After a long and grueling college semester, one of my professors asked me, “How was your semester?" I started thinking about how crazy this semester had been and how I may not make it out with passing grades. I answered by saying “It was okay," then I quickly retracted my statement saying “You know, it was tough.” He then asked me why. I rattled off all the things I had going on with my job, personal life, and anything else that I could think of that had made my semester so challenging. Next, he looked me directly in my eyes and said, “Yeah, all that builds character.”
I had just told him that my life has been ridiculously crazy and I barely made it through this semester, and that’s all he could say?! At the time, I thought to myself, "Really, that’s the best you got?" It felt like a gut punch. Basically he was telling me to just suck it up--and I did.
His statement encouraged me to start thinking more about my character and the person who I aspire to be. One of the first things that came to mind was the famous Martin Luther King quote: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." What is the content of my character?
I consider character building to be a lifelong process. As we grow from childhood to adulthood. we develop habits and behaviors that are either positive or negative. Some of these we pick up from our parents, siblings, or the environment. Over time, these habits and behaviors contribute to who we are. Character helps guide the life decisions that we make. I believe that character is who you really are when no one is looking: No pretense, just the raw version of you.
I recently decided to ask an associate to describe my character in five words. I felt by that asking an unbiased source would give me a true insight on the kind of person that others perceive me to be. The words they used were: confident, honest, hardworking, focused and ambitious. I was quite surprised by this response and I learned from this little exercise that people are always paying attention, even when you least expect it.
I feel strongly that we should be mindful of how we are conducting ourselves at all times. Whether you're at work or just hanging out with friends, always keep in mind that it’s not necessarily your character that starts a friendship or gets you a job, but your character is what allows you to maintain the friendship or keep the job. Friendships may come and go, but long-lasting friendships are built on trust, honesty, and respect: the foundations of strong character.
If you’re brave, ask some friends or colleagues their honest opinion about your character. Possibly take it a step further and ask these important questions:
How do you see yourself?
Who are you really, deep inside?
Are you the person who puts in long hours even when your boss isn’t around? Or are you the person who leaves early when they’re not in the office?
We know ourselves better than anyone else. What things are you doing today that building your character in a strong and positive way?
About the Author
Nancy Rice is a Project Manager at SYNNEX Corporation. She mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters, volunteers with Upstate Warrior Solution and is currently serving as the Blogging Lead for the Pulse Young Professionals Marketing Committee. Nancy enjoys traveling locally & abroad, golfing, and spending time with her family.