Character precedes everything

Getting what you want in life starts with becoming the type of person who gets what you want in life.

August 13, 2023

Who you are determines what you do, and eventually what you’ll become. Your character is the bottleneck of the trajectory of your life.

When most people get started on a new journey to better themselves, they think about the different things they need to do to achieve some goal. Do more of this, do less of this, etc.

And that’s okay. It’s important to recognize that your actions determine outcomes in your life. Change your actions, change your outcomes.

But, there’s a layer below action that is the biggest driver of change (or, your inability to change), and that’s your character (who you are).

Your actions are almost exclusively predetermined by the person that you are, unless there’s an outside influence acting on you forcing you to make different decisions with your time.

What you’re going to do in the future is set in stone by the type of person that you are.

And so, fundamentally, changing who you are will change what you do. This is the only long-term effective way to make lasting change in your life for the better.

Fortunately, you are malleable. You are not set in stone. You can change who you are.

Improving your character is the most assured way to generate positive results in your life. Character impacts so many non-obvious things: who your friends are (or, whether or not you have friends), your productivity, your interests, your skills, your opportunities, your rest, etc.

It’s impossible to internalize how dramatically a life can change based on the character of a person. It can be as different as night and day.

What is great character?

What are the characteristics of character that can be changed? What specific aspects of character drive positive results?

For this, I look to the Bible. I believe it has the best litmus test for great character that leads to a positive life.

The litmus test is what’s called “the fruit of the spirit”. The fruit of the spirit are characteristic pieces of evidence that you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, and are a new creation in Christ.

Here’s the list of characteristics you would embody:

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Long-suffering
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-control

This list comes from Galatians 5:22-23.

Directly after this list, Paul says “Against such there is no law.” Meaning, if you continually exude these characteristics, you will not run into unlawfulness. Which supports the theory that these are undisputedly positive characteristics.

I’d encourage you to take a look at that list and question for each one: “how can I have more”.

How can I have great character?

There are two ways of perceiving the outward expression of these characteristics. To yourself, and to others.

It’s one thing to be loving to yourself, and a different think to be loving with others. It’s one thing to be patient with yourself, and a different thing to be patient with others. It’s one thing to have self-control with yourself, and a different thing to have self-control with others.

Changing your character does not only impact you, it impacts others. Who you are rubs up against the people that are around you. And you can either impact them positively, or negatively.

Jesus backs this up in Matthew 22:36-40, where he’s asked “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”.

To that, Jesus replies “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

In regards to yourself, you should focus on what God wants, not on what you want, to have great character.

In regards to others, you should focus on what others want, not on what you want, to have great character.

Having great character means doing well by others regardless of yourself.

You won’t be patient if you’re thinking about yourself and trying to get everything you want. You won’t be gentle if you only care about yourself and not others. You wont have self-control if you only care about getting what you want, and not giving others what they want.

I believe common culture is incredibly selfish. It’s all about getting what’s yours, and tearing down others who take things from you.

The people who really shine in this world, and the people who eventually get all that they could ever need or want are the people who do well by others regardless of themselves.

And so, if you want to change your outcomes, change your behavior. If you want to change your behavior, change your character. If you want to change your character, make your life about doing well by others.

You’ll get what you want, and everyone you come in contact with will get what they want. Your options will become unlimited, and the bottleneck will be removed.