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Let's go back again to the process of refining gold.
Once the prospector has determined there is sufficient gold, he will set up a mining operation.
Mining usually involves the use of explosives.
Sometimes gold is found close to the surface of the earth, and then open-mine techniques are used.
Other times the gold is deeper inside the earth, and underground-mining processes are used.
Either way, explosives are used to break up the ground.
In parts of the world where explosives are not used or are not available, a great deal of manual labor is required in its stead.
The mining process cannot be circumvented.
For gold to be of any use, it must be separated from the earth.
From the mines, the rocks and soil are then loaded in trucks and hauled to the mill.
The second step in the development of your character requires separation, much as the gold needs to be separated from the earth to be refined.
The process of character development may require blowing up your current schedule and taking completely different approach.
It may require a great deal of labor and a coordinated effort from a number of people.
It will more than likely require both.
Just as the mining process cannot be circumvented from obtaining gold, it is also true that old ways of doing and thinking about time management and character development must be dismissed—and that separation step cannot be bypassed.
Blow up these less-than-divine activities that Rob you of your time, and replace them with learning to listen to your inner voice of character.
For example, think about your typical week, and think about those activities that are primarily lizard-brain and monkey-brain motivated.
Which of those can you reduce, or better yet, altogether eliminate? Some examples of these activities you'd want to reduce or perhaps eliminate might be watching mindless shows on TV, playing computer games endlessly, or surfing the Internet.
These are monkey-brain type activities that feel good at the moment but do not lead you towards being the person you want to be.
Other activities that can use more scrutiny are some of your e-mails, getting pulled into the latest office or neighbourhood drama, phone calls that you know need to get cut off, but you don't know how to tactfully end.
Remember, in my articles we talked about the all-you-can-eat buffet versus selective neglect and how life is filled with so many choices that one of the important lessons we all must learn is to discern when to say no and to what things we will say no—selective neglect.
If we are going to develop our character, our lives cannot remain as they are, unexamined and unchanged.
Remember that the reason for examining and improving character stems from the understanding that the results and achievements we get in life are a function of how our character meets the challenges we face.
The more difficult the challenges, the greater the character required.
The greater the results that we want to achieve, again the greater the character needed.
This separation we are referring to requires leaving behind what is not needed and taking up what is imperative.
Another word closely related to separation in the context of building our character is sacrifice.
The root of the word sacrifice is sacred. Sacrifice entails letting go.
My intent in mentioning separation and sacrifice is to identify the next step to the development of our character, and it is a very common process for all of us.
Anytime we sacrifice or let something go, what remains is more sacred.
It is more sacred, because we have paid a price for it.
Even something as simple as giving a kind word, writing a “thank-you” note, or a “just-because” letter to a loved one entails sacrificing our time, effort, thought, and attention.
What will remain-the words letter, and the relationship—are more sacred.
Think back to when you cared for someone who was sick, and you gave of yourself, your time, and your love.
After you service and sacrifice, you were changed, and your soul felt better.
Consider your own experience when you excelled and grew as a person.
When you participated in sports or band or any other extracurricular activities in high school, for example, didn't you make sacrifice? Instead of taking an afternoon nap or hanging out with friends after school, you were separated from the comforts of your bed or from the camaraderie of friends, and you had practice.
In addition to practice after school, you probably put in additional hours to improve on your own, which may have required some practice on the weekends.
It meant even more separation and sacrifice.
When the price you paid in practice translates to a win in a sponsoring event or a great performance, the accomplishment is more meaningful or sacred.
The second step in the development of our character requires sacrifice.
Developing the character traits of love, for example, may require the sacrifice of letting go of prejudices and truly listening and understanding the other person.
It may require forgiveness.
This requires subordinating our lizard-brain and monkey-brain thoughts of vengeance and letting go of the pain from being offended.
To err is human, to forgive divine.
Developing the character trait of love may require pre-forgiveness and always seeing the divine in ourselves and others.
Sacrificing lizard-brain and monkey-brain thinking may be required.
Mining the character trait of love may require the sacrifice of greater thoughtful service.
It may require getting out of our comfort zones.
As a simple example, every year I struggle with what to get my husband for Christmas, valentines day, our anniversary, or his birthday.
Just for some context, I would struggle to know what to get even for myself, much less for my husband.
It requires a great deal of effort, thought, and sacrifice to get the appropriate gift or even to get a letter written.
So every year I have built-in occasions to build my character.
You probably have similar opportunities as well.
In any case, the mining of character requires Sacrificing whatever is needed to give us the opportunity to refine our character. The opposite is to get lazy and try to find the most efficient way out.
This isn't about speed, but character building.
Take the time to give of yourself generously. Selfishness is something else that may need to be sacrificed or separated from our hearts and minds.
Each of these five steps is progressive in nature. Just as prospecting precedes mining, identifying your strongest character traits precedes sacrifice.
After identifying a character trait that you want to magnify, the next natural step in character development is to go above and beyond what you already doing through sacrifice.
I can't imagine a more worthwhile undertaking than the development of your character.
It prepares you to get the results and achievements you want. It does, however, take time and focus.
Remember one of the foundational realities is the all-you-can-eat buffet everyday, you can't do everything there is to do.
Give yourself permission to let go of the pursuit of endless doing.
You have to give character development a high enough priority and take the time to work on it.
You have to make deliberate choices and decide what you will selectively neglect.
Excellence in any endeavor requires sacrifice and separation; it is no different in the development of excellence in our character.
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