What is character?
Character is the guiding core of who we are – a mosaic of personal qualities that are developed over time and govern how we consistently perceive, think, feel, and act. Our character includes both our aspiration to be a certain kind of person and how we act on our values and concerns.
Stretching back to the ancient world, questions of character have been central to what it means to lead a flourishing life and contribute to the good of society. Today character is a prominent theme in philosophy, psychology, and education.
Why character matters
Good character is at the heart of what it means to live well. Positive character traits like integrity, creativity, courage, and compassion are known as virtues or “excellences” - ways of being that contribute to our own well-being and the well-being of others around us.
How character is developed
Character is shaped over time. It grows through a personal journey of repeated practice, observing role models, and reflection on experience. And it is shaped socially by people around us and patterns of institutional life, by the stories and spaces we inhabit. Character often grows most in the midst of difficulty.
The heart of character
Character has a motivational component. It is about our aspiration to be a certain kind of person – to live in accord with what matters to us and determine who we want to become.
The art of character
Character has a skill component. It is about successfully acting on our values and concerns, especially under pressure. Character can be developed over time by way of intentional practice.
Personality is how you respond on a typical day. Character is how you show up on your worst day. It's easy to demonstrate fairness, integrity, and generosity when things are going well. The real question is whether you stand by those values when the deck is stacked against you.
Prof Adam Grant
Professor, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Seven Strategies for Character Development
This article presents seven strategies for character development and guidance for educators.
Character in the Professions
A major global conference co-hosted with the Program for Leadership and Character.