Our character is an aspect which plays a major role in our perception and interaction with the outside world. Ultimately, it affects our lives on many gross and subtle levels. Any excessive quality in our character can easily turn into a problem either for us or for those around us. The tendency to be over-passive in one’s relationships might be as ruinous as being over-possessive. Being over-emotional can often interfere with rational judgment e.g. making us blind to the fact that those whom we hold dear might be taking advantage of us. The list can go on and on. The point, however, is not to label a certain quality as “good” or “bad” per se but rather to highlight the importance in general of all those predominant tendencies that form what we call “my character”.
Above said, we come to further considerations. If our character is such an important element of our lives, is it something that is malleable, modifiable through intentional training and effort? Or is it something we should take for granted? Is it a combination of mental tendencies and attitudes that we have somehow accumulated throughout our lives often without even being aware when they became part of us? Are we stuck with those accumulations and should we accept as true that any eventual change to the already existing construct of our character just happens by itself out of our circumstances and we can do nothing about it?
In fact, many people seem to believe that character is a “fixed” thing. Thus it makes no sense even to reflect upon it – one way or another it came into being and is already inseparable from us so the best thing we can do is learn to live with it just as it is, accepting both the aspects we like and those we hate. This belief is evident when so often people explain their behavior with statements such as “I am like this” or “This is what I am”. What many people miss to understand (or choose to ignore) is that the belief itself they hold about character being a fixed construct, is already part of that same construct. In fact, it is exactly the system of beliefs that is one of the building blocks that formed our character in the first place. It is like a worker who took part himself in the construction of a building and still maintaining that the building somehow always existed by itself and shall always be there. Ultimately, each acceptance of a belief even the belief that it is impossible to change one’s character is already an empirical proof to the opposite effect – that change is possible.
What is character after all? From the moment we are born throughout our lives we go through all kinds of situations and often unnoticeably are influenced by them. Being into a situation triggers a reaction. Repeated reactions over time affect our perception of reality. Through our experiences we develop certain believes about our reality – such as how it is or how we want it to be. Once we have believes that are solid enough they reinforce the repeated patterns of behavior that we consider adequate to our perceived reality. Our behavior and attitudes get into a kind of auto-pilot mode where we just act out of an automatic assumption that we know “what works best” in a particular situation and we just do it. Thus the bottom line is that character is an accumulation of tendencies and patterns. The reverse process even if not necessarily easy is possible – you tie a knot and then you can untie it.
Some people might not be happy with the idea of character transformation. After all, even if we dislike it, it is still an easier way to go. Thus we can comfortably be “a victim” of the reality when it gets into confrontation with our already pre-set mental world, free from the burden of taking the responsibility for what we are and becoming what we want to be. The message of this article is not about convincing anybody what to do or not to do but rather about us always having more than 1 option to choose from– to change or to remain as we are.