The blogosphere is abuzz with advice for the new year. We’re being given tricks and tips on getting ahead, becoming more efficient and so forth. But as a guy who helps people live better stories, I have to tell you the best advice I’ve ever heard is simple: Work on your character and a good life will come to you.
Of course we have to define “good life” and we also have to acknowledge this is far from a “biblical law” that is destined for success. To be sure, nothing is for sure. But I like the idea and find it comforting. I like the idea that I can stop trying to control the people around me and just work on myself, just work on being a slightly better Don.
Does it mean everything will be great? No, not really. Conflict is part of every good life. No meaningful story is void of conflict. But what it does mean is that in every context, I can always control what I can control, and that’s me. Just because there’s a storm on the ocean doesn’t mean there has to be a storm within me.
Here are some interesting camera angles I’ve found on the topic of good character. Or here are some reasons I’m going to focus more on character:
1. I’m tired of tricks and tips. I just want to be. And I want to be better. And I am being drawn to slow-growth metaphors rather than quick-fix solutions.
2. I don’t want to go getanything anymore. I don’t want to stand in line at the “discount good life shop.” I just want to enjoy a sunset or sunrise of drive in the country or book. I think having good character IS the good life, in a way. Practicing good character has a way of stabilizing us and keeps us from pining for the things we don’t have. Having good character means cleaning up our inside world, rather than filling it with more stuff like an emotional pack rat.
In the end, having character is about settling. And I firmly believe one key to the happy life is settling. By settling I mean it’s a decision to no longer be gluttonous. I’m gluttonous in so many ways. Not just with food, but with relationships and praise and money and so many other things. Having good character means settling for what little I have, and participating in life rather than trying to conquer life.
3. I think it’s true that character attracts character. When we find ourselves surrounded by people who lack character, it’s probably because our lack of character created compatibility. It’s not always true, but like people often find each other. When we have good character, we have better, more easy conversation with others who have good character and our relationships soon become networks of good people. This is comforting to me.
4. Having good character means having fewer regrets. I hate regrets. I hate sitting around thinking of the crappy things I’ve said to people, or the crappier things I’ve done. I want to build in a few years without regrets to look back on.
5. Having good character is better than making people think you have integrity. It’s fine to have integrity, but it’s a waste of time to convince others that you do. Working on my character seems more Godward and inward focussed than outward focussed on what other humans think. Having good character feels more like having good weather inside you. I want good weather inside me.
I’m going to think about this for a while. Work on your character and a good life will com to you. Will you test it out with me? Lets see if it’s true.