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Building Character

Six Steps to Developing Good Character

The Character Council has developed the following six-step process to help each citizen understand and incorporate good character into their lives. If you want to help others in your family, your organization and your community become more conscious of the traits and characteristics of good character, the steps below will help you get the message across.

Before you start, It's important to understand:

  • A character quality is a habit that you can develop through repeated practice
  • Good character contributes to success.

With this understanding in mind, you can help by employing the following six steps.

Understand the Quality
Grasp Its Actions
Realize Its Benefits
Practice Its Actions
Encourage It in Others
Be Encouraged

 

Understand the Quality
First, gain a clear understanding of the character quality. If you're talking about the positive character quality of "enthusiasm," for instance, you might define it as "Expressing joy in each task as one gives it his or her best effort." Give illustrations from history, contemporary lives, nature, etc. From history, for example, you might point out the enthusiasm with which John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence. He ignored the peril he was putting himself in by signing the document with a signature so large that the King of England wouldn't need "to put his spectacles on to read it."
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Grasp Its Actions
Describe the character quality in terms of thoughts, words and/or behavior that are representative of those that result when a person possesses this quality. This not only provides further understanding of the quality, but very importantly provides thoughts, words and behaviors that people can practice to help build the patterns of habit into their own lives. Give an action-oriented definition (the final goal of teaching character is behavior implementation—not just knowledge). For "enthusiasm," you might describe the following actions:

  • Smile
  • Be an energy giver to others
  • Treat every job as important
  • Put my whole heart into what I do
  • Do not be discouraged by failure.

Notice the circular nature of character qualities and actions—thoughts, words, behavior. Possessing the quality gives rise to actions patterned after that character quality. But it is in practicing actions according to that pattern that the individual builds the character quality.
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Realize Its Benefits
Expected benefits motivate a person to develop character. Benefits fall into two categories.

1. Significant benefits deriving from good character in general:

  • Helps individuals reach their full potential—in knowledge, skills and accomplishments (Consider, for examples, diligence, dependability, benevolence.)
  • Enhances self-acceptance, self-confidence and self-satisfaction
  • Increases productivity and accomplishments
  • Improves relationships
  • Benefits and encourages others
  • Contributes to success.

2. Benefits deriving from the particular character quality. "Enthusiasm," for instance:

  • Provides a renewed excitement to life—to both the giver and those impacted by the energy given.

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Practice Its Actions
Begin today to regularly practice the actions that will develop the habit pattern of the character quality, and to experience the benefits that result. Tackle enthusiastically, for instance, a task that you typically dislike doing. On occasion, implementation of the desired end action may be too demanding to accomplish in a single step, and may have to be approached in a sequence of smaller steps.
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Encourage It in Others
Encouraging the quality in others is beneficial not only to the others but is especially beneficial to the person doing the encouraging. Encouraging others will keep sharp your awareness of the character quality itself, keeps you actively communicating about it and possibly gaining a new understanding of the quality, and encourages you to keep actively developing the quality in your own life. In the case of enthusiasm, remember how infectious it can be!

Encouragement may be focused on a single individual, on a group of individuals (a family, for example), on an organization of individuals (a business, school, religious assembly, etc.).

Four common facets of encouragement include:

  1. Model. Demonstrate the character quality or an intermediate stage in a sequence of steps that will result in a desired habit.
  2. Remind/Emphasize. Bring to mind the importance of developing the character quality—by personal communication or attitude, etc.
  3. Expect/Require. By attitudes, words and/or actions make clear the expectations/requirements and, if required by policy or requested voluntarily, hold other(s) accountable for developing the quality.
  4. Recognize. Affirm and bring attention to the display by an individual of a good character quality, thereby encouraging both the individual and others. Similarly, affirm the achievement of steps in a sequence which will, when complete, result in the development of an intended good character quality. (These comments are provided by Character First!®)

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Be Encouraged
Explicitly invite one or more persons to encourage you in developing character qualities, lovingly holding them accountable to practice options. When a colleague hears you grumbling about deadlines, for instance, ask her to remind you that renewed enthusiasm will help you get back on course.
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This material is copyright © 2008 by the Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, unless otherwise noted.