"Without self-mastery he has no understanding of inner power; without inner power, he has no peace; and without peace, where is joy?"
Your character is who you are in the dark. It is your personal guidance system, your inner core of wisdom that is the governor which determines the heights to which you will rise on your upward path to self-mastery. The difference between peak performers and weak performers often comes down to character power. Cultivating a strong, disciplined, integrated character is the surest way to high-performance and a life rich with energy, achievement and satisfaction. Enlightened, fully-functioning individuals are led by their consciences rather than by the puppet strings of societal pressure. They place a premium on acting according to their own values and their deepest sense of what is right. They have kindled the courage to run their own races and never get swept up into the whirlpool of other peoples' expectations of them. "No man is free who is not a master of himself," said Epictetus.
Effective performers realize that life is too short to get caught up in the current of popular opinion. Instead, they lead their days in a very simple, clear and powerful way. They have taken the time to discover their life's purpose and focus their attention on this high-impact pursuit. This focus fills their lives with excitement, meaning and contentment. Robert Frost's famous poem "The Road Not Taken" says it all:
"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I-
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference "
Start running your own race. Do the things that are most meaningful to you. Align what you do in your day with where you want to be at the end of your life. Be guided by the milestones and goals which will advance you along the path of your burning desire and your destiny. This is the way to happiness and personal and spiritual satisfaction. A character rich with integrity, courage and discipline is the bedrock of lifelong success.
Four essential pillars
There are 4 primary pillars or virtues that will liberate your character power and allow you to live by the blazing lighthouse of your conscience. By refining and polishing these human gifts, you will notice that you easily achieve your milestones and goals. You will be flooded by a remarkable sense of confidence, peace and strength and see balance returning to your life. These 4 timeless virtues lead to personal mastery and put you on the express train to enlightenment. Best of all, anyone can cultivate them through daily practice and reflection. As always, success on the outside begins within.
Ben Franklin, Jonas Salk, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are all models of integrity. These are individuals who exercised the bravery and strength of character to walk their talk. They acted on what their hearts told them was right and just and good rather than simply following the herd and doing that which was socially pleasing. Each one of these individuals, who raised their lives from the ordinary into the realm of the extraordinary through their efforts, lived under a higher standard, a strict moral code. And they never moved off this course.
Integrity is all about wholeness. I would like to use the example of Mahatma Gandhi when speaking of courage and self-leadership. His wisdom is enduring and his life is a beautiful tribute to the best within each of us. "One cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole."-Mahatma Gandhi. This is the essence of integrity and an integrated life: making sure that you consistently do what your conscience tells you is correct not just in one department, but in all departments of your life. Life truly is one indivisible whole. The different areas of your life are like rivers flowing together to form an ocean. The emotional influences the physical and together they influence the social and together these affect the spiritual elements of your world. Neglecting any department of your life whether this means relationship neglect or physical neglect or spiritual neglect, profoundly touches all of the other areas. Raise each to its highest level of functioning, however, and you create a highly satisfying, enlightened, fully integrated life.
According to the timeless wisdom of the sages, the second virtue of the person of strong character is an abundant and vivid imagination. All high achieving, spiritually fulfilled people live from their imaginations and are inspired by their visions for the future. They are servants only to what they dream and have shed the shackles of their history. They are the architects of their futures rather than the prisoners of their pasts. Remember, you are far more than the sum of your current circumstances. It is not what you are that is holding you back-it is what you think you are not.
Napoleon Hill said: "Cherish your vision and your dreams as they are the children of your soul- the blueprints of your ultimate achievement." Study the lives of Edison, Onassis or Ella Fitzgerald and you will be studying models of creative thinking and big dreaming. They realized that the imagination knows no bounds and when you paint empowering pictures across it of the life your are dedicated to building, you set unseen forces into play which steadily manifest your vision into reality.
3. Compassion & Contribution
One of the most important of all the timeless principles for character mastery can be simply stated: the richness of your life can be measured by the richness of your service. He who serves the best profits the most, not just materially but emotionally and perhaps more importantly, spiritually. The purpose of life is a life of purpose.
If you want to quickly improve your own life, start taking immediate action to improve the lives of others. The universe is in a dynamic state of flow. When you give out compassion, it flows back to you in a river. This is one of the oldest laws of nature: as you give so shall you receive. As the Chinese philosophers have said "a little bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives you roses." Practice daily acts of kindness and respect. Give to charity. Connect with your humanity. Spend a weekly period giving something back to your community and awaken your mind to ways of assisting those in need. Create what I call a "service inventory" of 52 acts of selfless service that you will perform over the next 12 months and plan to perform one every week. The results in terms of your levels of happiness, energy and fulfillment will be remarkable.
4. Disciplined Effort
Media visionary Ted Turner was asked the secret of his extraordinary success. He replied: "Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise." One of the shared traits of the most effective, productive and high-achieving individuals is their understanding of the paramount importance of hard work in advancing their dreams. Without hard work, your vision for the future is impotent.
Thomas Edison worked 18 hour days even after he became a millionaire. Bill Gates still works 6 days a week even though he is a multi-billionaire. Mother Theresa got up at 5 every morning to advance her good work for the disadvantaged. Why? Because they love what they do. They have found their life's purpose and by acting on it each day, they advance it. They are doing what they were meant to do and this gives their days-and their lives-an immense sense of meaning, energy and direction.
In this complex age where too many people face too much stress and strain, some people are sick of work. This is simply because they have not done their inner work and discovered a pursuit that is right for them, work which beautifully blends their unique talents and brilliance with a worthy objective. Once you take the time to find your life's aim, things will never be the same. You will be filled with a flaming sense of desire and hope for the future. You will be flooded with power and enthusiasm. You will look forward to getting out of bed every morning to advance your life's work and doing what your heart is telling you to do. And you will enjoy working hard because it will not be work at all.