What Defines Your Character?

You may have heard the phrase, “Character is how you act when no one is looking.”

While there’s a lot of truth to that phrase, it is also true that true character can be shown in your every day actions, particularly those that test your patience.

For example, how do you act when you’ve been standing in line at the DMV and get to the desk only to find out that they forgot to tell you that you needed one more document to process your registration? What about when you’ve been on hold for customer service for ages and the representative is unable to solve your problem?

Those moments show your character too. Do we all lose our cool every now and then? Yes. However, as we learn to develop good character, we become more able to handle those moments with compassion.  As Dale Carnegie is quoted as saying, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”

Instead of focusing on acting like you should when no one is looking, look at how you conduct yourself at all times.

After all, “Conduct is the best proof of character.”

5 Life Lessons from a Pumpkin

Pumpkins are a staple of fall. We go to the pumpkin patch and scour of the field full of pumpkins, searching for the perfect one. We use them to make pies, cakes, breads, pasta, and virtually any food imaginable. We carve them, put a candle inside, and set them on our doorsteps.  We spend a season obsessed with pumpkins, and then they’re gone on to something.

My youngest took the requisite preschool field trip to a pumpkin patch this week and came home with the cutest little pumpkin.
“There were bigger pumpkins,” his teacher said, “But he just really wanted that one.”

He showed me his little pumpkin, pointing out how the size was just perfect for his little fingers, and how he liked the stripes of green near the stem. To him, it was the perfect pumpkin.’

His observations on pumpkins caused me to think about character and the lessons we can learn from these orange staples of fall.

Your size and shape don’t matter.

When adults go to the pumpkin patch, they’re often looking for the large, perfectly round pumpkins – the ones that will be easiest to carve or fit best in the perfect fall display. When kids go to the pumpkin patch, they tend toward the more unique pumpkins.

“This one won’t stand on its own, but I love it!”

“Ooh… this one is all green. Let’s get it!”

To them, the unusual sizes, shapes, and colors are the ones that stand out the most.

In life, we often get hung up on what we should look like, but there’s always going to be someone out there who doesn’t care about the size and shape, someone who wants to be friends with the one who stands out from the crowd. If you’re the perfect size and shape, more power to you, but if you’re not, there are people looking for you too.

Sometimes we need to remove the muck from inside.

What’s one of the first things you do when you cut open a pumpkin? You take out all of gooey seeds and pulp from the inside. We all have gooey seeds and pulp inside of us too. We have negative thoughts, bad habits, and other things we need to remove before we can be molded, shaped, or carved into the people we want to be.

People may only like you for a season

Pumpkins are a staple of fall. September through November, people go pumpkin crazy, but by December they’ve moved on to Christmas trees and poinsettias. For the rest of the year, people barely think about pumpkins until they see fall displays starting to pop up in stores, but when September rolls around, pumpkins are back in the spotlight.

Life is kind of like that too. You’re not going to be in the spotlight all of the time. There will be seasons where people will listen to what you have to say and you’ll feel like you’re someone who really matters. There will be other seasons where you feel like you can’t do anything to get their attention and like what you say doesn’t have value. Take it all in stride. During the off seasons, work on developing a message of value so you really stand out when they’re ready to listen.

You can be anything you want to be

Pumpkin carving has become an incredible art. While lots of people stick with the basic pumpkin face, others are turning pumpkins into virtually everything imaginable. Like a pumpkin, what you can become isn’t limited to a few basic shapes. You can be anything you want to be – sometimes you just have to think outside of the box to figure out how to make it happen.

You may look great on the outside, but it is what is on the inside that makes you shine

No matter what you want to be, remember that what is inside is what counts. Carved pumpkins can look really cool, but they look even cooler at night when a candle is inside magnifying their design. Being a person of character – being kind, compassionate, honest, a good citizen, resilient, etc. – that is what is going to make you shine.