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Personality vs. Character Ethics

January 22, 1997

There have been two dominant theories of achieving success in the literature of the past 200 years, the personality ethic and the character ethic. The personality ethic has been in the forefront since World War I. Previously, the character ethic was dominant.

According to the character ethic, it is most important to focus on integrating the principles of effective living into one's character. This may be a long-term process, but working on the character, including an effective view of the world, is getting at the root from which behavior flows and so is fundamental. The character ethic sees individual development as a long-term process bearing results according to the law of the harvest.

According to the personality ethic, there are skills and techniques one may learn and a public image, personality and attitudes one may develop that result in success. The problem is, eventually we may be discovered as insincere and shallow. These ideas may be helpful when they flow naturally from a good character and the right motives, but they are secondary.

A paradigm is a model, theory or explanation of something else. It is the "lens" of our preconceived notions through which we view the world. If our paradigm is not close to reality, our attitudes, behaviors and responses will not be effective or appropriate. We will be as lost as a person trying to function in Chicago with a map of New York. We can only accomplish quantum improvement in our lives if we accomplish a paradigm shift resulting in a more accurate and effective view of the world. Some paradigm shifts may be fast (a blinding flash of the obvious), some are more slow (a change in character).

The Seven Habits is a principle-centered paradigm. Principles are guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value -- they are fundamental.

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Focus on integrating the principles of effective living into your character. This long-term process will bring results lasting a lifetime.

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Michael Gray, CPA
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