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A Guide to Developing Character and Wisdom

Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast:

Get caught up with all episodes in the Developing a New Focus series.

  • During January, we focused on building confidence.
  • During February, we focused on where we want to go and ways to get there.
  • During March, we focused on how to recognize and overcome pervasive anxiety.
  • During April, we’ll focus on self-evaluating our skills, weaknesses, and strengths.

Developing Character

What is character and why is it important?

Do I need to spend time and energy to develop it?

Won’t I develop character and acquire wisdom simply by living?

Well, yes and no. We do gain wisdom by learning through our mistakes. However, gaining it in that way alone can be risky. Mistakes can be costly, with lifelong consequences. Drink and drive and you risk killing someone or yourself.

Wisdom would say, “If I am going to drink, I’d better not drive.”

Wisdom also reminds us that momentary pleasure without thinking about costs could have disastrous consequences.

The life we lead is often a result of routines we put in place as we’re growing up. It’s often a haphazard string of reactive decisions to whatever is happening in the moment. We seldom give thought to what we want, what is important and how to maximize our efforts.

Developing character and wisdom means becoming proactive versus reactive. It means evaluating our choices before we act so we can make the best possible decisions. It means taking charge of our life.

Character is the set of qualities that makes us distinct

Character identifies and defines who we are:

  • Am I trustworthy?
  • Do I follow through with what I say I am going to do?
  • Am I honest and loyal?
  • Do I make decisions based on common sense, discretion, and forethought?
  • Do I consider the consequences before acting and make tough choices rather than simply choosing an easy way?
  • Do I know what I believe and value? Do I act on those principles?

Choices guided by wisdom and character vs. what feels good in the moment can make the difference between a fulfilling life and a lifetime of repairing a broken one.

Character defines who we are to others

  • How do I interact with others?
  • Am I reliable and true to my word?
  • Do I choose friends who share the same values that I have?

Character development helps turn dreams into reality. It enables us to risk time and energy in the pursuit of achieving our goals.

Take time to develop your character

As we grow up, we learn the basics of right and wrong. But when we become adults, we need to expand our understanding of what is right and wrong so we can live it.

This understanding guides everything we do.

  • It helps us set and maintain personal boundaries.
  • It helps us to associate with others with similar values.
  • It helps us live a principled life.

But maybe even more importantly, it answers the question, “Who am I? Who am I to others and to myself?”

At any point in life, you can evaluate the qualities that define who you are and adjust your thinking when you have strayed.

The following can help put together a better picture of who you are, your values, and the qualities that make you, “you.” It can help you establish a baseline.

Spend time thinking about the following:

  • List your strengths (name at least 10).
  • List the talents you believe you have.
  • List your weaknesses. We all have them.
  • List your values and beliefs.
  • How would you describe your physical appearance and condition?
  • How would you describe your social traits (friendly, shy, aloof, talkative, etc.)
  • How would you describe your intellectual capacity (curious, poor reader, good at math, enthusiastic student, etc.)
  • What are you passionate about? If you could do anything you wanted without worrying about career, family, or money, what would you be doing?
  • What motivates you?
  • What moods or feelings best characterize you on a day-to-day basis (cheerful, optimistic, depressed, etc.)

This exercise might seem like a waste of time. Yet, it is only when we ask and answer direct questions of ourselves that we discover who we are.

It is here we define the characteristics and principles that we live by and the ones we want to live by. It is here where we can be honest and genuine, accepting and building on what we have.

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