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Character Day.

Character Day.

Character Day: Healing the world from the inside-out.

This past week was an important week to be still and think about what’s going on in the world. Wednesday, September 13 was Character Day, an important day in the life of our work at Tilt365, because what we do is help people grow character strengths and noble traits, one day at a time. That starts with us, so I decided to sit still and listen to the small, still voice inside me.

Slow down and listen.

Perhaps the most important thing we can do in a world that is fraught with the rising threats around us, is be still and notice. Then we can’t help but notice how the avoidance of the discussion of our own character has lead us to be a more primal version of ourselves that operates from fear, rather than faith, meditation and prayer in such anxiety-producing times. This week, all in one week, we had two hurricanes, one earthquake, a subway bombing, another threat to our children in school, and most importantly a sobering threat lobed over the net to us by an insane leader with deadly technology in his hands. All in the wake of the frightening conflict in Charlottesville last month where we witnessed the danger of extremism when it escalates into a frenzy of fear, polarizing us into a war with our own neighbors who harbor deep-rooted pain that is nameless and unconscious if we don’t educate ourselves about the root cause of it, give it clarity and do something about it.

My dream.

I think about what’s going on in the world a lot. I have for decades. It is the reason I have devoted the last 26 years to a project I used to call The Virtues Project. At first it was to understand why people do what they do. It became a personal manifesto to notice my own failings, to glean the root cause of them and to find ways to heal them. Over time it became my life’s work to invent scientific tools that build internal character strength and lower anxiety. Essentially, to build human virtue and minimize vice. Increase inner strength and reduce inner fear. Alas, the world has seemed to work against me as technology brought us more reasons to fear along with increased connectivity. Everything human has been escalated. That means human virtue and vice are more prolific and accessible.

Ten years ago, people said I was overstating what could happen. Before the financial crisis, I predicted something like that would happen. Why? Because I had been a senior leader in a worldwide company. It was clear to me that business has not wanted to talk about character for a long time. I left to pursue my study on this topic and much to my dismay, Psychology was only interested in Personality, not character. I was quickly relegated to Philosophy which was the origin of my work anyway. Aristotle’s Golden Mean was the source of my research in the beginning. And it still is today after 26 years of work.

What gets measured, gets noticed.

It is also why I am so passionate about what I call The Missing Metric. I’ve realized that people don’t pay attention to their character after they become an adult, because somehow we experts in Psychology have told them they are largely done by the age of 22. That most of us are likely to be who we are for the rest of our lives. It’s changing now, with the advent of neuroscience. But most of the people who could benefit most are not privy to the education needed to change this deterministic sentence of rigidity. The message? We are the sum of what happened in our formative years and our habits will determine the largest portion of what we will do for the rest of our life. And while there is some truth that there are a large portion of people who don’t make the connection between choices and consequences or symptoms, the rest of us have a large job to do in cleaning up their mess. Sometimes it’s easy to get frustrated or overwhelmed by the magnitude of unconscious action. It’s not without a strong measure of grit and tenacity that we devote our lives to improve how we show up in the world, one day at a time and never give up on becoming a better version of ourselves. We know that our legacy will be determined by our ability to exercise courage, wisdom, humanity and resilience in exponential numbers. To use technological advancement to do good so we can overcome global calamity via exponential kindness and goodness — the only thing that heals the painful root cause of all violence against one another and all creative life on our planet.

Awake and fearless.

A few months ago this year, I had a dream just upon awaking. In that dream someone asked me why character matters so much to me. I could feel the frustration of not being truly heard for so many years, rising up within me inside and I sat in silence for longer than usual and didn’t speak. Frustrated that I had not been able to get my message across so that the truth so obvious to me would land with someone, I waited for the small, still voice of wisdom to speak inside me. After a long pregnant pause, I decided to ask the small group of people around me three questions that would provoke them into thinking a little deeper for themselves…

1. What problems have you (or people you love) faced in your life? (I carefully wrote them down on a list they could see). 2. What problems does your organization face every day? (and made a second list), and lastly, 3. What complex problems worry you about the world today? (This list became more grave and concerning). Then, to make my point poignant and clear, I paused again and said “Now, name ONE problem in ANY of these lists that isn’t solved or significantly improved, with greater character strength?” I looked into their faces and no one spoke. In the wake of silence, I knew the message had finally been heard. No one needed to answer the question. We all just knew that we had heard a truth no one could deny.

Later that month, I travelled to Toronto to deliver a class to a group of Human Resource leaders who were using our tools for character development in their company. I spent two whole days teaching, working hard to teach them. When we got to the end of class, I offered to hold a Q & A. There were three questions that were asked at the beginning of class that I had held for the end. I had recognized in them, the same questions posed in my dream. One was Why does character matter? Another was, What’s the return on character? and lastly, How can we position this with our senior leadership team? As you can imagine, I sighed quietly inside myself and asked them to do their own thinking, using the exercise that had come to me in that dream. And I got the same response. Silence. Clarity. Undeniable truth understood.

So, I finally understand how to help others get it. Perhaps it is also just the right point in time in our history. Anxiety is at an all time high. Perhaps we are finally ready to hear that each one of us is the answer. It will take all of us too. It means all of us need to question and evaluate our own character every single day. It means getting educated about every global problem facing us. It means having a voice and expressing it. It means taking action and getting up every day ready to do one small thing that might make a difference. It means being still too, taking time to meditate and pray so that we engage the divine creator of life in our path toward enlightenment and evolution. It requires mindsets that are non-dualistic and non-divisive. Where we can be both Kind and Bold, both Wise and Creative, but most of all authentic and real with one another. We will not solve our complex problems with more ego-striving, but instead with genuine connection and passionate concern for our species as well as others where we live and thrive.

The bottom line.

Let’s be clear and say it one more time. Every complex problem we are facing is solved, or at least improved substantially if we were to change ONE THING. To exercise more character strength every day. I can’t help but wonder what is possible if every human being took responsibility for being still long enough to contemplate on this each day upon rising and each evening when we lay down to rest. How might that change what we choose to do with our day?

The Blind Spot of Our Time.

If we don’t take the time to have the conversation and commit to a daily practice of meditation and prayer to change the energy of our corner of the cosmos, my premonition and that of many others is that we may not survive as a species. The rising complexity of technological advances is exciting, but the tight coupling of connectivity in this new world we’ve created contains the possibility for a ripple effect for good or for evil — a domino-effect that rises exponentially with our capabilities. This escalates the potential reward but also the risk of powerfully expansive technology in the wrong hands of those who operate from fear and thus, lack of awareness about their character. It will be our most primitive nature, designed to help us survive unfriendly environments, that could also end up being our demise if we don’t commit to human thinking at higher levels of morality along with advances in artificial intelligence. Extremes of paranoia can deplete our most precious resource, our ability to think rationally and with the greatest human capacity — creativity. Now, more than ever, I pray that we notice the symptoms of our folly in avoiding this uncomfortable conversation and expect our kids to get it from teachers. We need to be the example that teaches through who we are and what we do today.

Awake and Fearless.

We cannot be fearful in this time. We must become conscious and awake to the symptoms and choose to reverse them courageously and overtly. To find our voice and speak about it. Every day. My conviction is even stronger now that I have a precious new granddaughter. She will know what we must do, because I am going to be absolutely certain that my actions and words are clear in the choices of my life. And my convictions will be demonstrated in the legacy of my life’s work to do my absolute best to make a difference so her world is not destroyed by unconscious fear.

Today, I re-commit once again to live more AWAKE and FEARLESS. I refuse to be so busy I forget and don’t notice important details. And I accept the responsibility that how I choose to spend each day from now will matter. I have found my voice and accept my responsibility to become a better educator, writer and technologist. And I will be still in the morning and in the evening to tune in and contribute to a greater force of goodwill than mine alone.

Pam Boney, Founder tilt365.com

“Watch your thoughts, for your thought become words, watch your words, for your words become actions. Watch your actions, for your actions become habits. Watch your habits, for your habits become character, watch your character, for it becomes destiny.” 
― Frank Outlaw