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What is character and how is it different from and influenced by personality? How do character and personality drive the choices we make?
Explore the power of character and get out of default mode with this blog written by Katherine Gilliland, PCC.
Think about a coaching session when you – as the client – were exploring an issue where you felt stuck. Perhaps you wanted to do one thing, but felt some discomfort or tension, signaling misalignment. Your coach likely challenged you to tap into something deeper to notice what was happening and to discern the best path forward, perhaps asking what choices you have available, what values you are (or are not) honoring with each option, and which path would support the person you know yourself to be. What path did you end up choosing? Was it the initial inclination you had, or a different path, perhaps one that was more challenging? Our first inclinations tend to emerge from our personality (which includes our natural thinking and doing preferences), whereas our intentional choices build our character.
Character is about choice
This is not saying that personality is “bad” and character is “good” – both are essential to our whole selves. However, when we act from personality, we tend to act in a default mode, or react. That default mode might work great in some circumstances… and not so great in others. We don’t think about it; we just do what feels most natural, most comfortable. When we act from character, however, we are responding intentionally. We notice what is happening in the moment, we consider the circumstances, we tap into our values, and we discern what path in that moment will increase our self-respect.
In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Sirius Black says, “We've all got both light and dark inside of us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are.” This underscores that we are bigger than our circumstances and that we have sovereignty in even the most difficult situations. Our personality may influence our choice, but it does not determine our choice.
Character is inside-out
When our actions are motivated by external pressure and stimuli, our responses are superficial, tied only to an ephemeral snapshot in time. The results don’t last because our actions are based on others’ expectations instead of what we know to be true within ourselves. In contrast, when we tap into our inner values to discern what action to take, we are choosing from our inner strength – our essence - our character.
This is where coaching through Generative Wholeness is so powerful – it builds our capacity for awareness of choice, clarity of what is driving (or blocking) us, and alignment with our values so that we are grounded, solid, and settled in our way of being. It empowers us to make an aware and conscious choice for what we do. It invites us to claim ourselves as whole, resourceful, capable and creative.
Character is a lifelong journey
Character is not only about choice coming from our most deeply held values, but also the long arc of these choices over time... and it is not a straight-line progression. Every choice we make is both a chance to affirm our sovereignty and an opportunity to grow. Sometimes we may misread a situation or fall into old habits, leading to a less-than-optimal outcome. When that happens, it’s important to give ourselves grace so that we can explore fully what happened through a lens of what we can learn and what we choose to do next. Keeping an eye on the long-term journey of development offers perspective to support that growth mindset.
"Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny." - Mahatma Gandhi
Learn more about character development in our Level 1 and Level 2 Coach Education Programs and in our Solutions for Enterprises.
Katherine believes in the power of possibility. Drawing on her consulting background, Katherine focuses on improving business performance through harnessing individuals’ potential. She believes that increasing self-awareness, removing barriers and providing targeted support helps people be – and achieve – their best. She helps her clients find their own leadership voice and increase their positive influence. Inspired by her clients’ journeys, Katherine draws upon her experience and presence to bring a playful and honest challenge to shake up the status quo.
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