Understanding Character: Guide to Definition & Importance
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 11 min read


  1. What does character mean?
  2. How to identify character traits
  3. Why character matters
  4. How character impacts daily life
  5. How to develop positive character traits
  6. Character vs. Personality
  7. Character in Literature and Storytelling
  8. Character in Leadership and Career Success
  9. How to assess character
  10. Final thoughts on character

Character is a concept you've probably heard tossed around in conversations, books, or even in the middle of your favorite TV show. But what does it really mean? And why is it so important? Let's dive into the world of character, unravel its definition, and explore its impact on our lives.

What does character mean?

When we talk about the definition of character, we're referring to the set of mental and moral qualities that make an individual unique. It's like a secret recipe that adds flavor to your personality, and it's made up of several key ingredients:

  • Core values: These are the principles you live by. They shape your decisions and actions. For example, if honesty is part of your character, you'll always strive to speak the truth.
  • Moral attributes: These are traits like integrity, kindness, and empathy. They reflect your sense of right and wrong.
  • Personal traits: These can include things like resilience, patience, and determination. They show how you respond to challenges and difficulties.

Remember, your character is not just about your qualities; it's about how you use them to navigate through life. It's the lens through which you view the world and the compass that guides your journey. It's the unique stamp that sets you apart from others, the essence of your individuality.

The definition of character also extends into the world of literature and film. Here, a character refers to a person in a novel, play, or movie. But just like in the real world, these characters have their own distinct qualities that make them unique and memorable. From Harry Potter's courage to Sherlock Holmes' intellect—each character's traits contribute to their journey and the story's overall plot.

So, whether we're talking about you, me, or our favorite fictional hero, the definition of character is the same. It's about the distinctive qualities that shape our actions, influence our decisions, and define who we are.

How to identify character traits

Now that we've explored the definition of character, let's talk about how to identify character traits. This isn't about labeling people—it's about understanding the patterns of behavior that help us make sense of our actions and those of others.

Identifying character traits can be as straightforward as observing behavior. For instance, if your friend consistently helps others without expecting anything in return, you can identify kindness as one of their character traits. But it's not always that simple. Sometimes, character traits are subtle and require a closer look. Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Observe actions: Actions speak louder than words. Pay attention to how someone behaves in different situations. If they always stand up for what's right, it could indicate a strong sense of justice.
  2. Consider reactions: How someone reacts to success, failure, or adversity can reveal a lot about their character. For example, if they show humility in the face of success, it's a clear sign of modesty.
  3. Listen to words: We often express our values and beliefs through our words. If someone frequently emphasizes the importance of honesty, it's likely a key part of their character.
  4. Reflect on consistency: Character is about consistency. If someone demonstrates patience in a variety of situations, it's a good indicator that patience is a part of their character.

Remember, character traits aren't about good or bad; they're about understanding the unique mix of qualities that make us who we are. So, the next time you're trying to understand someone's character, remember to look beyond the surface. Actions, reactions, words, and consistency—they all paint a picture of character.

Why character matters

Having talked about the definition of character and how to identify it, let's delve into why character matters. You may wonder, "Why should I care about character?" Well, it's simple—character matters because it shapes our interactions with the world around us.

Let's imagine you're playing a game of basketball with your friends. If you have good sportsmanship—one of many character traits—you'll enjoy the game, and so will the people around you. Even if you lose, you'll still be smiling because you value the fun and camaraderie over winning or losing. That's the power of character—it influences how we feel, how we act, and how others perceive us.

Character also matters because it guides our decisions and actions. Say you're faced with a tough decision at work. If you have integrity, another character trait, you'll make the right decision, even when no one is watching. You'll choose honesty over deceit, even if the latter offers an easier path. That's the essence of character—it's the compass that guides us through life's ups and downs.

Furthermore, character can have a profound impact on our personal and professional relationships. People are naturally drawn to those with positive character traits like kindness, respect, and honesty. These traits help build trust and foster strong connections. So, when you demonstrate good character, you're not just making the world a better place—you're also enriching your own life.

So yes, character matters—a lot. It's the foundation of our identity, the driving force behind our actions, and the glue that holds our relationships together. As we continue to explore the definition of character, remember that it's not just about who we are—it's about who we choose to be.

How character impacts daily life

Now that we've established why character is so pivotal, let's discuss how character impacts our daily life. From the moment we wake up until we go to bed, character plays a key role in our everyday activities and interactions.

Think about how you start your day. Perhaps you decide to make your bed every morning. This small act can be a reflection of your character traits of responsibility and discipline. It’s not a huge task, but it’s a way to start the day productively. That's character at work!

How about the way you interact with people? If you're patient and understanding, you'll likely be an excellent listener, making others feel heard and valued. Whether it's a chat with a friend or a conversation with a coworker, your character traits shape the way you communicate and connect with others.

Character also impacts how we face challenges. Life isn't always smooth sailing, and it's during the rough patches that our character really shines. If you're resilient, you won't be easily discouraged by setbacks; instead, you'll see them as opportunities to grow and learn. This positive approach can drastically change your daily experiences and your overall outlook on life.

Even the way we spend our leisure time can reflect our character. If you're curious and creative, you might enjoy exploring new hobbies, reading intriguing books, or experimenting with different cuisines in the kitchen. See? Even in relaxation, your character traits play a part.

So, as we delve deeper into our understanding of the definition of character, let's keep in mind the profound ways it permeates every aspect of our daily life. Remember, your character is not just about the big moments—it's also about the small, everyday choices that collectively define who you are.

How to develop positive character traits

So, we've talked about the role of character in our daily life, but how can you actively work on developing positive character traits? Well, here are some practical tips:

First, it's important to understand that developing positive character traits is a journey, not a destination. It's about continual growth and learning, not ticking off a checklist. With this mindset, you'll be more open to improvement and less likely to be discouraged by setbacks.

Second, identify the character traits that you want to cultivate. Maybe you admire a friend's resilience or a mentor's integrity. Once you’ve pinpointed these traits, think about ways you can incorporate them into your own life. This might involve setting specific, achievable goals or incorporating new habits into your daily routine.

Third, practice self-reflection. This can help you understand your strengths and weaknesses and guide your character development journey. Consider keeping a journal to record your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Over time, you'll start to notice patterns and trends—these insights can be valuable for personal growth.

Fourth, surround yourself with positive influences. The people around us can greatly influence our character development. Seek out role models who embody the character traits you admire, and try to learn from their attitudes and behaviors.

Fifth, remember that developing character is about progress, not perfection. It’s okay if you don’t always get it right. What’s most important is that you’re committed to growing and becoming the best version of yourself.

By understanding the definition of character and actively working on developing positive character traits, you can enhance your daily life and relationships, and ultimately, become a more rounded and fulfilled individual.

Character vs. Personality

When it comes to understanding human behavior, two terms often pop up - character and personality. But what's the difference between the two? Well, they're not as similar as you might think, and understanding the distinction can help deepen your grasp of the definition of character.

Character refers to the moral and ethical traits that a person possesses. It's about values and virtues like honesty, integrity, and courage. It's the deep-rooted part of us that drives how we act when no one's watching—our true self.

On the other hand, personality is more about the unique set of traits that define how we interact with the world around us. It's often associated with our temperaments, attitudes, and behaviors. Think of it as the way we present ourselves to others—our outer self.

In essence, personality is what we show to the world, while character is who we truly are inside. Both are important and make up who we are, but they serve different purposes. Personality might get you in the door, but it's your character that will keep you in the room.

So there you have it! Now you have a better understanding of the distinction between character and personality, and how each plays a role in shaping who we are. By distinguishing between the two, you're taking a big step in understanding the definition of character and why it's so important in our lives.

Character in Literature and Storytelling

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie where a character made such a strong impression on you that you couldn't stop thinking about them? That's the power of character in literature and storytelling. It's more than just a person in a story—it's the heart and soul that brings a story to life.

When we talk about characters in stories, we often focus on their physical traits or personalities. But, like people in the real world, characters in stories have deeper layers too. These layers, their character traits, are what make them feel real and relatable to us. They drive the story forward and give us a chance to see different perspectives and experiences.

Think about some of the most memorable characters in literature. Harry Potter, for example, is not just a boy who goes to a magic school. His bravery, loyalty, and resilience—his character—draws us into his world and makes us root for him. This is where the true definition of character shines in storytelling.

Whether it's a novel, a movie, or a play, characters are the glue that holds the story together. Their journeys, struggles, and triumphs are what keep us turning the pages or glued to our seats. Their character traits make them more than just figures in a plot—they become real to us.

So next time you pick up a book or watch a movie, take a moment to think about the characters. What do their actions say about their character? How do their character traits drive the story? By doing this, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the definition of character, not just in literature, but in real life too.

Character in Leadership and Career Success

It's no secret that success in leadership and careers often comes down to more than just skills or experience. Ever wondered what that "more" is? It's character. Understanding the definition of character and its importance can be a game-changer in your professional journey.

You see, character is like the hidden backbone of success. It's what defines how you deal with challenges and interact with others at work. It's the fuel that drives your decisions, actions, and reactions. And guess what? People notice.

Imagine two leaders: One is highly skilled but treats people poorly, while the other might not be as skilled but treats everyone with respect and kindness. Which one would you rather work with? Chances are, you picked the second one, right? That's character at work!

When it comes to career success, character can play a huge role, too. It's the thing that can set you apart from others in your field. It's what makes you reliable, trustworthy, and someone people want to work with. In a world full of skilled professionals, character can be your secret superpower.

Remember, skills can be learned and experience can be gained, but character—that's something you build. So, while you're polishing up your resume or preparing for that big presentation, don't forget to take a moment to reflect on your character. It might just be the most important part of your professional toolkit.

How to Assess Character

Now you might be wondering, "If character is so important, how do I assess someone's character?" Good question! It's not as tricky as you might think. Let's break it down.

First, observe how people behave, especially in tough situations. Someone's character shines brightest when they're under pressure. Do they stay calm and make thoughtful decisions, or do they panic and act selfishly? These reactions can tell you a lot about their character.

Second, pay attention to how people treat others, especially those they don't need anything from. This is a true test of character. Kindness and respect towards all, regardless of status, is a strong sign of good character.

Third, listen to what people say and how they say it. Words can reveal some crucial aspects of character. Are they optimistic, humble, and honest, or are they always complaining, bragging, and lying? Remember, actions might speak louder than words, but words can definitely give some hints.

Finally, remember that everyone can have a bad day. Don't rush to judge someone's character based on one incident. Instead, look for consistent patterns over time. Consistency is the true hallmark of character.

Assessing character might seem like a daunting task, but with these tips, you'll be a character detective in no time. Happy investigating!

Final Thoughts on Character

As we close our discussion on character, it's important to remember the profound impact it has on our lives. From the way we interact with others to the decisions we make daily, our character is the foundation of who we are.

Character is more than just a collection of traits. It's the essence of our being. It's what makes us unique, and it's what defines us. It's the reason why we choose to stand up for what we believe in, or why we offer a helping hand to a stranger. It's our character that compels us to act with integrity, even when no one is watching.

Understanding the definition of character helps us recognize its importance and its role in our lives. But remember, character isn't something that's set in stone. It's dynamic, evolving with our experiences and choices. We can choose to develop positive character traits and become better versions of ourselves.

So, let's make a commitment today. A commitment to strive for good character, to be kind, respectful, honest, and responsible. Because in the end, it's not our skills or achievements that define us, but our character. And that's a thought worth pondering on.

If you're looking to deepen your understanding of character development and design, be sure to check out the workshop 'Creating Characters: The Design Process' by Kit Buss. This workshop will guide you through the essential steps of designing memorable and authentic characters, adding depth and richness to your storytelling.