Character Traits

Everyone has a whole range of character traits, some of which are good, some of which are not. These traits are what make up your overall character, which is how people see you from the outside. Self improvement is often about recognizing those traits and changing or improving them in ways that are positive and will project to the public that person you want to be. To do this, you need to think about what traits you have and what traits you’d like to have.

Six Pillars of Character


When most people talk about character, the first things that come to mind are the six pillars of character. These were defined by a conference of youth leaders from all over the country in Aspen, Colorado in 1992. Twenty years later, the pillars are still widely used in youth and community groups to help people think about making positive changes to their character. The list of character traits includes:

  • Trustworthiness – This covers areas such as being honest, being reliable and building a good reputation. It is generally characterized by the color blue and is best thought about as being the moral compass element.
  • Respect - Out of all of the character traits in the six pillars, this underpins a lot of the others. Respect covers tolerance, treating others, as you would want to be treated and dealing with all situations with peace and calmness. The color yellow usually represents respect, which can be thought of as the pillar that allows for diversity and equality.

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  • Responsibility – This is one of the hardest character traits to perfect, as it is so easy to pass the blame onto someone else. However, this pillar is all about taking responsibility for your own actions, whether they are good or bad and accept the consequences, whatever they may be. The color green typically represents responsibility that helps a community to grow and develop.
  • Fairness – This ties closely in with the pillars of responsibility and respect and concerns itself with following the set rules and taking turns. It’s one of the first pillars taught to young children who take part in the scheme and orange typically represents responsibility. The pillar helps people to play and communicate successfully.
  • Caring – Compassion is a big key of the six pillars and the caring aspect covers things such as showing kindness, being selfless and forgiveness. The color red typically shows compassion, which helps people to move on from past hurts and arguments. In addition, the pillar promotes charitable living and sharing what you have with those who are in need.
  • Citizenship – The pillar of citizenship promotes active engagement in the world around you, whether this is taking part in volunteering events nearby or attending parent meetings at your child’s school. It also sets an expectation for an eco-friendly existence, but strangely is usually represented by purple instead of green.

It is clear to see that these six pillars cannot exist in isolation and that each of them interplays with the others. The theory runs that to have good character, a person must be able to demonstrate all of these traits in their day-to-day interactions. No tick sheet or evaluation form shows that you are meeting the expectations. It is more a question of noticing the change in your own confidence and self-esteem as well as the changes in how the people around you respond to your new character.

If you’re starting out on a journey of self-improvement, you may want to select which character traits sound the least like you and set yourself a daily goal to do with those pillars. For example, you could work on caring by doing something kind for someone you do not like or you could show responsibility by admitting fault for a problem at work. See how you feel about what happened and what reactions you got and this will give you an indication of whether you need to work actively on that pillar.

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