Character building is a continuous process. We generally take a little from our experiences each day and try to use these little blocks of knowledge to further strengthen and build our character. I think this is how most of us go about initially building our character. This can be effective, yet it is rather inefficient and haphazard. Such a method would be better applied to a well developed character rather than a developing one.
In all my years of coaching and teaching it seems that there is a natural progression in which character is built in individual players (people) and teams (groups). Likewise, one must be disciplined in not using too many terms interchangeably with their synonyms. A strict focus on these core traits, articulated in this specific way, allows one to recognize them, study them in depth, and communicate and adopt them effectively.
The traits should then be perpetually reinforced as we recognize and apply them as they present themselves in our individual or shared experience.
The purpose of introducing and studying the traits in my suggested manner is so that we can efficiently recognize and apply them as we seek our purpose and pursue our goals.
I intend to write more on each individual core trait; sharing stories and quotes that will help in better understanding the core traits and their benefits. In learning the traits, I suggest spending a week or two on each trait. This allows one to study a single core trait in depth and recognize presentations of the trait in your own way in your own environment.
Once the core traits are mastered continuously look for ideas that will further strengthen them within yourself and your organization.
For now, consider this an outline and overview. As I complete a piece on each trait, I will post the individual piece and link the completed piece to the corresponding trait listed below. (Three such traits are completed and linked).
By no means will I consider what I write authoritative or exhaustive. I will simply share what I know of each particular trait in an effort to establish a core from which to grow. I encourage you to seek out other (much better) resources and perspectives on each trait.
But I do stand firm in my suggested progression and the need to develop a limited core of traits.
The core traits are listed below in the chronological order in which I suggest they should be acquired.
1. Humility– One must be humble enough to realize that there is room for improvement. Often times one must be humbled before they will embark on a quest to improve their character. Humility eliminates ignorance. Humility may be learned through experience or study. Learn all you can of humility. Learn how to be humble and the benefits of humility. Learn to maintain your humility.
2.Caring-One must learn to care about something or someone. This could be another person, a team, a cause, a goal. Caring about but something or someone provides a catalyst for improvement. Caring eliminates apathy. Caring is best focused on someone other than you. Caring may be learned through experience or study. Learn all you can of Caring. Learn how to care, and and the benefits of caring. Learn how to continuously care.
3.Teamwork- One must learn how to work with others towards a shared goal. This interaction allows one to practice selflessness and sacrifice. In return one gains from the insights and abilities of others. A team could be any group at home, at work, in activities, or in sports. Teamwork eliminates justification. Teamwork may be learned through experience or study. Learn how to be a part of a team and the benefits of teamwork. The best teams are the ones where members give one another their best character. Learn how to become a valuable team member.
4.Effort-One must learn how to work hard. Learn how to produce a product of excellence. Learn the types of effort that are possible. Learn all you can about effort and it’s benefits. Learn how to consistently put forth an excellent effort.
5.Courage-One must learn how to get beyond their fears. Learn how to summon and maintain bravery. Courage may be learned through experience and study. Learn all you can of courage and it’s benefits.
6.Initiative-One must learn to do things they recognize need to be done without being asked. Initiative may be personal as in setting a goal and taking action to achieve it. Initiative may also be for the greater good of a group. Initiative may be learned through experience and study. Learn all you can about initiative and it’s benefits. Learn how to recognize opportunities for initiative moving forward.
7.Discipline-One must learn how to maintain focus in order to develop consistency. Discipline allows one to learn how to start, continue, and stop their thoughts and actions. Discipline may be learned through experience or study. Learn all you can of discipline and it’s benefits. Learn how to maintain your discipline.
8.Perseverance-One must learn how to overcome the inevitability of obstacles and adversity. Perseverance may be learned through experience or study. Learn all you can of Perseverance. Learn how to persevere when faced with challenges moving forward.
9.Commitment-One must learn the depths of devoting themselves to the completion of a goal or cause through the commitment process. Commitment may be learned through experience or study. Learn all you can of Commitment. Learn how to commit in the areas you participate in and recognize the commitment level of others.
10. Leadership- One must be willing and able to inspire and guide others. The ability of the leader grows through the leadership process. Leadership may be learned through experience or study. Learn all you can about leadership.
11. Awareness-The highest level of character. Awareness requires a certain mastery of the other ten traits. When one becomes aware they recognize variables and connections that most others can not see; near and far, large and small, past and present. Awareness allows one to see events and behaviors from a variety of perspectives, thus coming to a truer conclusion. Awareness allows one to make better informed decisions. At times awareness even allows one a glimpse of future outcomes. Learn all you can of the previous 10 traits and this eleventh trait will naturally develop.
I will add that mental toughness, while sharing some qualities with these core character traits, is actually something separate. I have too often seen students and athletes who had excellent character cower under the pressure of stress caused by pain, inconvenience, and expectation. To me mental toughness is simply the ability to maintain and apply these core character traits under pressure. In order to be truly successful one must have both character and mental toughness.
Great ability will allow you to excel in one area. Great character & mental toughness will allow you to excel in many areas to the best of your ability. If you and/or your organization master these core traits, then you will be better prepared to successfully pursue your specific endeavors. Until you do, your weakness in these areas will impede your performance or the performance of your organization. (If you doubt me then keep this in mind the next time you or your organization hit an impasse). These core traits are at the foundation of sustained success.