“Would My Ideal Character Have This Habit?”
When you hear the phrase “developing character,” you probably think of a fast-growing adolescent navigating their way through the emotional, hormonal, relational, and identity transitions of their teens. But, why can’t “middlescents” (those of us going through the adult corollary of adolescence: “middlescence”) be developing character as we journey through midlife?
One of my favorite questions when I feel reactive or petty is, “Would my ideal character have this habit?” If we learn and grow for a lifetime, then our character naturally evolves (and possibly improves) with time. Sometimes it requires me being even more specific around a particular character quality as in “What would a thoughtful person do in this situation?”
What if we identified five character qualities we wanted to improve in 2022 such that we asked ourselves what would a “loving” or “wise” or “resourceful” or “generous” or “curious” person do in this situation? Might we become a better person as a result of that question? For more perspective on the topic of adult character development, consider reading David Brooks’ book “The Road to Character.”
Long ago when I was a young CEO of my hotel company and I wasn’t happy with how I was showing up as a leader (nor was I satisfied with what I saw from my managers), I asked all of our managers to replace the word “leader” or “manager” with the term “role model” for a month. So, for a hotel general manager, their weekly managers’ meeting now became a “weekly role model meeting.” To be honest, it seemed like a stupid idea at first hatched by Dr. Conley, the armchair social psychologist, but one month later, our managers reported that they felt like they’d become better leaders because they tried to embody being a role model.
In sum, the most neglected fact in business is we’re all human, so learning how to apply psychology to our work life and workplace can offer great benefits to you and everyone around you.