Build Your Character And Avoid Being Toxic

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Laws Of Human Nature" by Robert Greene. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to know how to build your character? Why is shaping your character so important?

It takes time to build character. But shaping your character is important since it lets you address your weaknesses, and create new and better behaviors.

Keep reading to find out how to build your character and why it matters.

Control Your Own Nature: Build Your Character

You can’t change your character—no one can—but you can learn how your character determines your negative behavior, and then use this knowledge to transform weaknesses into strength and create new behavior patterns. 

To start assessing your character:

  • Reflect on the specifics of each of your four layers of character (genetics, upbringing, habits, and masks).
  • Assess your own character by studying your behavior using the same techniques you use to study others’.

Once you have a better sense of what your character is like, use the following strategies to improve it:

Strategy #1: Notice when you start acting according to patterns. You can’t consciously change your behavior until you’re aware of it.

Strategy #2: Create new habits. You can rewire your neurons and patterns by choosing to repeat behaviors that you want to have in your character. You might start with tolerance, resilience, or teamwork.

  • For example, if you panic in stressful situations, put yourself in these situations to get used to them so you won’t react so instinctively. 

Strategy #3: Point your character in a positive direction. You’ve learned skills by repeating behaviors, and these skills can transfer to new behaviors.

  • For example, if you’re a pleaser, you can use your social skills to gain power rather than defend yourself.

Strategy #4: Spend time with people who do have a strong character so their influence will rub off on you.

It takes effort to maintain the strong parts of our character—empathy, generosity, resilience—because being decent to others can lead them to take advantage of us. On the other hand, it takes no effort to maintain weak parts of our character. If we don’t make a conscious effort to strengthen our characters, over time, the weaker parts will win out and determine our behavior.

Build Your Character And Avoid Being Toxic

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Robert Greene's "The Laws Of Human Nature" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Laws Of Human Nature summary:

  • Why it's in your nature to self-sabotage
  • How you behave differently when you're in a group
  • Why you're wired to want the wrong things in life

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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