Integrity and Character. Two Tickets to Legacy.
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” ~ John Wooden
People with impeccable character and integrity fascinate us. Folks who have it become epic, larger-than-life and timeless. Maybe it’s because it’s become so rare. Perhaps it’s the way a shiny veneer peels off, revealing major flaws beneath the surface. Maybe you’re like me and often find yourself disappointed when the truth comes out and the mask comes off. I can’t stand to watch the news anymore. It’s a shame storm.
But here’s the deal, I think we missed the memo. High integrity and good moral fiber are achievable. People aren’t born with greatness of character. It isn’t some kind of “it factor” we inherit like blue eyes or long legs. We develop outstanding character over time as we learn to make good choices. Our integrity is polished by hardships, disappointments, and do-overs.
In fact, most individuals with high character have experienced far more than their fair share of adversity. Impeccable integrity is possible and building that characteristic is one of the noblest ambitions of a lifetime. It isn’t easy but the rewards are enormous. “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” ~ Helen Keller
Character or reputation?
Our word character comes from the Greek word kharaktēr, “a stamping tool.” We’re all stamped with distinctive marks or traits. Character can be defined very simply. It’s the sum total of mental and moral qualities unique to us, it’s who we are. Our reputation, on the other hand, is what others say about us. The difference is revealed by observing what someone does (especially when they think no one is watching). We learn a whole lot more by watching what someone does than by listening to what they say. If we’re focused on developing good character, we don’t need to do much work on enhancing our reputation.
Where are the men and women of integrity?
We’re starving for ethical leaders in our families, communities, and businesses. If those traits are so valuable and held in such high regard why are they so uncommon? What are the positive character traits that set a person apart from the herd? We might use words like honest, kind, fair, consistent, and calm. If we’re lucky enough to have someone like that come along, it can be life-changing. But better still, we can aspire to be that person!
All of us want to believe we matter. And, we want to think when our life ends, we’ll leave our mark on the world, a positive legacy. Think about people you’ve known and admired. What sort of traits did they have and what was it that left such an impression on you? I’d be willing to bet it could be summed up by saying they simply did what author Matthew Kelly calls “the next right thing” day after day.
What better legacy can we leave than a great reputation because of our unimpeachable character? Our 16th president was a man who left a legacy of greatness built over years of dedication to his beliefs. “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” ~Abraham Lincoln
How are character and integrity learned?
“Good character is not formed in a week or a month.It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.”~ Heraclitus
How can we learn character development? Who’s teaching it? Can we find it only in an apprenticeship-type relationship if we’re lucky enough to have a mentor we can observe and model? I hope not! Because that would limit it to a fortunate few. Good news! In today’s world, there is no limit to the resources if you’re willing to invest in this worthy process.
If you’re a reader, I highly recommend a wonderful little book called The Energy Bus. You can knock it out in an evening. And, I should mention the author is Jon Gordon, one of my favorite “wise guys.” Matthew Kelly is another favorite. His book Perfectly Yourself is a great place to start.
Can’t sit still? Audiobooks are a great option while working out or if you have commute time. Your local library’s shelves are groaning with great ones or you can download them from the library right to your iPod! YouTube is another amazing resource for learning. Look for search terms like integrity or character development. And last but not least, TedTalks are incredible, powerful and abounding in topics like these. No excuses, there’s something for everyone.
Most important, I want you to know that these admirable character traits aren’t just for historical figures or outliers of epic proportions. No way! You can be that person! Integrity, honesty, incorruptibility, holiness, congruence and moral fiber are attainable in our lives too! We’ll need to apply constant effort, I won’t sugar coat it, but that’s true of everything worthwhile. It’s the single most important pursuit of our life and it’s possible. Huge leaps in your personal growth can happen no matter where you begin. The important thing is to begin.
Need a little help getting started? I’d love to bring my program to your group. See life with new eyes! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be back Thursday, see you then!