Murphy wagged his tail at the passing dog, approaching her. She snapped and she shot back to his guardian, tail still wagging. He tried to approach her again, only to be snapped at again. His guardian tried to pull him away. Murphy remained to be undaunted, tail still wagging. After a while, he saw another dog and approached him. The other dog barked and snapped at him too. Murphy, with his tail wagging, left him and looked for another playmate. Finally, he met a dog that did not snap at him and was willing to play chase around the field.
Murphy did not despair, got upset or gave up despite his initial failed attempts to play. He acted exactly to his character regardless of the outcome.
In your daily dealings with yourself, others and life, how often do you act yourself? How often do you think, say or do things that is in line with your personality, character and internal rules? More often than not, you will be behaving in your character, playing out your inner self and living your personal story. It will become extremely clear and usually uncomfortable if your started thinking, saying and doing things that is out of character. It is like writing with your non-dominant hand. It is possible but difficult, awkward and uncomfortable.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own opinions of things, It’s as if we’re adhering to invisible scripts – following instructions or patterns we don’t even understand. The more you question these scripts and the more you subject them to the rigorous test of your education, the more you’ll be your own compass. You’ll have convictions and thoughts that are your own and belong to no one else. Over time, you will start thinking thoughts, saying and doing things unlike anyone else. You will become unique as the individual you that everyone (including yourself) knows of you.
Remember that Education comes from the Latin word, ‘educe’, which means to ‘draw out’, not cram in (like what conventional education facilities do). Taking in information from classes, courses, books or others may be important, however, it does not take the place of the internal work like reflection, self-evaluation, and personal excavation that will elevate your personal understanding and subsequent, application.
Character is a powerful defence in a world that would love to be able to seduce you, buy you, tempt you, and change you. On the contrary, if you do not, you may find yourself being led into a myriad of situations, making choices inadvertently that are not what you want and being in circumstances that may be undesirable for you. Without a strong defence, you are more likely to be influenced by your environment, the people around you, and transient trends. That is when you may wake up one day and literally ask yourself, “How did I get myself into this mess?”
Here are three suggestions for self-education and strengthening your character.
- Reflect often. Spend time reflecting on your daily dealings with others. Ask yourself if this is the best you can do. Critically check if you can improve on it.
- Be kind to yourself. Practise self-love. Understand that you are exactly where you need to be in life to learn what life has to provide and you are growing exactly the way life intended. Some things cannot be rushed.
- Always practice Gratitude. Adopting the Attitude of Gratitude can vastly change your life and allow you to be closer to your Authentic Self and discover your Personal Truth. All that has happened to you is through Grace and the only thing you can do to repay Grace is to be grateful. Life is always happening FOR you, not TO you.
There are only two mistakes to personal development, ie fortifying your character. The first one is not starting and the second is not going all the way. If you know what you believe and why you believe it, you’ll avoid poisonous relationships, toxic jobs, fair-weather friends, and any number of ills that afflict people who haven’t thought through their deepest concerns. The closer you get to discovering your Personal Truth and getting more intimate with your Authentic Self, the easier for you to live your life exactly the way you want it and choose to.
That’s your education. That’s why you do this work.
Regardless of the outcome, Murphy continued to act out his character. In doing so, he lived out his life on his own terms, not on others. Are you living your life exactly like what your character would do?
“Just as what is considered rational or irrational differs for each person, in the same way, what is good or evil and useful or useless differs for each person. This is why we need education so that we might learn how to adjust our preconceived notions of the rational and irrational in harmony with nature. In sorting this out, we don’t simply rely on our estimate of the value of external things, but also apply the rule of what is in keeping with one’s character.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 1.2.5-7