The ‘Ten Commandments’ of Character Development, Number Six: Be Mindful of Your Choices and Behavior

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Dr Simon’s series continues with the sixth of ‘ten commandments’ of character development: think before you act.

In my upcoming book Character Disturbance [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK](?), I discuss the essential values and principles or “Ten Commandments” a person must observe in order to develop a sound character. These commandments have been the subject of my most recent posts. (See the series on developing character.) Prior posts have addressed the need we all have to overcome our natural ego-centrism and to be ever mindful of the impact we have on others and the world around us; the need to avoid a sense of entitlement by striving to be grateful for all we’ve been given; the importance of developing a healthy and balanced sense of self-worth; and the importance of being honest with others as well as oneself. My last post discussed the importance of tempering our natural urge to seek pleasure and consciously subordinate this to the cause of life itself.

The sixth “commandment” involves engaging in sufficient contemplation and exercising our will in such a manner that we impose true discipline over our impulses. To quote from my new book:

Be the master of your impulses. Think before you act. At all times be mindful of your choices and behavior. Temper your urges with reason and foresight. Neither rush into action nor into judgment. Think not only about what you’re about to do but also about the consequences. You need not be paralyzed into inaction by taking the time to contemplate the soundness and rightfulness of the choices you might make. Remember, you do not have to act on every urge. Your will says “yes” or “no” to every temptation you face. Exercise that will but be sure it is steadfastly aligned with the principles of right conduct. That way, when the time comes, you can “put on the brakes” when you’re tempted to run pell-mell into trouble or “push” yourself to take the difficult but correct path.

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In my work with disturbed characters, I’ve encountered two groups of individuals. One group consisted of folks who simply never took sufficient time to think about the things they did. They were like walking impulses. They simply acted, and if they thought about things at all, it was after they acted. They might even have after-the-fact regret for some of their actions. But because so many times the damage was already done, their regrets were rightfully viewed as too little and too late. The other group consisted of folks who thought about what they were doing, but their thinking was so distorted, self-deceptive, and reflective of an inadequate conscience that they let themselves do what most people would not.

One of the many benefits of correctly administered Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is that it helps people learn how to think before they act. In addition, it helps people examine the kinds of “thinking errors” or cognitive distortions they engage in that might prevent them from engaging in sound, pro-social behavior. With successful CBT, people can lead lives of genuine self-discipline.

The “commandment” to be mindful of one’s behavior and to exercise reason and sound judgment before acting is a companion commandment to the one we will be discussing in the next post in this series.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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