Living with Character - Hyrum Smith

leadership development personal branding personal development Aug 31, 2009
character creates leaders

We hear a lot about "character" these days. Schools are adopting "Character Education." Pick up a newspaper and you can read about the latest "character" failing of a politician. If you're lucky you might catch a news story about someone of outstanding character. One thing we know is that pretty much everyone wants to be a person of character.

But what is character? Think about it for a moment. Do you have a clear definition of character? Don't just describe the qualities of someone with character but say what character is and then watch iLearningGlobal faculty member Hyrum Smith, founder of Franklin Quest and the original creator of the Franklin Day Planner, give his clear definition of "Character".

Now that you've seen the video, let's look at Hyrum's definition:


The ability to carry out a worthy decision after the emotion of making that decision has passed.

Hyrum talks about his decision to lose weight and how long his commitment to that goal lasted (4 hours!) since his emotional buy in has passed. What made it so hard for him to keep committed? Hyrum also mentions that "Two-thirds of the commitments that are made in corporate America either don't happen on time or don't happen ever."

Why is that? Think about commitment's you've made and kept and ones that you have broken? What's the difference? What were the emotions that were involved? Can you tell when someone is making a commitment they aren't going to keep?

An important factor here is not only the fact that the commitment is being made at an emotional time but what that emotion is (distress after being called "porky", in the heat of an argument, etc). Our emotions are always a part of our decision making process no matter how much we like to think otherwise. In the cases I just mentioned, the commitment is made in a reacting to an emotion like fear or shame. What's going to happen when that emotion passes? Well, maybe things aren't so bad, so I don't need to follow through.

The same can happen for even a joyous occasion like a wedding and we only need to look at the number of marriages that fail, are in trouble. What happened? Were the bride and/or groom lying when they took their vows? Probably not. More likely, in the emotion of courtship, wedding planning, the ceremony and anticipation of the honeymoon the couple is so swept up they're willing to promise anything to each other. It's not until later when all of that excitement wears off that the relationship changes and commitments made seem less important.

So what happens if you break your commitments? People lose their trust of you. And here lies the value of character. People like to depend on others to do what they say they will do, to honor their commitments. To regularly honor the commitments you make is to build and create character, and with character you will rise to the top.



The ability to carry out a worthy decision after the emotion of making that decision as passed.

What do you think?

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