Character Development vs Personal Development

Character development is now trending in social media. It is often used when netizens talked about government officials who went from good to bad. For example, a former human rights lawyer now condones extra-judicial killings. Another example is an idealist who turned into a corrupt politician.

That’s one way of looking at character development.

Character Development

Character development refers to the steps taken by our society to ensure that we grow to be good people. Even in the workplace, there are attempts to develop us into good workers through the WAVE (Work Attitude and Values Enhancement) program.

In stories, character development can be the transformation of the hero from zero. From someone who was reluctant to go on a journey.

These days, gurus repackaged character development into a sellable name: personal branding.

It starts at home.

Character development started at home. Our parents taught us that there are traits and values which are good and acceptable in our society. For the Tagalogs, they’ve been learning about respect with po and opo and pagmamano.

We learned that family is important. We need to take care of our siblings while they are young and our parents when they get very old.

We learned it in school.

Character development continued in school. We learned good values through values education. We developed socially acceptable traits in the playground.

When the Philippine Educational System was established in 1901, character education was one of the first subjects. Then, it became Good Manners and Right Conduct and Values Education.

On June 25, 2020, Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed the Republic Act 11476, which reintroduces and institutionalizes character education in Filipino schools, public and private, from elementary to high schools, spanning grades K to 12. The government agency that will lead the implementation is the Department of Education.

Many thought that the character of our youth was in decline and we needed to reinforce character education in schools. Given that Duterte signed the law, many find the timing amusing. 

Duterte was known for “you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.” and his dream to become a dictator. He said that we were not capable of character development. But still, I am thankful that he signed the law.

In Stories and Life

When you search for the term character development, you will find that it usually refers to creating fictional characters who think and behave like humans.  

In fictional stories, people usually change, from bad to good, from cowardly to courageous, shy to confident. 

Just like in literature, a character demonstrates unique values and traits that make him either a hero, a sidekick or a villain.

In real life, we also expect people to change as they grow older. Those who don’t are deemed to be people without character development.

In Filipino parlance, they are called “tumandang paurong” or degenerates.

We do not need to play a character. Instead, we can decide for ourselves what we want to become. Character development (values, traits, and behaviors) is part of personal development. It does not end in school.

So, people who pursue personal development need character development too. We expect people to be wiser as they grow older.

Personal Development

Personal development refers to the study and practice of developing a person’s capabilities, talents, and assets. Personal development includes activities that improve employability, performance, and productivity.

It enhances the quality of life, the achievement of professional goals, and the realization of an individual’s noblest dreams.

Personal development aims for self-improvement, evolution, and transformation.

The pursuit of personal development includes character development. You can say that character development is a small circle inside the big circle of personal development. 

Our personal character changes over time. Often, people do not notice the difference because they are unaware of it. Often, we are changed by what happened to us. 

When we become mindful of how we live, we make deliberate changes in our character. Personal development is a proactive approach to transforming our lives, including developing our new character.

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To a certain extent, we are a product of our environment. Parents model to us characters that we can either hate or love. Some experts believe that our upbringing influences our behaviors as adults.

We expect leaders to walk the talk. They become models to those who believe in them. In psychogenetic, it is believed that our influences when we were young contributed to our character development.

But we don’t start learning when we grow old. People change all the time, even if not consciously. Leaders who model the way can influence how people behave. Our leadership is influenced by the people we admire and follow.

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