Reasons for Choosing Character Development

by Haider on January 10, 2009 · 0 comments

in Character Development

In my previous post on the meaning of character development, I explained how character development is an approach to personal development that I would like to focus on for this year.

In this post I would like to explain my reasons for choosing character development as my approach for the year and when is it a suitable approach to take.

Although I’ve had an interest in personal development for a number of years, and have been shaping and re-shaping my beliefs throughout these years, I haven’t come up with a list of virtues I would really like to possess, and the list of vices that I would like to abandon or avoid.

Why is this important?

Principles, by themselves, can seem abstract, impractical and meaningless. You can have beliefs you feel strongly about, but if you don’t know how they should be translated into personal conduct, you will always live in a contradiction, where your beliefs don’t match your actions. Not because you are lying about your beliefs, but because you haven’t given their practical meaning much thought.

There are people who don’t think on the level of beliefs. In fact, they may even struggle to express their beliefs, simply because they think on the level of behaviors. They accept that some behaviors lead to positive results and others lead to negative results, and their interest in personal development is on how to be able to change their behaviors and to stick to their changes by forming new habits.

The problem with this approach is that their new habits may lack direction, and other habits can sabotage the effort they are putting in to forming their habits. For example, suppose someone wants to be able to build better relationships. He identifies one bad habit he possesses: he doesn’t listen to others when they speak. Therefore, to overcome this bad habit, he decides to not cut people off while they are speaking, to pay attention to what’s being said and to respond with something relevant to what was mentioned.

Now, he may develop this new habit, to the delight of his acquaintances. However, when he responds to what he hears, he speaks sarcastically, and may even mock others for their views. Although he overcame one bad habit, he overlooked another habit that is jeopardizing his relationships!

It is overwhelming to consider habits separately, without grouping them under meaningful principles that relate to different areas of our lives. To “pay attention to what others say” and to “not be sarcastic” are both habits that belong to the principle of treating others with respect in the area of social relations.

Character traits combine a number of habits to represent them. Being patient isn’t tied to a single habit. It’s demonstrated by a number of habits in different situations.

The two main reasons why I want to take the approach of character development are:

  • To put my principles into practice
  • To more clearly recognize the habits that demonstrate the characteristics I wish to possess

I should make one point clear: I will NOT be developing all the characteristics I want to possess, or abandoning all my bad habits this year! This isn’t my aim, and I don’t think it’s a very practical target to aim for.

To make character development my focus for this year will involve me defining the characteristics I want to possess and to identifying the habits that fall under each characteristic, so that I can have a clearer plan for my personal development efforts.

What habits do I need to have in order to be patient? Reliable? Helpful? Attentive? Etc? (Ok, the last one isn’t a habit!)

In my next post I’ll share with you a personal experience that made me realize the importance of character development.

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