be personally responsible and self-reliant means we have to get our sh*t together and decide to have command over these five areas:

1. Our Aim. What is our goal, our direction, our purpose? What is it that we are moving toward and organizing our lives to achieve and contribute? These are questions of the motivated and purposeful human.

2. Our Attention. Are the things we continually focus on bringing us joy, success, connection, growth? Or are we being distracted by a bunch of  garbage and gossip in life?

3. Our Attitude. The power plant doesn’t have energy, it generates energy. Similarly, we don’t have an attitude, we generate one. When we choose to generate a negative energy and attitude, life is horrible. But when we choose to generate and broadcast a joyous, loving, and positive energy, life opens up to us, people feel something new from us, and our entire life blooms and grows.

4. Our Affections. Are we connecting with those we love and sensing the beauty of this life? The emotional quality and connections we feel in life are also a choice, and we should choose to feel again, to love again, to become passionate and emotionally open, giving, strong and vibrant.

5. Our Actions. Our destiny is dictated by our disciplined actions – what we do each day, the habits we develop, our purposeful efforts. Take no action, have no life, no adventure, no progress. But overcome apathy and fear and get going and soon there is magic and momentum and what we love to call, the charged life.

Transcript

Let’s talk about personal responsibility and self-reliance.

Have you ever met somebody who just drives you nuts, because you’re like, “Why are they not more responsible?”

It drives you insane or you know somebody who just, I mean, they just, for whatever reason cannot stand on their own in life.

You’re like, “Could you please make a decision!” You know, you go to dinner with somebody and be like, “I don’t know honey can you tell me what to order,” and you’re like AHH!

Now, we all know someone like that and some of us have been guilty at some parts of our lives and being that type of person, so let’s dial this in.

What does personal responsibility really mean? What happens in our lives when we have it?

I personally feel that when we are more personally responsible for our own lives, life blooms. A magic enters our life, not just the magic of confidence and certainty in who we are, but a sense of total truth with what life is supposed to be for ourselves.

We are not meant to be victims or apathetic people laying around, hoping something comes along and changes our lives because only two things change our lives.

1. Either, something new does come into our life and it changes our direction, changes our insight, changes who we are. Maybe we win the lottery or the lucky white knight comes in and saves your life. Or…

2. Or, something new comes from within you.

I think what that thing is that comes from within us that’s so powerful that retakes our life, what is that magic? It’s personal responsibility.

I know that’s so simple, it’s almost like (boring sound). It doesn’t sound sexy to say be responsible for your life, but I think we have five main responsibilities in our lives and if we take control of each of these areas of our lives, like a new power comes into our life, a new joy and zest.

I would argue more over time, success, connection, joy, love, and abundance … come along with it.

OUR AIM

And that first thing that we are personally responsible for is our aim, our ambition, our desire, our goal, our dream.

Successful people look out there and say, “What is it that I desire of my life?” They go for it. They’ve set an intention. They’ve set a direction for who they are and where they’re going and what is meaningful to them, who they want to have along with them. Their aim is extraordinarily tight. They really do see where they’re going and what they want. They don’t always know the full picture, they just know, I want to be like this… I want to do things like this. They start along that path.

Because they’re following their own path, even if they don’t know where exactly it goes, they’re living the adventurous life. They’re entering a new phase of their life where they truly feel that this journey is their own versus just being carried along by their parents, their professors or their peers or their co-workers. It’s their own – they have their own aim in life.

I think we have to take control of that. I think tonight would be a good time for you to sit down and say,

“Okay, what is it I want in the major areas of my life? What is it I truly have aim and ambition for in my work life, in my relationships, in my sense of spiritual and emotional self? In my physical health and vitality? In my overall direction in life?”

What do you want next week to be about? If you don’t know then you are “aimless”, and when you’re aimless it’s pretty easy to feel pretty lost. It’s like you kind of wander around in the world, that’s a big full wilderness. That’s why in Montana we always say, “The time to have the map is before you enter the woods.”

The world is a big thicket of crazy throngs of people who have all their wants and wills, and if you don’t have your own direction, if you have not set your own life agenda, they will set one for you. So you have to direct your own aim.

OUR ATTENTION

The second thing you have to direct is your attention.

Where is your attention going each moment of the day?

The ability to be fully present is really just guiding one’s attention to this moment, giving ourselves an alertness, an intention and awareness to the very Now that we are experiencing. That’s power.

When you are more attentive to your life, to the moments that you experience, it’s amazing.

But attention also applies to, what are we paying attention to overall in our life?

Most of us are being guided again, by the aims of others so we are taken from our own attention of what we should be focusing on and stripped away into the distractions of the world.

Most people’s attentions are not… they’re not paying attention to what they should be paying attention to based on their goals, their desires, their dreams or demands and responsibilities of life; they’re paying attention to the distraction that showed up. “Oh look, a new Michael Jackson song!” (That happened right before this video!).

I’m just saying… if we’re going to accomplish a lot and go where we want to in our lives and really sense the fullness of this moment, we have to guard our attention from all the garbage that can come in and sweep it away.

OUR ATTITUDE

I think the third thing that we are absolutely responsible for in our lives and when we take responsibility of this thing, life absolutely explodes in joy, and that’s our attitude.

How are you meeting life? Are you meeting life energized and alive and buoyant, and excited, and enthusiastic and positive; you can’t wait for the next moment to unfold?

Or, are you like, “Well, here we go again?”

You know these people, have you seen them? I see them. Watch people when they walk down the street, they’re grumbling, it’s like their attitude stinks so bad that I can’t stand to be around them. It’s like they’re just emanating nasty, dark, bad energy in the world, and why? Because they chose to.

Some people say, “No, Brendon, no one would choose that.” Yeah. They did. They chose to have a bad attitude just enough over a period of time that it became part of their personality. That their attitude now is just fixed. It is closed. It is angry, upset, or bordering on the negative emotional qualities of life, rather than realizing the incredible magic and experience that we all have available to us, each and every single moment of the day.

There is a lot of magic around here. When your attitude is open you’re allowing yourself to learn. When your attitude is open you’re allowing yourself to connect to other people. When your attitude is open finding happiness isn’t something you do you create it. You choose the attitude of happiness. You don’t have to have happiness, you generate it. You don’t have to have good energy today, you generate it.

I always say the power plant doesn’t have energy it generates energy. You yourself are generating an attitude. It was not fixed on you.

Everything we’ve learned in psychology over the years is that you can literally change your attitude, just by controlling your thoughts and directing them in a new, positive, healthy, social way.

Why not do that?

You all deserve to have a good attitude. It’s a choice, just like happiness is a choice. It’s a choice. Choose to have a good attitude.

OUR AFFECTIONS

I think the fourth thing, if we’re talking about directing your aim, we’re talking about making sure that your attention is focused on the things it should be, and that you’re directing your attitude… the fourth thing we get to direct is our affections.

Our affections in terms of, our emotional quality in life, but also those that we care for. We should take responsibility for the amount of love we’re giving our loved ones.

We should control the amount of emotion that we have throughout the day, not to control it and stifle it, but to allow the beauty of it to come up. To allow ourselves to feel affectionate towards other human beings. To allow ourselves to feel affectionate for causes. To allow ourselves to feel affectionate for Mother Nature and our planet, and our God. To allow that emotional connection, that affection that happens when we care deeply about something again.

A lot of people, they got hurt a couple of times in their life so they shut off. They closed down, they’re like, “I’m out,” and they stopped allowing that beautiful part of their lives.

It takes a lot of responsibility to allow ourselves to love because it’s so much easier to shut down and take no responsibility whatsoever, become a victim, become very upset, because you know what, when we’re a victim we don’t have to be responsible. It’s somebody else’s deal. They have the power. They took the power over us, whisked away all our goodness and now we can just be upset and angry. That’s such an easy route for people to take.

Demanding that we take control of our emotional reality and the affections we have for others and other things, that brings about risk. If you heighten the affection you give to somebody; they might hurt you. So? Love is never hurt, ever. Maybe your ego gets trounced a little bit.

Maybe you feel sad for a couple moments, but at the end of the day what’s life? Is it supposed to be a bland, colorless universe where we don’t get to experience the heights and the joys and the rainbows and the gifts of love?

I don’t think so.

I think affection is something that we an all choose to have, and feel and cultivate in our lives.

If we are not overcome with emotion once in a while for somebody, then we aren’t thinking about the beauty in other people.

If we aren’t overcome with emotion and connection and we don’t just want to grab someone and kiss them all over the face then we aren’t paying attention to people anymore.

We have become too trapped in our own thing.

Other people should fascinate us. We should be excited to meet them. We should look out into the world and say, “Wow, you know what, there are so many people. They’re all so different. What an incredible zest that we get.”

Our brain is hardwired to love novelty. Guess what? We have seven billion people who can give us that dopamine drip, just by talking to them and connecting real emotion with them again. Let’s do that.

OUR ACTIONS

The fifth thing that people need to be personally responsible for in our lives is action, our behaviors.

What is it that we’re doing each and every single day?

Taking responsibility for our actions because they are adding to our character and our destiny.

Who we become is a result of our disciplined actions, not our random initiatives that we do once in a while that respond to something, but, “What do I want to be about,” and being disciplined about being that.

What do I want to achieve being disciplined about achieving that?

What do I want to give or serve and being disciplined about giving and serving in those ways when we do that?

Something completely changes. We get a remarkable amount of momentum and progress in our lives.

Our personal responsibility in being able to control our actions and guide them towards healthy and positive outcomes for ourselves, that gives us extraordinary confidence, an extraordinary sense of progress in life. When we’re confident in who we are and we’re confident in our progress towards where we are moving, then it’s easier to sense that magical element called happiness.

It all comes from being responsible for those five things. Aim. Attitude. Attentions. Affections. Actions we take each day.

Look at the opposite. Look at those who have no aim in life.

Look at those who have not controlled their attitude so they’re just taking on and imbued the negative emotional attitude of those around them.

Look at those who cannot control their attention during the day, how much they accomplish. Look at those people who have no affection for other people and they do not control their emotions at all in positive ways.

Look at those who are not directing their actions intentionally.

What happens? They always end up derailing their life. They end up lost somewhere. They end up frustrated and irresponsible, not only for their own lives but often for the lives of those who they are entrusted to care for.

So personal responsibility is a big thing. But now you master those five elements of your life, bring intentionality to those five elements of your life, and as I said in the beginning, “Life blooms.” An extraordinary new quality of experience comes into our lives, we feel an incredible spark and zest about it each day. We feel what we call the charged life.

Today’s article was written by Brendon Burchard and is shared from the following website: https://brendon.com/blog/the-power-of-personal-responsibility/

 

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Building Character

The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands. Anne Frank

The dirty chores at home on the farm were always “character-building.” My dad always used to say that shoveling out the hog barn “builds character.” What I knew at the time is that the only thing it built was a healthy smell that lingered way too long.

No different than you, just different activities at different times. Those words of “it builds character” echo through our lives. When we get dumped or ignored by someone we think we love, we hear the whisper of “it builds character.” When we are way behind on writing a term paper or preparing for a test, we hear the chant of “it builds character.” When we have the horrible boss experience again, we cling to the words of “it builds character.”

It builds character.

“It” is really just a fill-in-the-blank space to add in:

  • Conflict
  • Hard workbuilds character
  • Civil debate
  • Solving problems
  • Parenting
  • Managing
  • Leading

Each builds character. Just plug it in.

What Is Character?

Character. We know it when we see it. Maybe more importantly, we know it when it is missing.

Headlines fill us in with the individuals lacking character. The headlines feature more than the common criminals. Politicians and business leaders make the front page with many counts of bad character. Bad character knows no boundaries.

The good news is good character knows no boundaries, too. Good character is exemplified every day and too often goes unnoticed. Media attention gets attracted to the obvious places too often.

But character is more than visual. Character is engraved within us. The engraving isn’t always planned and clean. The word “character” comes from the Greek kharakter that means “engraved mark.” The character trace goes back to another definition of “to scrape or scratch.” For me, the combination of engrave, scrape, and scratch fit well with what character really means. Here are my thoughts on why:

  • Engrave – An active art of determining what builds our character – honesty, courage, and the like.
  • Scrape – Learning from the challenges that come our way (or those we create) and then proving what we learned by doing much better than before.
  • Scratch – The act of working our way back when we fall down and gaining strength of integrity from what we experience.

Character is all the good traits we think it is. However, character is much more. Character is a verb, demonstrated in what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. Character is also how we recover.

Character Over Time

Character builds over time. Character is additive. We cannot waste our youth pursuing things that neuter or subtract from our character. Equally true, we cannot spend our older years tearing down the character we built. In both cases, we are wasting time and, most importantly, damaging relationships. Legacy and trust carry a high lifetime value.

Each choice and action we take adds or detracts from our character. Any given day, we should have more positive character choices and actions than negative ones. Getting character right is not a balance exercise. Not even close. We should build character through our good choices and actions as often as we can. We are imperfect. How we respond in our imperfect choices and actions can add to or subtract from our character. This is the choice of our character.

No matter our age, we should never dig a big hole in our character in which we spend a lifetime trying to recover. The younger we are, the longer the lifetime of recovering. And this is why trying to make the best choices possible and take the most appropriate actions as often as possible early in our lives can make a very big difference in the quality of our overall life.

Time-Tested Character

Time matters. Time tests. Character erodes or grows.

Our character is developed through time. More accurately, our character is developed through our experiences and what we choose to learn and do from them. Trials and tribulations are tough. We all have them in some way. We can mask them, pretending they are not really there. We can tackle them, risking relationships and results. What I know is we cannot ignore them, and we must face them.

Character in many ways is a combination of our mind, soul, and backbone.

Character in many ways is a combination of our mind, soul, and backbone. We need to work through our thoughts and pick the ones that matter. We need to understand how the trials are impacting our soul and take the necessary steps to protect and grow. We need to know when to stand up, move on, or protect. Character is tested. How we respond and learn will determine the legacy of our character.

In times of success and prosperity, our character is at risk as well. Just because everything seems to be going very well and we are rich in what we have in our abilities and worth, too often character falters in these good times. Laziness creeps in. Thinking we are above what is normal and right invades our actions. Character loses our attention because we think we have it all.

The only time we have it all is when our character remains intact and grows in strength.

In good times, we need to continue to add to our character by what we say and do. We need to pass on our lessons learned and share our wealth of experience along with whatever else we give. People will remember your stories of character, and these stories deliver much more meaning than a name on a building. Legacy of character carries forward like folklore.

What Builds Character?

Each year, we begin with a ritual with little lasting impact: Resolution-making. Instead of making resolutions, maybe we should do things to build our character every day. Imagine what a year’s worth of character-building could produce.

We should never ignore our habits, though. Habits effect character. Eating right. Exercising frequently. Reading often. All these elements provide the nutrients for a clear mind, activating spirit, and strong backbone. Good habits feed our inner goodness.

With this disclaimer now complete, we return to what can build character every day. I have thought about my own life work experiences, and these seven character activities came to mind:

1 – Work hard to build, create, survive, and excel (in purpose).

Laziness achieves nothing. Work for work’s sake creates little. Whatever our responsibilities, we need to do the work. Whatever our purpose, we need to do our important work. Getting our tempo right will take time. Through doing the work, our time will rise up, and our character will show its strength in purpose. Keep focused on your purpose horizon and do the work.

2 – Engage in tough conversations with empathy and action (don’t put them off).

The easy thing is to sidestep the tough conversations. We need to take deep breaths and determine how to engage in meaningful conversations that make a difference in what we say and what happens next. We cannot control what may happen next, but our character will be stronger if we interact with empathy.

3 – Nurture relationships that matter through good and challenging times (staying power, the power of love).

Too often, the first thing to go when times get challenging are our relationships. They have become almost disposable. Relationships that are damaging physically or psychologically are different. In those, safely leaving is the first step, and these times take strong character as well. Absent the damaging relationships, we need to try hard to make them work, no matter the place. Whether in our homes, neighborhoods, or workplaces, we need to nurture our relationships and find better paths forward.

4 – Exhibit humility in achievement and success (giving credit, giving back).

Be humble in all you do and say. Humility is not permission to be run over. Quite the opposite. See number 2. Humility is knowing we are stronger together than apart. Humility is giving all we have and doing it again.

5 – Be nice when everything tempts you not to be nice.

Being nice is not permission to be run over either. A quiet strength of character exists in being humble and nice. Build this character strength. One of the best professors I had was one of the nicest, kindest guys, but you did not want to skip the work. Being nice doesn’t mean low expectations. Too often, we want to play to the crowd and say outrageous things to incite or fit into one. Instead, we need to stand out by saying and doing things that are helpful.

6 – Always get up, no matter what, to create something better than the day before.

We will get knocked down and stepped on. Two things to remember. First, there is an old political adage that says “what goes around, comes around.” If someone is stepping on us, holding us back, or ignoring us, nature has a way of dealing with this, so focus on what you can do and do so with a strong sense of character. Second, keep getting up and creating what you are meant to do. After all, this is the only way your purpose will take root and begin to bloom.

7 – No task is too small and no person is too ordinary or extraordinary to extend a hand and help.

Never think or do things that make others feel small. Always pitch in no matter the task. Our hands are meant to be extended in a helpful way; it is why we have arms and elbows! We are designed to do the work, hug each other, and extend a helpful hand.

These are the things I know will build character. Each come from my experiences on the farm, school, college, work in politics and business, and family. How you build character may differ, which is okay. The point is to understand what builds your character and go do those things as often as you can.

David Brooks wrote an important book, The Road to Character, and I recommend it highly. I like this telling statistic and point he made in this NPR interview:

“My favorite statistic about this is that in 1950 the Gallup organization asked high school seniors: Are you a very important person? And in 1950, 12 percent said yes. They asked again in 2005 and it was 80 percent who said they were a very important person. So we live in a culture that encourages us to be big about ourselves, and I think the starting point of trying to build inner goodness is to be a little bit smaller about yourself.”

We need to remember to be big in our character and reduce the size of our personality. Personal brand chatter focuses too much on superficial things and too much on self-importance. If you want to build a sustainable personal brand, focus on your personal character early and often. Determine what will stand.

Today’s article was written by Jon Mertz and has been shared from the following website: https://www.thindifference.com/2016/01/what-builds-character/

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