Integrity. It’s our sense of self. It’s the me who shows up in any situation regardless of what’s happening around me. Regardless of who I’m with, what is triggering me, any level of chaos or disharmony outside of me shouldn’t effect the me who shows up.
Living with this truth is living in my integrity. This is showing up. This is living in alignment. So if I’m at work or at home or at the grocery store or at a family event. I am responsible for the energy I bring, the space I create.
This is the primary virtue of my character. I have a few more but this is the biggest one because it’s what drives everything.
Being human is forgettig this and making poor choices. But living in my integrity brings me back. It’s being centered, being present, being positive, and being me.
What makes up our character?
Our character comprises the values that drive us. It’s the sum of our internal drivers, who we are inside, that determines how we live outside. Everything stems from it.
Now more than ever I see the great weight of my own character. We can’t let anything external determine how we feel on the inside. We have to be in control of our thoughts, our feelings, and how we connect and interact with others.
It’s taking responsibility for the decisions we make everyday that lead to the level of fulfillment we feel at the end of the day.
A good character has to be nurtured and developed over time.
Aristotle said “Good character happens when were able to turn virtues into habits.”
How do we shape and mold yourself into the person we want to be?
- We have to define our own set of virtues. The core virtues that drive our decisions each day. It looks different for all of us.
- Then, we must make little choices everyday in alignment with those virtues so they become habits and the way we live our life.
Many of us haven’t sat down to define our virtues. It’s easy to let other people’s agendas and priorities get in the way of living our life when we haven’t defined our own virtues. When we are not in alignment with our character, we aren’t setting and reaching our own goals. We’re not feeling fulfilled and content at the end of the day.
As parents, we are even more responsible for the content of our character.
The example we set as a human being by how we live our life is our greatest responsibility as a parent. Our children need stability, safety, and love and that comes from someone who feels strong, whole, and leading with love themselves. Examining the content of our character and choosing to live by it everyday is greater than any parenting strategy we can employ.
We are everything to our children. They learn how to live their lives and treat others by what we model. Our most important responsibility is who we are, not what we say. We have to take responsibility for ourselves, and that means taking responsibility for the choices we make moment-to-moment.
“Small disciplines repeated with consistency everyday lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” John C Maxwell
If we want to model a virtuous life, we have to take a moment to define our virtues.Then we can make choices in alignment, and soon these virtues become habits and we are living a life we feel good about. We want our decisions to be driven by the content of our character, our virtues.
Life Recipe: Define the Virtues that make up your character that drives the choices you make everyday
- Your computer or journal
- Some quiet time to connect within
Take some time to sit down in quiet without distraction and reflect on the values that are important to you. For inspiration, you can read Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues. It’s within you, however, where you will uncover the values that are most important to you. Each of us has different dreams and passions for ourselves. We must connect within and start writing from stream of consciousness, letting go of expectations of others and outer ideals. Once we take some time to write out the characteristics that are important to us in living our life, it’s easier to make choices in alignment with these characteristics.
You don’t have to have 13 as Benjamin Franklin did. You can start with 3 or whatever number feels doable for you. Benjamin Franking looked at 1 virtue each morning and set an intention to live in accordance to it. Then at the end of every day reflected on how he did. This is a great practice to follow. Each morning read through your virtues and at the end of each day before you go to bed reflect on what you did positively and if there is anything you did out of alignment, reflect on that too and how you could do differently next time. Its a living document, you keep editing and adding as your life evolves and you evolve as a person.
As an example, here are the three key virtues I set for myself. I keep these in my phone and refer to them often so I am keeping them top of mind and making choices in alignment.
- Integrity –
- Self-Responsibility – I am responsible for all the choices I make everyday. It’s up to me and nobody else.
- Truth – Inside me is the truth I desire, I won’t find it anywhere else. I must connect within and live by my truth.
- Courage – It’s up to me to do what’s right, not what’s easy. I have to be courageous in doing what is right, even if it’s against the norm. Doing what is right for me is how I live a good life.
Why living according to your own virtues actually leads to more freedom and happiness
- Sets positive boundaries. We need to have boundaries otherwise we’ll be pulled in every other direction than where we want to be. Saying no is okay. It means saying yes to something more important an in alignment for us.
- Lose judgement of yourself and others. You can trust you did the best you can. We’re not always going to make the right choice but if we followed our virtues, we did the best we can. And we see that others are on their own paths, doing the things that are right for them. We trust they did they best they could with where they are at right now.
- We don’t see failure as a bad thing, just a learning thing. We acted according to our virtues, it didn’t turn out as we liked so we see it as a detour, a curve in the road toward what we want.
- Acceptance. Life has its own will. We can’t be in control of everything that happens, only how we respond. And choosing to respond from a place of love and kindness creates much more positive experiences in our life.
- More kindness and compassion. When we are living according to our virtues, we are being kind to ourselves. When we are feeling good inside, connected and kind, we naturally give that out to others. It’s when we are disconnected to our own self that we can be unkind to others and spread more hate, the last thing our world needs right nows.
So why not take a moment to set your virtues that define your character? Be responsible for you. Setting virtues is actually the most freeing thing you can do because it enables you to live in alignment with your goals and be the person you want to be. And start living the life you want to live and can feel good about.
“Darkness can’t drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate can’t drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King