Developing Character Traits to Succeed in Life

The Seven Habits of highly effective people

It started while I was reading the book by Stephen Covey called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I am not finished with the book yet, as I am only on the 3rd Habit.

In this book Stephen Covey pointed out that he had made a remarkable discovery while doing research on “self-help” books of the past 200 years.  Around the year 1950, there became a distinct change in the way the books were written.

Prior to 1950, the self-help books detailed that the way to success was to build your character traits and to encourage your children to build their character traits.  After 1960, the self-help books did a turn and started encouraging people to build their Personality traits.

The difference between character and personality

Dictionary.com defines Character as “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.” And it defines Personality as “the visible aspect of one’s character as it impresses others.”

So we could say that Character is the way the person is, and personality is the way the person appears to be.

Examples of Character Traits

A few examples of Character Traits include:

  • Integrity – The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.*
  • Humility – the quality of having a modest view of ones importance.*
  • Fidelity – faithfulness to a person, cause or belief, demonstrated by loyalty & support.*
  • Temperance – abstinence from alcoholic drink.*
  • Courage – the ability to do something that frightens one
  • Justice – just behaviour or treatment of others.*
  • Industry – being able and willing to work hard, effectively and efficiently.*
  • Simplicity – the quality or condition of being plain or uncomplicated in form or design.*
  • Modesty – the quality or state of being unassuming in the estimation of one’s abilities.*
  • The Golden Rule – One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. (Wikipedia.com)

* Definition from Google.com

Examples of Personality Traits

Here are a few examples of Personality Traits that are encouraged during Personality Development:

  • Personality – the visible aspect of one’s character as it impresses others (Dictionary.com)
  • Public Image – the ideas and opinions that the public has about a person or an organization that may not be what they are really like (macmillandictionary.com)
  • Attitudes – a settled way of thinking or feeling about something
  • Behaviours – the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially towards others.*
  • Skills – the ability to do something well; expertise.*
  • Techniques – a way of carrying out a particular task, especially the execution or performance of an artistic work or a scientific procedure.*
  • Influence – the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.*
  • Communication Skills – The ability to convey information to another effectively and efficiently.  (businessdictionary.com)
  • Positive attitudes – A positive attitude is a philosophy of approaching life with optimism and confidence. (eHow.com)

* Definition from Google.com

Why should we build character and not personality?

Many people will argue that in this “modern” world we need our Personalities to succeed in life, that it isn’t our inward person that makes us move ahead, but rather our outward personality.

I argue that personality is only a short-term solution.  Once people get to know you, really get to know you, it is your character that keeps you ahead.

How many times have two people got married or started living together and after a year or two they get divorced or break up?  The excuse is usually “Person X wasn’t the person I thought he/she was.” Or “Living together in the same house made us realize how different we really are.”  I will make the bold statement that these people fell in love with each others personalities, not with each other’s characters.

We could take it to business level too.  You may employ somebody, or join a business that you were attracted to during the interview process.  A few months later (sometimes even a few years later), they don’t seem to be the person you hired (or the business isn’t living up to their promises).  Then there is that horrible “break-up”.  Like in a marriage, you were attracted to the personality, not the character.

Character takes time to develop, and time to reveal itself, especially in a world that focuses so much on the personality.   Developing YOUR character is beneficial though, because it is the backbone of personality.

If you develop the character trait of integrity, then your personality will always be a reflection of your true character.  What people see in you is not the public image you have created, but a reflection of yourself.  If you develop all the character traits mentioned in the example above, how can the person not like what they see (the personality)?

We all know that having people who like you for who you really are, is a huge boost to your own self-esteem.  Having a high Self-Esteem in turn will encourage you to keep building the character traits, which in turn will reflect in your personality, thereby increasing your self-esteem even more.

people don’t like me even with these character traits

Yes, this can be a problem.  Most of the time the people who don’t like you are the ones who lack these character traits themselves.  You may notice that the person who doesn’t like you manipulates other people and tells lies in order to get ahead in life.  They are building personality traits instead of working on their Character traits.

As I mentioned before, personality development is a short term solution.  We all remember that one girl from High School that would suck up to the teachers, tease the boys and spread nasty rumors.  While she appears sweet and innocent to many of the people who first meet her, at the end of High School most people realize what her true character is like.  Unless she changes during college or her adult life and starts developing her character, you will always find that she cannot stay long in any job or place without eventually showing her true self.  You may find that she keeps people at a distance, never getting too close to anybody.

Developing your character traits, is a process of building a reputation that extends over your whole life.  It may not be cool or popular in High School, and sometimes not even in college, but when you get to the age where you are looking for a job, getting married and having children, something switches in your brain and you realize that the Character Traits were the most important after all.

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