Strengthen Your Character
Character, from the Greek word “χαρακτήρας”, was a term originally used for a mark impressed upon a coin. Nowadays, it is known as the sum of all the attributes, such as integrity, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, in a person. Character is perhaps the most important essence a person can possess, as it defines who a person is. To strengthen one’s character is to mold oneself into a productive person within one’s sphere of influence. Read on for some advice on how to strengthen your own character, or to train your moral discipline. Remember, you don’t have to do them all every day. Pick one and work on it. Here is a list of traits you can think about.
- Know what constitutes strength in character. Strength in character consists of having the qualities that allow you to exercise control over your instincts and passions, to master yourself, and to resist the myriad temptations that constantly confront you. Moreover, strength in character is freedom from biases and prejudices of the mind, and is about displaying tolerance, love, and respect for others.
- Understand why strength of character is important to yourself and especially to others:Strength of character allows you to carry out your will freely, while enabling you to cope with setbacks. It assists you to accomplish your goals in the end. It allows you to inquire into the causes of ill-fortune, instead of just complaining about it, as many are inclined to do. It gives you the courage to admit your own faults, frivolousness, and weaknesses. It gives you the strength to keep a foothold when the tide turns against you, and to continue to climb upward in the face of obstacles. This is necessary to strengthen your character.
- Empathize. As the most important way to strengthen your character: show empathy with others, especially the weaker souls, and love others as yourself. This may come at some cost, causing you to examine your own motives so that you can empathize ungrudgingly. Empathizing differs from sympathizing in denotation, as empathizing requires you to project yourself and engage as needed (walk in and help clear the other person’s pathway); whereas sympathy implies an emotional but passive reaction, such as listening, looking and mimicking without extending oneself.
- Seek the truth. Favor reason over pure emotion. The person with a strong character will examine all the facts using the head, and not be biased/prejudiced by emotions from the heart. Settle most matters upon reason alone, and avoid entangling yourself in the chaos of your sensations, realizing that though there is “no explaining tastes”, hunches and attraction, yet reason should prevail on evidence.
- Be neither a pessimist nor an optimist, but a leader. A pessimist complains about the wind, an optimist expects the adverse wind conditions to improve, but the leader takes action to adjust the sails and ensure that they’re ready to cope whatever the weather.
- Guard against irrational impulses. Aristotle and Aquinas considered that there are seven human passions: love and hatred, desire and fear, joy and sadness, and anger. While good in themselves, these passions can bypass our intellect and cause us to indulge in the wrong things: eat too much food, fear things irrationally, or become overwhelmed in sadness or by anger. The answer is found in always looking before you leap and in practicing good habits to free yourself from the enslavement of your own passions. Inordinate, sensual appetites are the marks of a weak character; the ability to delay (suspend) gratification and practice self control is a sign of strength.
- Be content with your lot (not imitating). Appreciate your own values and that which you have. Imagining that the grass is greener somewhere else is a recipe for lifelong unhappiness; remember that doing so is actually projecting your assumptions about how others live. It is better to focus on how you live.
- Be brave enough to take calculated risks. If you shun the battle, you must forgo the victory, and the joy associated therewith. Neither be cowardly, nor aloof, nor evade your rightful duties, but be courageous so as to contribute your part to the progress of humankind.
- Dismiss external suggestions contrary to the resolution you are fixed upon. Every individual has his or her interest foremost in mind, whether consciously or unconsciously. Neither impose your will upon others, nor allow others to impose their will upon you. Remain aware and accepting that different people will have different suggestions, and that you cannot please everyone. Find the right path, and walk therein, neither turn to the right nor the left. Govern yourself, and never abandon the right path.
- Learn to do good and eschew/avoid evil. Seek peace and pursue it earnestly. Aim not for personal goals that trample on others’ needs, but aim after noble and worthy motives to benefit society as a whole. If you seek personal gains, you will run into conflicts with others, and, in the end, you will inevitably fail. If you seek the mutual good, all will benefit, and you will also find satisfying personal gains as well.
- Learn to master your feelings. Avoid letting anything other than sound reason dictate your decisions in the conduct of everyday life. It might often be difficult, and at times impossible, to not yield to feelings deep within your soul, but you can learn to suppress their manifestations, and to overcome them through relying on common sense and sound judgment.
- Be neither prodigal, nor miserly, but seek the middle ground. The ability to seek the middle ground is the mark of a strong character capable of resisting extremes.
- Be calm in all things. Calmness is a state of quietude that enables you to concentrate and reassemble your divergent thoughts and meditate with profit. Contemplation leads to ideas, and ideas lead to opportunities, and opportunities lead to success. Calmness is a sine qua non of a strong character. Without calmness, there can be no strength in character. Without calmness, passion can easily become overheated, turning into an intense desire and interfering with sound reason. Calmness is not the foe of feelings, but its regulator, permitting their proper expression.
- Focus on the positives in life, and spare little time for the negatives. A physician once said to a young woman complaining of all sorts of troubles for which she asked of him a cure: “Don’t think of them: it is the most powerful of all cures.” Physical and mental pains can be alleviated by effort of the will to divert the mind into opposite channels, and exacerbated by the dwelling upon them.
- Oppose fatalism. Each individual is responsible for his or her own development and fortune. To accept fatalism, that is, to believe that destiny is somehow immovable, is to discourage yourself from attempting all initiatives to improve your life and self. Destiny is blind and deaf; it will neither hear nor regard us. Instead, remember that fixing calamities and changing destiny for the better are ways to strengthen your character and improve your lot in life. Work out your happiness; don’t wait for someone else or something else to do it for you because it will never happen unless you persevere.
- Have patience — to enthusiastically set, persist and follow-through on your goals, short term, intermediate and long term: which is progress (success). Success is a progress — not a destination. An individual with a strong character will not quit when faced with obstacles, but will persevere to the end and overcome all obstacles. Learn to delay gratifications in life, learn to wait as part of progressing, and learn that time can be your friend, time to learn, apply and see growth. It also helps to know which battles are worth it, and when to let things rest; sometimes letting go is accepting a gift of life, rather than clinging to a sinking ship.
- Conquer all fears. Timidity is a stumbling block to success. Entertain no superstitions based upon superficial observations, but accept facts based upon solid reason. Avoid building your foundation upon sand, preferring instead to build upon a rock. Once you overcome fear, you will have the strength of character to think, to have resolve, and to act victoriously.
- Just as a gardener must remove all the weeds to grow the crops, so you must likewise dispel from your mind all feeble thoughts, that act as weeds undermining your strength. Guard against excessive emotions, and attribute to them their exact significance. Whenever you find yourself preoccupied with some overwhelming emotion, immediately occupy yourself with something else for fifteen minutes, up to an hour. Many great warriors have lost their lives when they react too brashly to insults, and go to fight prematurely against their taunters without adequate preparations, acting merely upon a hot head. Learn to overcome such a weakness with practice, remembering that anger is a common vice in all those of weak character.
- Exercise coolness, circumspection, discernment, and prudence in business. Cultivate your mind with logic, and conduct your affairs accordingly.
- Always be truthful in all things and every aspect of life. If you are dishonest, you are dishonest with yourself, and that is an assault upon your own character
Finally, excel wherever you are, and do your best in whatever you do. Work hard, and shun idleness like the plague. By the same token, learn to appreciate quality leisure time for its ability to rejuvenate and inspire you to return to your good deeds.
Remember that to strengthen your character, you will work hard. This requires discipline, self-control and effort. Find someone to help you. Someone that you trust.
More Tips to Strengthen Your Character
- Be a man or woman of your words and resist the temptation of lies; truth brushes up character. Also, learn to be a decision maker.
- Have discipline and self-control. Flee from bad impulses (including destructive works or actions that one regrets later) — and compulsive-obsessive behaviors that become a habit and deform character.
- Be happy. Happiness is health. Happiness gives you strength to overcome the monotonous and dispel boredom in life. It allows you to make the best of all things. Happiness is a state of mind. It has been observed, that there are more smiles on the faces of those of modest means, than on those of wealthy bankers on Wall Street.
- Do physical exercise to train your endurance. The mind and the body interconnect. So train your physical endurance to strengthen your mental endurance.
- Be a good friend. Devote yourself to your friend, and be willing to sacrifice. Never hold grudges, and dismiss all petty incidents. Live in harmony with others. Do not be egoistic: always think in terms of others’ interests.