by Kevin M Thomas
Missed deadlines, failed tests, showing up late, weight loss failures, physical fitness flubs, relationship strife, so on and so forth usually occur, when we fail to do what we know we should do.
We often do more harm to or cheat ourselves more than any other person on the planet. Most of our shortcomings, bad decisions and personal defeats can be traced back to one thing, a lack of character.
(I know you’ve probably heard it before, but please keep reading until you’ve read about the two components of character. I believe you’ll be glad you did.)
Strong or good character is driven by doing what you should when you should and how you should do it. It has little to do with words or intentions, but actions.
Every day is either an opportunity seized or an opportunity lost. How will you label today? Will you honestly be able call today an opportunity seized or will you chalk it up as another missed opportunity? Most of our failures aren’t born in a day, but are developed (or better, deformed) day by day through our refusal to follow through on what we could and should do.
Failure to achieve a goal –whatever the goal might be– failure creeps further in on us a few sneaky steps every day. For example, we failed to write our book or get into shape over a period of days and weeks, not over the course of a single day. Every day we failed to do something to make progress, even though we knew what we wanted to do.
Good character is a requirement to attain and sustain success. (Success is more than money or fame, but that’s another subject.) Professor James Kouzes and Professor Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge found that honesty is a successful leaders’ most appreciated trait. People want honest leaders. And people want honest people around them. So, it’s time to examine our own character.
Honesty and integrity are key components of good character. If honesty is the cornerstone of good character, then integrity is the foundation supporting everything we attempt. Although integrity is related to honesty, it’s slightly different.
- Honesty is telling the truth and being trustworthy.
- Integrity is doing the right thing even when nobody is watching you.
You probably have honesty and integrity in areas of your life, but they might be missing in the areas that matter most to you.
How many times have you lied to yourself? You said you were “going to start today” but you didn’t. You told everyone, “I’m going to do it.” You had the time to do it. You had everything you needed to get started. But since nobody was watching, you wasted the opportunity. At the end of the day, you were disappointed with yourself.
When you do this to yourself… when you can’t even trust yourself to follow through, it’s source is a lack of integrity toward self.
It’s also being dishonest with yourself, telling yourself lies over and over. No wonder you have a lack of self-confidence to achieve that big goal! No wonder it’s taking so long to do something that should’ve been done a long time ago!
It’s hard to believe in anyone who keeps lying to us. If someone else had told you as many lies as you’ve told yourself, you wouldn’t trust them either.
Just remember this: it’s hard to trust yourself, when you keep lying to yourself. Consequently, you victimize your own faith in yourself to achieve what you were built to do. Our character is important to others, but especially to ourselves.
For instance, I don’t make many promises to myself that I don’t keep. If I get in the habit of lying to myself, not only do I repeatedly fail but it makes it easier to treat others the same way. So, if I tell myself or others I’m going to do something, I’ve got to do it.
The best way I’ve found to be a person of good character is to work on it every day.
- Practicing honesty and integrity every day builds strong character.
For example, I strengthen my honesty by getting up when my alarm sounds. No snooze bar for me! Literally, I’m on my feet within three to five seconds. Why? Because I promised myself I was going to get up when my alarm rang.
Further, I strengthen my integrity by following through on my plans and goals, even and especially when nobody is watching me. Why? Because I’ve got to be able to trust myself to successfully take on life’s challenges and achieve my goals. I’ve got to have character, if I want to achieve anything of significance. So, I work on building it every day, even in the smallest things, like getting out of bed on time.
Additionally, I can’t lead others effectively if I haven’t learned to lead myself. If I struggle to lead myself out of bed, to my desk, and into the community to work and serve, then how can I expect to effectively lead others? (Keyword is effectively.) You might be leading others, but are you leading them as effectively as you could? Probably not, if you’re failing at leading yourself!
So, let’s look at improving ourselves. And let’s not begin next week or tomorrow, but today! Let’s begin with this truth: If I can trust myself to do what I committed to do, I can eliminate most of my shortcomings, bad decisions, and personal failures, especially those that can be traced to a lack of self-honesty and self-integrity.
In other words, I can trust myself to achieve, when I build character I can believe.
Remember, we build believable, reliable character as we do those good things we told ourselves we were going to do. You’ll be pleasantly surprised what you can accomplish and how far God will help you go, when you both can believe and rely on you to come through!
If you’re serious about developing stronger leadership character, consider answering the Group Discussion questions in a group, with another person or alone. Then commit to one or two action steps that will help you strengthen your character beginning today and practiced every day.
- Looking back on your own failures and defeats, how many can be attributed to weak character, that is, not stepping up to do what you could have done?
- Based on the above definition of honesty, what can you do to increase your honesty to yourself?
- Based on the above definition of integrity, what can you do to improve your integrity toward yourself?
- Was yesterday an opportunity seized or an opportunity missed? Why? What could you have done better?
- At the end of today, will you label this day as an opportunity seized or as another opportunity lost? Why?
- What can you do to seize today’s opportunity?