Reflection an important part of building character

Character Lives often stresses that building character requires practice: that character is like a muscle where you must continually work on it to keep it strong or make it stronger. That’s why the Character Dares are so important. Through the dares, we all are reminded to work on the eight essentials: honesty, commitment, humility, respect, kindness, forgiveness, selflessness, patience. Each essential is like a different muscle in our character composition.

But it’s not just about the eight essentials; reflection too plays an important role in building character and in the CharacterStrong curriculum. That’s because the Character Dares are essentially a form of experiential or service learning where reflection is integral to the character-building process. It’s a model that expands the learning beyond the teacher and into the real world.

Reflection helps us connect the intrinsic good feelings that result from character-building actions and extend the behavior into contexts beyond the original experience, such as the workplace and community. And through the repetition of weekly dares, we increase our skill level, ultimately reproducing positive behaviors without conscious thought, just like — you guessed it — muscle memory.

To be effective, reflection requires us to analyze our actions throughout the week. Many find that keeping logs or journaling makes the reflection more meaningful. Others may prefer to share verbally with a partner, parent or trusted friend. Whatever form of reflection you take, the What, So What and What Now[1] model offers an easy starting point.

  • What — This covers what, where and when you tried the dare as well as for or with whom you did it.
  • So What — What did you learn from the experience? How did you feel? How did it make others feel? How did others involved respond? What most surprised you? What most delighted you? If you repeated the dare, did it become easier the more times you did it? What did you learn about others, your school or workplace, the community and yourself?
  • What Now — Next time you practice the behavior, what will you do differently? What more can you do to build that particular behavioral muscle? And when and how will you practice again?

This approach will set you up to practice each character trait more often and make it easier over time.

Now it’s time for us to reflect. How are the Character Dares working for you? Please feel free to share in the comments section.


[1] Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D. and Jasper, M. (2001). Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide.

Character Lives