Developing Character

Just because someone has charisma, it doesn’t mean they’ve got character. In his talk “Charisma vs Character”, Justin Epstein explores the difference and what we can do to develop greater character in ourselves

FULL VIDEO TEXT: (transcript by Victoria Barkley)

How do you develop character? Well, one is: Self-awareness, introspection…looking at “what are my motives?” “What do I value?” “How am I showing up?” “What am I not seeing in myself?” “What is going on?” Look at the conditioning because we’ve all been conditioned. We have all been conditioned and it affects how we see. Looking at the assumptions that we’ve made…looking at the conditioning of how we’re seeing others and our lives.

The person in business, who is a manager, complained: “You know, I treat my employees so well and I go out of my way to do nice things for them, and I feel that if I’m not around, they’ll just spend the whole day at the water cooler.” Maybe that’s how she’s seeing her employees, and that’s the problem. Maybe she’s seeing them as mechanical objects, rather than seeing them as people.

Yesterday I saw the movie, Spotlight. It’s about the Boston Globe uncovering the abuse by Catholic priests of children. Uncovering some eighty priests in the Boston area, who would abuse children, and the leaders and the hierarchy that supported it, at least turned their heads from it. A priest—someone who people made assumptions about—wearing a collar, speaking the word, that a priest would speak; probably being very charming, and yet something wasn’t right inside. And the people, and the leadership, who had turned their heads and didn’t want to acknowledge it—didn’t want to see it; what were they thinking? Were they more interested in how they would be perceived by others in their church…How their families would think about them…How their friends would think about them…How it would affect their work, if they spoke up…I wonder if now they think that that choice was worth it…I am sure they don’t.

Again, we all can do that…we all do in some way, probably unaware of some of the conditioning that we have and the assumptions that we make about other people, and about life…that’s affecting the lens through which we see and therefore affecting our attitudes and our behaviors.

To develop our character, we need to look within and see where that attitude is coming from…where that behavior is coming from…”what is the conditioning, the lens, the assumptions that I have made that’s causing me to think and behave in this way?”

Secondly: Get an image of the person you want to be. How do you want to show up with your son, your parents, your friends, and other people? You have probably heard about the exercise: How do you want people to speak about you at your funeral? In your eulogy, what do you want people in your community to say about you? What do you want your family to say about you? What do you want your friends to say about you? What do you want people from your workplace, or your church to say about you? What kind of person do you want to be?

One of the interesting things is that when we go to a funeral, we never hear them say: “He raised the stock of this company by 2.5 percent and he has 2 million, or 20 million in his bank account.”

You don’t hear people say that in a eulogy. You might hear them say it over lunch, but no…It’s all about: “What a great daughter she was.” “What a great mother or father…what a difference he made in the community or in my life…” That’s what we hear about!

We hear about character. Who the person was, who they were being, in their lives. And character is rooted in eternal principles that lead to effective relationships and lasting happiness, character qualities.

Thirdly: Make choices on a daily basis. Making choices to follow through on what’s important to us: Making choices to make that phone call, to keep commitments to ourselves and other people, on a daily basis. Character is developed in the small things, the little things, but inch-by- inch, it grows in us. Our characters develop as we make choices every day.

And when we fail to develop to our highest and best, when we realize, “oh, I’m being hypocritical…” when we realize, “oh, I am judging, I am having an assumption there that’s not fair, or whatever…” we can accept that, learn from it and make a different choice the next time.

We can decide: “How do I want to be?” “How am I going to make a different choice the next time?” And become that person; and be transformed into that person over time, making choices every day…