3 Steps to Build Stronger Character (Even If You Don’t Have Time.)

writingMy Dearest Reader,

I have decided to begin writing again. Please know it is not that I haven’t had time to write, it is that I didn’t make the time. I am deeply sorry. I want to point out the significant difference between the two:

Having time – Life is a busy place, especially when it is full of work, school, relaxation, friends, family, and passions. It becomes even more difficult trying to balance all of these things so “having time” isn’t necessarily always how the cookie crumbles.

Making time – Certain things in life require a specific amount of dedication and, thus we must FIND the time in our busy schedules to make such things possible, hence the expression “Making Time”. Whether it be for yourself, someone or something else it is important to find, therefore make time, to do the things that make you happy and are important to you.

For me, I didn’t FIND the time to write simply because I was taking a condensed class in University, and it was complete hell. I didn’t feel like I could alter mental states in order to accommodate my creativity. And let me tell you, those six and a half weeks served to be quite a learning experience.

Let’s step back a second and give you a bit of background. I am studying Anthropology and Biology at the Mount Royal University here in Calgary, AB. The condensed course I had to take is my Chemistry 30 equivalency, which is normally taught in a four-month semester. However, due to my distaste for the subject, I decided to test myself by taking Chemistry in the spring semester, hence the six and a half week program. This decision started what was to be my Self-Improvement phase.

The Self-Improvement phase consisted of several goals I set for myself, which included but was not limited to focusing on school, improving my relationship with myself, cutting down on my recreational alcohol intake, improving my health, working out, and generally determining my priorities. Of course, I understood not all of these things would happen overnight but at least I’d laid out the plan and could set my goals into motion. What I hadn’t known at the time, was that I was about to meet someone who would test everything I had learned, and all I was trying to accomplish.

weightsI have always believed there is a lesson in everything so I’ve come to look at life as a journey of personal triumphs that can be measured in relation to personal failures. Let me explain further: When you’re working out, you keep track of the number of reps you can do as well as the weight you can handle in relation to any particular activity. The more you do that activity, the more reps you can do before, eventually, you increase the weight. Life is similar – you can measure how much you’ve learned, gained, and grown by relating it to your last encounter with any particular lesson.

The problem, for some people, in this method is recognizing that personal failure is not universal. Every single person has a different standard that is based off of their knowledge, growth and experience. However, there is a simple way of accounting for it: What if we perceived virtues in the same way as we view muscles?

Virtue: positive quality or trait deemed to be valued as a moral foundation of a person.

Virtues differ according to individualities but historically include patience, fortitude, compassion, trust, intelligence, justice, temperance, prudence, and so forth. In Aristotle’s sense, virtue is excellence at being human, a skill that helps a person survive, thrive, form meaningful relationships, and find happiness. He believed learning virtue is difficult at first, but becomes easier with practice over time until it becomes a habit.

(For a crazy long list of virtues and their accepted definitions, you can click here.)

So how do we “work out” our virtues?

  1. Understanding what virtues you possess.

    A simple exercise that will give you a clear picture of the virtues you possess is to make a list of the top five people you spend the most amount of time with. For each person, list the positive qualities you see and appreciate in them. Try to delve as deep into their personalities as you can. Next, list the attributes which cause you negative emotions – which ones do you find take value from you? Whether it’s habits they exhibit or deep, personal traits, both are irrelevant. Just write it all down.

  2. Examining what virtues you deem to be most important.

    Follow a similar procedure as Step One, but this time the list you’re compiling is for your ideal romantic partner, best friend, or soul mate. For guidance in completing this step, you can refer to Jamie’s article: An Exercise: How to Attract The One.

  3. Evaluate & Project the Ideal Virtuous You.

    Now that you understand the virtues you possess, and those which are important to you, you can begin to evaluate what virtues you may need to spend time working on. “Work out” these virtues by compiling a list of activities, however big or small, that exercise them.

    For example, I am incredibly obsessive-compulsive so I devised a system in which I painted my nails two different colors and neither hand is exactly alike. The purpose of this is an exercise in tolerance – I have to look at my hands every single day so if I can manage to tolerate my asymmetrical nail polish, I can then move to a “higher weight” of tolerance building. Remember this is a tough endeavor and it is perfectly acceptable to start small.

  4. The key to these exercises is that you have to make the time to “work out” your inner self just as much (if not more) than your external self. Be as real with yourself as possible. Don’t focus on whether or not someone waxes their eyebrows. Instead, focus on whether or not they are accountable, reliable, and stable; spontaneous, adventurous, and exuberant; considerate, intelligent and passionate. Remember the virtues that are important to you will not be entirely the same as those someone else may find important, just as the virtues you possess may not always be similar to those you attract. Know there will always be people who test everything you do, push every boundary and motivate you to step up. Embrace who you are, and you’ll go far for the beauty in life is in its idiosyncrasy.

    Live – Learn – Grow

One comment

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