Essential Elements Character and Intent

As long as we're focusing on the intangible elements of spirit or essence, we have to look at what are perhaps two of its most elusive facets: character and intent. Character is one of those qualities that whole libraries full of books have been written about, yet the definition remains incomplete. In its simplest form, good character means integrity. It means having a commitment to a set of values devoid of manipulation, and being rich with respect for yourself and for other people and things.

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Doing good makes you feel good. Studies show that altruistic acts make uj fee! good emotionally and may even be good for our physical health, it's no exaggeration—and certainly no ill reflection on us—to say that we do good deeds as much for ourselves as for o there. This doesn't mean you have to run Out and become the nest Mother Theresa, Acts of kindness can be very simple. For instance, next time you're on the bus or a subway, give up your seat to that person who locks to have had a really bad day, Or, instead of racing to merge ahead of another car on the highway and cutting it off, let the other person go first You could even just give someone a nice smile and say "good morning.'" That person will feel great—and so wiil you.

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Doing good makes you feel good. Studies show that altruistic acts make uj fee! good emotionally and may even be good for our physical health, it's no exaggeration—and certainly no ill reflection on us—to say that we do good deeds as much for ourselves as for o there. This doesn't mean you have to run Out and become the nest Mother Theresa, Acts of kindness can be very simple. For instance, next time you're on the bus or a subway, give up your seat to that person who locks to have had a really bad day, Or, instead of racing to merge ahead of another car on the highway and cutting it off, let the other person go first You could even just give someone a nice smile and say "good morning.'" That person will feel great—and so wiil you.

Some people believe character is one of those "either you have it or you don't" qualities, but, like any other facet of yourself, it can be developed and enhanced. In the case of character, however, it's not so much a matter of specific exercises as commitment. It is a process, and stripped to its bare essentials it works like this:

1. You decide you want to act with integrity.

2. As you act on that decision, it begins to feel more and more natural, until that integrity is a part of your core.

3. When you become so accustomed to acting with integrity that you aren't even conscious of it, you have developed good character.

Intent is the conscious manifestation of your character. It is the definition of your desires toward other people and situations. Those with character will consciously choose to act in a way that is beneficial to those around them and, indeed, to their world. Such actions are guided, not by some desired response to the action (or fear of reprisal if one's actions are not beneficial), but rather by the desire to act well for its own sake.

There is a Jewish tradition known as the mitzvah, which, simply stated, is an obligatory good deed. The performance of mitzvahs is not contingent upon a system of punishments and rewards; rather, the idea is to do good and act with integrity simply because that is the right thing to do. I feel that no matter what our tradition or background is, this simple idea of acting with integrity for its own sake is something we would all do well to adopt.

Sometimes, we have to look closely at our intent before we act, to make sure we are striving for the highest good for all involved in a situation. It's easy to convince ourselves that we are acting for one reason, when our real motivations are completely different.

About all we can directly and consciously do about our intent is to become aware of it. If our intent is less than noble, it's best to question our motives before we act at all. If our intent is benevolent, however, we—and those on the receiving end of our intentions—can be comforted by the knowledge that we are acting in good faith, without ulterior motives. And that level of comfort that you instill in others is a very powerful part of your seductiveness.

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