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Be a Better Person in 2020 by Building Strength of Character

The Analects of Confucius is one of the most influential books in history. His philosophy has profoundly influence China and other countries of the East over the centuries. He also influenced the thinking of philosophers of the Enlightenment and, through them, the thinking of America’s Founding Fathers.

Like the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who lived at about the same time (around 500 BC), Confucius believed that character is destiny and thought deeply about its development.

One of the ways Confucius illustrated character was by contrasting the actions of “the superior man” with the actions of “the small man.” Had he been writing today instead of in feudal China, Confucius – perhaps history’s first egalitarian philosopher – would have made his comments gender neutral. I honor the original text by quoting it as it was written.

Today, more than 2,500 years after he died, any man or woman can benefit from considering their own character in the light of the wisdom of Confucius. As we approach another New Year, think about you can refine your own personal character in the year to come by contemplating these precepts of Confucius:

  • The superior man works to develop the better aspects of his character. The small man allows the inferior aspects of his character to flourish.
  • The superior man is easy to serve but difficult to please. The small man is difficult to serve but easy to please.
  • The superior man can see a question from all sides. The small man can see it only from his biased perspective.
  • The superior man calls attention to the good points in others. The small man calls attention to their defects.
  • The superior man can influence those who are above him. The small man can influence only those below him.
  • The demands that the superior man makes are on himself. The demands of the small man are placed upon others.
  • The superior man is slow in word but prompt in deed. The small man is quick to make promises but slow to keep them.
  • The superior man is diligent in ascertaining what is right. The small man is diligent in ascertaining what will pay.
  • The superior man is calm and at ease. The small man is fretful and ill at ease.
  • When things go wrong, the superior man seeks blame in himself. When things go wrong, the small man seeks blame in others.
  • The small man thinks he is a superior man. The superior man knows he is a small man.
  • In the presence of a superior man, think all the time how you might equal him. In the presence of a small man, evaluate your own character to be sure you are not like him.

The first six values in the Values Coach course on The Twelve Core Action Values (Authenticity, Integrity, Awareness, Courage, Perseverance, and Faith) are focused on building strength of character. Work on those values for yourself and you will become the sort of person that Confucius called superior.

At Values Coach our purpose is transforming people through the power of values and transforming organizations through the power of people. We do that by helping leaders build a stronger Culture of Ownership on a Foundation of Values.

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