Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become…habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! What we think, we become.” – Margaret Thatcher
When I think of character, I think of a big old tree like the one pictured; sturdy and strong amidst the changing environment. I also think of reliability, stability, and consistency. Sometimes people come to see me because they aren’t sure who they are exactly, or they’ve gone off course from who they thought they were and want to get back on track. Perhaps they’ve relied too heavily on an unhealthy habit or activity to get themselves through the days.
I believe the act of character building comes from one knowing themselves and staying true to themselves. But, sadly, I think many in the world today don’t know themselves and don’t delve deeply enough into understanding their motives or instincts, and that we don’t always have to act from that place. It’s no easy task.
Most of us will not live a monk’s life. But if you’ve ever had any type of deep or prolonged training in meditation or mindfulness, you may have been asked to refrain from worldly drives and desires for a period of time. Now, I’m not recommending this to everyone. But I will say that it teaches one about where desire comes from (and returns to) and that fantasy and desire are not one in the same, and that the right kind of desires can lead us to our goals, and generally most fantasies aren’t meant to be acted upon. Usually we find out the fantasy wasn’t so great after all. Fantasies can be useful, but they can also keep us distracted from things within ourselves that we don’t want to face.
I see a great deal of happiness and good in the world today because I try to look for that, in myself and in the people around me. Even with the barista at the coffee shop, I try to look them in the eye and go with the flow of the small talk. I also see pain and sadness around me, and I most often see it as a result of people chasing after what they think should be versus living with what is. One of the best sets of questions I’ve seen to help in this process is from The Work of Byron Katie on challenging one’s thinking and beginning to be in love with what is:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
- Then…find the turnarounds or opposites of your thought and explore that.
My absolute favorite of the questions is, who would you be without the thought? I sometimes find that can help people snap out of moments of obsessiveness. Additionally, it goes back to what I said about fantasies and certain thoughts being our way to escape reality or escape becoming the best version of ourselves, which can be a painful process at times.
While life may be difficult at times, a life built on a solid understanding of oneself and acting from that place, consistently, builds a life worth living; a destiny.