Achieving Goals by Improving Your Character

January 10th, 2007 by Steve Pavlina

Often a change in character is a crucial part of shifting your identity to become more congruent with your goals and intentions.  For example, suppose you want to become more successful in your career, and you set a goal to reach a certain position.  Maybe the main reason you haven’t yet reached that position is that your character attributes are out of sync with it.  Perhaps you aren’t disciplined enough, confident enough, or resourceful enough to get there.

Once you can identify the character qualities you’re missing, you can consciously develop them.  But as long as you remain in the dark about these deficiencies, it will be tough to reach your goal because you won’t yet be the kind of person who can achieve it.  It’s like trying to lift more weight than your muscles can manage.

Select one of your goals or intentions, especially one where your progress has been disappointing.  Now ask yourself if a person with different character attributes would be more capable of achieving this goal than you are.  What kind of person would find your goal easy to achieve?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What would a person with more self-esteem do in my situation?
  • What would a person with more courage do in my situation?
  • What would a person with more self-discipline do in my situation?
  • What would a person with more confidence do in my situation?
  • What would a person with more compassion do in my situation?
  • What would a person with more gratitude do in my situation?
  • What would a person with more centeredness do in my situation?
  • What would a person with more flexibility do in my situation?
  • What would a person with more curiosity do in my situation?
  • What would a person with more resourcefulness do in my situation?
  • What would a person with more wisdom do in my situation?

Feel free to scan this list of values for more ideas.

By asking these questions for each of your goals, you’ll end up with a list of character qualities to develop.  By strengthening these qualities, you’ll become the kind of person who can and will achieve your goal.  Almost any meaningful goal you set will require some kind of character development.  In the long run this character building is one of the best side effects of pursuing goals, eventually outshadowing the goals themselves.  Just as weight training makes you stronger, goal achievement builds you a stronger character.

For example, if I can see that my problems wouldn’t even be an issue for someone with more courage, then I know a lack of courage is what’s holding me back.  Complaining that the problem is too difficult doesn’t help me — that gives me nothing to work with.  But realizing that I can solve the problem if I develop my courage is helpful because it gives me a direction.  I know that if I can build my courage level high enough, I can eventually achieve the goal.

Once you’ve identified the character attributes you need to build, how do you train them up?  See the article on Progressive Training for details on how to accomplish that.  The process is very similar to using weight training to build your muscles.  You start where you are and grow by tackling a series of progressive challenges.

You can also find a couple processes specifically for building courage in the article The Courage to Live Consciously.

Any character building you accomplish now can serve you well indefinitely.  Qualities like courage, self-discipline, and resourcefulness pay dividends across all areas of your life.

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