“Hear and take to heart this useful and wholesome motto: ‘Cherish some man of high character, and keep him ever before your eyes, living as if he were watching you, and ordering all your actions as if he beheld them.’… We can get rid of most sins, if we have a witness who stands near us when we are likely to go wrong. The soul should have someone whom it can respect, — one by whose authority it may make even its inner shrine more hallowed. Happy is the man who can make others better, not merely when he is in their company, but even when he is in their thoughts! And happy also is he who can so revere a man as to calm and regulate himself by calling him to mind! One who can so revere another, will soon be himself worthy of reverence. Choose therefore a Cato; or, if Cato seems too severe a model, choose some Laelius, a gentler spirit. Choose a master whose life, conversation, and soul-expressing face have satisfied you; picture him always to yourself as your protector or your pattern. For we must indeed have someone according to whom we may regulate our characters; you can never straighten that which is crooked unless you use a ruler.” – Seneca, Lucius Annaeus, Letters from a Stoic, Letter 11
“You can never straighten that which is crooked unless you use a ruler.”
I have a friend who has created several successful businesses. His advice is always, “Find something that’s working and model it!” This technique not only works with business, but also character development. Becoming a person of depth doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a process. And one of the best ways to reach the highest levels of growth is to surround yourself with examples of excellence.
It is said you become a composite of the 5 people you interact with most. But, I would go further and say you become a composite of everything you expose yourself to: the television you watch, the books you read, the people you work with, the games you play, the food you eat, the pictures you view. It all culminates to create you.
This is why it is exceptionally important to surround yourself with excellence. There are many areas of excellence—health, wealth creation, lifestyle, and so on. But I want to focus this article on excellence of character.
Some widely accepted elements of a good character are: integrity, empathy, loyalty, conviction and courage. Still, it’s difficult to build or even define a good character if you don’t have a model to base it on. Kids in street gangs value courage, for example, but the ruler they measure by is very different from what courage means to a group of fire fighters. To reach the highest levels of your potential, it is essential to emulate examples of great men and women. And, through studying and learning from these greats, you define what “great” means to you.
Some people base their decisions on a code set forth by religion, while others base it on teachings from their parents, and others from mentors or teachers. Whatever you base your character development on, don’t let it be by accident—just a meandering happenstance. Actively seek out that which is meaningful to you and helps you to grow into the kind of man or woman you respect. This isn’t about being productive or wealthy or praised, this is about the evolution of your soul.
Character Development Questions to Ask Yourself
- How do I want others to think of me?
- How do I want to treat others?
- What values are most important to me?
- What does spirituality mean to me? Is it important? How do I connect with spirit?
- What character flaws do I struggle with?
- What kinds of relationships do I want?
- What kinds of choices make me respect myself?
- What makes me feel bad about myself?
- What legacy do I want to leave behind?
Laura A. Roser
CEO and Founder of Paragon Road
#1 Expert in Meaning Legacy Planning