What does self-improvement entail?
While the term itself implies the act of bettering oneself, let’s dive deeper into its meaning. Self-improvement encompasses a wide range of physical, mental, and emotional aspects that contribute to a larger whole. It may involve making conscious choices to embrace a healthier diet, thereby minimizing potential health risks, and maybe even addressing existing challenges. Additionally, one may recognize a desire to improve their physical fitness and embark on a structured training program.
However, it is important to realize that self-improvement goes beyond addressing simple habits such as overeating or a lack of exercise. It requires a thoughtful analysis of how we can enhance our overall being, focusing on multiple pieces of our lives. One of the biggest pieces of that puzzle is building a strong character.
What is Character Building?
With the abundance of viewpoints available online, it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint one single definition or description of something. However, in our search to define the term “character building”, we found one singular answer that encompasses the most vital pieces: “improving certain good or useful traits in a person’s character, especially self-reliance, endurance, and courage” (Harper Collins, 2022).
Even within the Achieve Martial Arts Pyramid, we discuss how vital it is to partner physical, mental, and emotional changes. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that the process of self-improvement is not simply changing a couple things here or there: it’s an entire journey of self-reflection and forcing ourselves to accept the truths we may not like.
By exploring the depths of self-improvement, we are committing to a journey that extends far beyond surface-level changes. It requires introspection and a willingness to confront our shortcomings and areas for growth. It encourages us to cultivate positive habits, nurture our relationships, expand our knowledge, and develop resilience in the face of challenges. As we commit to self-improvement, we open doors to personal fulfillment, greater self-awareness, and a sense of purpose. It is an ongoing process, one that empowers us to continuously evolve and become the best version of ourselves.
So, what exactly does it take to build your character and work towards a goal of comprehensive self-improvement?
How to Build a Strong Character
Let’s step back and look at the definition as it applies to both working on your martial arts journey and to your life outside martial arts.
“Improving” implies that at some juncture, an individual may be lacking in something. Maybe you’re insecure about your martial arts fighting style, or maybe you’re having trouble nailing down a certain movement within a form. Perhaps you’re feeling a bit cautious about a new job, or a situation at school. Regardless of what it is and whether it’s something related to martial arts or not, we should have the mindset to want to improve where we are lacking. Now here comes the truth(s) we may not be ready to accept!
“Improving certain good or useful traits…especially self-reliance, endurance, and courage” can be a difficult pill to swallow. Chances are each one of us has room for improvement on any number of those, if not all of them. Building our self-reliance, endurance, and courage can begin with a thorough understanding of humility, accountability, and acting with intention (Horsager, 2022). It isn’t easy, though to recognize if we’re lacking in those areas.
Choose Your Friends Wisely
David Horsager (2022), author of the Best Seller “The Trust Edge”, says that one of the best ways we can improve upon our character is by associating ourselves with individuals who have high expectations and hold themselves to the same. What does this mean? We can have the desire to change different parts of ourselves, but if our friends are lazy and unmotivated, it’s likely we’ll find ourselves within a similar mindset in no time.
If you’re contemplating a journey of self-reflection, find those who are in the same boat. Have meaningful conversations about your goals, and hold one another accountable to those goals (Horsager, 2022). With support from your peers, it’s much more likely that you’ll recognize those areas of potential improvement and have the mental and emotional strength to work through improving them.
Possessing integrity is another important part of building self-reliance, endurance, and courage. The essence of integrity is doing what is right, regardless of who is paying attention – you don’t require recognition, and it creates a sense of accountability as well.
Integrity is of utmost importance as it forms the foundation of trust, credibility, and ethical behavior – keys to building a reputable, strong character. When we uphold integrity, we demonstrate a consistency between our words, actions, and principles. This consistency not only fosters trust and respect from others but also strengthens our own sense of self-worth and dignity.
Integrity guides us to act with honesty, fairness, and sincerity, even in challenging situations. It enables us to make ethical choices and uphold moral values, even when faced with temptations or pressures. By integrating integrity into our lives, we cultivate strong and meaningful relationships, build a solid reputation, and inspire others to follow suit. Integrity serves as a compass, guiding us towards making decisions and taking actions that align with our core beliefs and principles, ultimately leading to personal growth and self-improvement.
Acting with Intention
It’s important to remember that building your character isn’t an accidental action, and certainly isn’t achieved by a magic voodoo doll. We must realize and accept that intention lies at the core of any improvement: without our internal commitment to make the change, it won’t happen.
The intent to make the change permanent and strong is the foundation of long-term success. Let’s not forget: the endurance piece to the puzzle is another happy result from strong, committed intention. We build our endurance both physically and mentally through our intention to persevere and commit regardless of the circumstance (Horsager, 2022).
After we recognize our commitment to improvement, and we have begun to act upon it, it’s easier to feel self-reliant. Self-reliance is the confidence that we can do it, the courage that we have the physical and mental ability to do something. This journey of self-improvement and character building isn’t just a façade for the world to admire – it’s building the self-confidence to move forward with perseverance and faith in our own abilities.
Through self-reflection and contemplation, we can journey through our mental and emotional state to identify the areas that require improvement. Once we recognize those areas, we can build a strong foundation of humility, accountability with ourselves and through others, and acting with intention. Mastering these traits will be a perfect starting point to improving our character and will allow us to maintain the integrity that is such a vital piece of the internal and external perception of self-reliance, endurance, and courage. We will find that our commitment to this improvement will not only demonstrate positive results within martial arts, but also in our lives outside of martial arts.
Harper Collins Publishers. (2022) Definition of Character Building. Retrieved from https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/character-building
Horsager, D. (2022). Five Ways to Build Your Character. Retrieved from https://davidhorsager.com/five-ways-to-build-your-character/