The idea of good character

The latest issue of Prospect magazine features a thought-provoking article by Richard Reeves on the old-fashioned concept of “good character” and its importance for a successful society.

Reeves says good character is made up of three parts: “a sense of personal agency or self-direction; an acceptance of personal responsibility; and effective regulation of one’s own emotions, in particular the ability to resist temptation or at least defer gratification.”

Reeves discusses whether good characters are harder to come by these days and if so why? The author also identifies the family and good parenting  as one of the most important sources of good characters.

Change the rules

The timing is never right: You cannot wait for the optimum time. Waiting for “someday” is a long wait and a waste of time.

Ask for Forgiveness, Not Permission: It is easier to stop a horse at the starting line than in mid-course. Don’t give people a chance to stop you. Do it, then justify your actions.

Emphasize strengths, don’t fix weaknesses: If you spend the majority of your time trying to perfect the things you are lousy at, your overall achievement will be mediocre. Do what you are good at and perfect that strength—delegate the rest.

Money alone is not the solution: Money can, and does, help you pursue those things or activities that make you happy but it is not an end unto itself.

Relative income is more important than absolute income: Absolute income is statistically based on the dollar. Relative income is based on the dollar AND time. The more time it takes you to earn that dollar, the less value that dollar has.

Distress is bad, Eustress is good: Distress is harmful, it makes you weaker, less confident, and less able; It is usually created through destructive criticism. Eustress is healthy stress, contributing to personal growth and is created through constructive criticism. The trick is in learning (and recognizing) the difference between the two.