The most important question to ask on the job is not, “What am I getting?” The most important question to ask is, “What am I becoming?”
Some time ago I came across a poem that really struck me. Perhaps you’ve seen it also. It read:
If there is right in the soul,
There will be contentment in the person.
If there is contentment in the person,
There will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home,
There will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
There will be peace in the world.
How true! So much of our success on and off the job, so much of the good or bad in the world, can be traced back to the soul or character of the individual.
Unfortunately, words like “character” and “soul” have fallen out of favor. They’re considered too “spiritual” or “religious.” And people who comment on the character of others are called intolerant, narrow, and judgmental.
It’s no wonder the world is plagued with domestic difficulties, corporate scandals, and widespread terrorism. People have been led to believe that character doesn’t matter. I beg to differ.
I would say that few if any things in life are more important than character. Without character, you’ll never have self-esteem or the respect of others. Without character, you may have some success, but you’ll never have satisfaction. And without character, you may have moments of happiness, but you’ll never have lasting joy.
So how do you become a person of character? A person that you respect? A person that others admire? A person that others will follow?
My program, “Taking Charge: Motivating Yourself to Achieve More Than Ever,” addresses that question in great detail. You might want to consider having me come into your organization to speak on the topic. But to get you started, do the following.
First, MAKE CONSCIOUS DECISIONS. Every day you make dozens of decisions. You decide everything from the foods you eat, to the way you treat your customers, to the time you go to bed.
The trouble is–if you’re like most people, you live on autopilot. You don’t even think about the long range consequences of your decisions. In fact, you may not even realize that you are making dozens of decisions throughout the day that will affect your future forever.
You may not stop to think about the fact that your eating choices of today may shorten your life expectancy of tomorrow. You may not stop to think that your clever, witty putdowns of a coworker may cost you a promotion next year.
You need to make every decision as consciously as possible. Be conscious of the outcome you want to achieve, and make your decisions accordingly. Afterall, you make your decisions, but then your decisions make you.
Second, DO WHAT’S RIGHT, whether or not it’s cool, popular, expedient, or politically correct. You need to go beyond the “looking out for number one.” Inasmuch as possible, you need to do what is good for all concerned.
Of course, our modern culture focuses more on reputation than character. But that’s a far cry from true leadership. As you well know, some people pay so much attention to their reputation that they lose their character. Fortunately, a person’s character is like a fence. It cannot be strengthened by whitewash.
I like the way Thomas Jefferson put it. He said, “What you do when you don’t have to will determine who you are when you can’t help it.” In other words, do what’s right, even when you don’t have to, and you will become a person of character.
Third, KEEP YOUR COMMITMENTS. Winners always do. They do what they say they’re going to do despite circumstances. As a result, they can be trusted.
Of course, this third ingredient of character is highly unpopular. Losers would rather say, “I’ll see… I’ll think about… Let me get back to you… and… Just maybe.” They want to “keep their options open.” And when they make commitments, what they really mean is, “Sure, I’ll do it, if nothing else comes up…if I don’t get a better offer… and if I feel like it.”
That’s not commitment. And that’s not character. It’s nothing more than selfishness.
If you’re going to be a person of character, if you’re going to lead a team or an organization, if you’re going to lead a family, you’ve got to make and keep your commitments. No excuses. After all, you don’t build character on the flimsy foundation of what you’re going to do.
Fourth, DO A BIT MORE. As someone said, “To obtain excellence, you must care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible.”
The Success Motivation Institute calls it “The Slight Edge” concept. They say the person or organization that wins isn’t 100 or even 10 times better than the competition. They’re simply the ones who are a little better at or do a little more of the important things.
For example, the baseball player who has a 300 plus batting average will earn 10 times as much as the player who only hits 250. The difference is only 1 hit every 20 times at bat.
The same is true in business. The salesperson that makes one extra call a day will tend to out-earn her counterparts who quit a bit earlier.
And the student who studies an extra hour a day gets an extra 15 days of learning each year. Will that make a difference? Absolutely. And it will also build his character.
Vincent Van Gogh knew about this principle. He said, “Great things are not done by impulse but by a series of small things brought together.” What about you? Are you doing a lot more? Are you building your character? I hope so.
If you are, you’ll always have more and be more than those who just get by.
Do a self-assessment. Would your coworkers, your customers, and your family members consider you to be a person of character?
If your answer is “yes,” congratulations! If you don’t know, or if your answer is anything less than a strong “yes,” select one of the four ingredients of character and focus on that for the next month.