Yesterday I wrote of Covey’s concept of Paradigms, and of “How we see the problem is the problem.” Today’s entry is about one of the influences on how we see and behave. Today we will address the difference between the Personality Ethic and the Character Ethic.

“When Man first discovered the mirror, he lost his soul,” said the philosopher. This single sentence summed up what Stephen Covey had discovered in his study of 200 years of American ‘success philosophy’ literature. He noticed that for 150 years success was about diligence, effort, integrity and so on. But just before and since WWII success was suddenly all about ‘the power look’, manipulation, image, etc.

We have read about Kennedy wearing two vests on walkabouts because he couldn’t be seen to be cold. We watch as politicians waffle and fail to answer questions so as not to offend any potential voter, minority group, sponsor, lobbyist or reporter with anything so blunt as the truth.

The difference between the Personality Ethic and the Character Ethic is stark. We now venerate celebrities and value their opinions upon issues that they know nothing about. We judge people based on their (presumed) political persuasion when we don’t know the first thing about them, or we lump them all in with abusive terms. Personality Ethic thinking abounds, in the sense that many people think that their image is all they need to be. Watch any ‘reality’ show and ask yourself what all the preeners, whacky-dressers, overly camp and expressive talkers and other pretenders are hiding.

We live in a Personality Ethic World, and it shows.

But guess what? Character is STILL appreciated, lauded and respected. Ask Captain-now-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore, the centenarian veteran who walked 100 laps of his garden on a zimmer frame and raised over £30m for the NHS. People saw a man of character and were inspired.

Generally speaking, the difference between Character and Personality is that the first is truth and the latter is false. The difference is summed up in the motto of North Carolina State, “To be rather than to seem.”

Personality is front, it’s show, and when such people need validation they ride bandwagons and espouse whatever is opportune in the moment. They are always right and you are always wrong. Which means, taking paradigms into account, they see through the lens of self and self-importance and act accordingly.

Character is intrinsic, it’s who a person is, and is usually based on integrity, realism, values-based self-confidence. People with character acknowledge what is and respond after careful thought. They see themselves as capable of being wrong and are willing to learn, to be better informed. They can be trusted to be what they appear to be.

Do you see the world through character, or personality? More to the point, which lens would you rather have? Which would you prefer to be seen to have?

How does your (my) self-image affect my (your) paradigms and your behaviour? Do we act based on how we will be seen, or on what we know and believe to be the right thing regardless of image?

And how does that affect our willingness to change?

Find out tomorrow.