Sculpting Your Character

Obviously you’ve been through a lot of character sculpting already. You started as a baby, and you’ve grown into the person you are today. But much of that sculpting process was done to you, such as by your family upbringing, the culture you were raised in, and the education you received. Up to a certain point, you were sculpted by the world.

How well did the world do its job?

How do you feel about your character’s values, behaviors, habits, identity, lifestyle, and overall place in the world? How pleased are you with your internal state of being? How delighted are you with the results that are currently flowing into your life?

Do you feel like the world did a good job? Did it complete the task of fully sculpting your character, such that now you have a wonderful role to play for the rest of your life?

Some people might indeed feel the world did a great job on them. Others, myself included, would find these statements laughable, depending on when in our lives we ask them.

In my early years the world tried to sculpt me into a reverent, obedient Catholic. Nice try, world. Nice try.

Rebellion Phase

Of course I didn’t like where that was headed, so I rebelled against that fate and opted to take charge of my own path without the nuns and priests.

Actually I wish I had thought of it as sculpting my character, but I wasn’t that self-aware at the time. So it was mostly a phase of chaotic rebellion. That led to my getting arrested 4 times in 18 months… and almost going to prison for a year or two.

Eventually that situation scared me straight, and I abandoned the temporary dream of becoming a criminal mastermind. But I was still left hanging by the world. What now?

Personal Growth Phase

Eventually I stumbled upon personal growth, starting with a late night informercial to buy a memory improvement course. That seemed better than doing things that would get me arrested, albeit a bit tame relative to my previous lifestyle. The memory course was just okay, but it got me started on the long road of personal growth that I’ve been traveling ever since.

In the beginning I gobbled up random books and audio programs – whatever looked interesting to me. This material gradually taught me to think more consciously and deliberately about my life. In the beginning I consumed lots of material on goal setting, time management, and values. This led me to eventually set a really big goal for myself: graduate from college with two degrees in only three semesters. I succeeded and even won an award for being the top computer science student in my graduating class. That was a potent taste of what personal development could do for me. It was also my second attempt at university, my first run resulting in expulsion. Such a stark contrast in my results was enough to convince me that I should stick with personal growth work for many more years.

I was still being sculpted by the world in a way, but at least I had some say in how I was being sculpted. I could choose which books to read and which courses to buy. But I was still subjected to the values the authors injected into their work. Some of that was really good, and I liked being influenced and stretched, but I cringed whenever I heard someone utter the word God in their programs. I was an atheist at the time and wanted nothing more to do with religion.

This phase lasted for many years. I went through 1000+ books on various aspects of personal growth – relationships, health, business, spirituality, productivity, success, meditation, lifestyle, and more. I started going to workshops too. I hired a few different coaches.

The positive influence of this material definitely had an effect. I took a lot more growth-oriented action. I trained in martial arts for a few years. I got into distance running and ran the L.A. Marathon. I went vegan. I wrote an award-winning computer game. I bought and moved into a home that cost more than $1 million. I overcame my fear of pubic speaking. I started traveling. I got married (twice) and had kids (twice, but just with wife #1).

Conscious Character Sculpting

Being influenced by positive sources was really empowering, but I also felt that I could do better by engineering my own growth experiences. I sensed that there was yet another level I could progress to.

One method I used again and again was to do 30-day challenges. I did my first one in 1992, which was to go vegetarian for 30 days. It stuck and I never went back, even though I wasn’t intending to do it permanently. I used the same approach to go vegan 3.5 years later.

I’ve done so many of these challenges now that I lose track of them. I’ve probably done 6 or 7 of them in the past year alone. Even the more mundane ones, like learning chess for 30 days, added some delightful nuances to my character. Sometimes I do bigger challenges too, like my current challenge to blog every single day of 2020. Since I started on December 24 (why wait?), this is day 14. I still have 352 days to go after I publish this. It’s a leap year. 🙂

Long ago this type of challenge would have seemed unachievable. Now two weeks into it, I’m still enthusiastic about it. I know how good this will be for sculpting my character in the direction I want to go this year.

I saw the connection between the knowledge and experience I gained each year and the long-term effect on my character. Knowledge changed me. Experience changed me too.

Year after year of investing in personal growth had sculpted me into a different person. My past self who wasn’t yet into personal growth wouldn’t recognize me as I am today. He might even find me intimidating. I’d just hug him though, even though he’d probably cringe. Even though our scars are basically identical, he hadn’t yet repaired the damage related to being touched by humans.

I can still remember how I used to be in other decades of my life, so in that sense I’m the same person I was before. But I’ve added and shifted so much through gains in knowledge and experience that my dominant thoughts and feelings can be strikingly different each decade. I seem to become increasingly relaxed and confident in who I am as I get older. I find it easier and more effortless to express myself without worrying about being judged or criticized. Making money is easy and fun. And I get to enjoy a cool lifestyle. Later this month I’m going to visit the Panama Canal for the first time, and I’m heading back to Europe again this summer. I used to have a character that thought it must be a huge deal to leave the country, so he never did so. He’s really going to love his first trip to Paris.

Appreciating the World’s Role

I used to resent what my Catholic upbringing did to my character. Much of my early personal growth work involved repairing the damage. It’s so nice to live by my own well-formed sense of ethics instead of having some vapid nonsense like the Ten Commandments stuck in my head.

Today I feel differently about the world’s role in early character training – grateful actually. The religious “truths” I was taught early in life just seemed so ludicrous and nonsensical once I grew half a brain that it was a no-brainer (or half-brainer?) to reject that sooner or later.

The world handed me such a terribly misaligned character that clearly wasn’t going to work for me long-term. Self-pity wasn’t going to help. And doing heart-racing stuff that got me arrested, while often fun, clearly wasn’t sustainable unless I wanted to sculpt myself into a character who only wears orange pajamas.

The world gave me little choice but to try to fix the crappy ass NPC preset that it served up. But if not for that, I don’t think I’d have learned some of the most powerful self-development methods that are such an integral part of my life today. Life put me in a position where I had to put tons of work into my character if I wanted to have any chance at long-term happiness.

This kind of work is very difficult at times. It’s especially difficult to admit the truth that we aren’t as happy with our current characters as we’d like to be. So many of us pretend to be okay to fit in socially when we clearly aren’t inside. I have thousands of emails from people as evidence of that.

It’s hard to say yes to character sculpting work. It usually involves a lot of crying. But it does work, and it is worth it. And in the long run, it’s way, way better than denial.

I feel lucky that my starting point didn’t give me much room for denial. I felt like I slammed hard into the truth about myself shortly before I was even an adult. I think this road is more difficult for people who have the option of pretending that all is well with them. It’s harder for many other people to get started on this path because they aren’t ready to admit just how misaligned their characters have become. So they continue living those lives of quiet desperation, if only to remind the rest of us not to end up like that.

Fortunately a lot of us are ready and willing to admit that our characters need work. The challenge for us is figuring out how to do it effectively, so that we create clear signs of progress inside and out.

While my character sculpting journey began with damage repair mode, that’s no longer true today (and hasn’t been true for many years). Now I just want to take a character I really like and continue sculpting it into one that I really, really like. And when I get there, I’ll work on creating a character that I really, really, really like. It’s definitely possible to like who you’ve become yet still want to keep growing. When I go through some intense growth for a while, I often like to settle in for a bit, but eventually the promise of more growth always seduces me back into the game.

Conscious Character Sculpting

These days I really love the character I get to play each day. I like myself because I worked hard to turn my character into someone I’d like.

This requires figuring out what kind of character you’d like (not always easy) and then doing the work to actually become that character (pretty much never easy).

I’m happy that I developed my character into a creative entrepreneur who hasn’t been anyone’s employee since 1992. Would you enjoy playing a character who never needs to deal with job interviews, commuting, corporate politics, and bad coffee? I’m literally writing this article dressed like Arthur Dent.

I’m happy that I see money as something fun and flowing and playful, not as something to fret over.

I’m happy that I’m married to a woman who’s smart, funny, and yummy. She’s my best friend too. I love snuggle-sleeping with her every night. And I like working with her each day as well.

I’m happy I have a lifestyle that I like. I get to create and publish a lot, which I enjoy. I get to work with very growth-oriented people every day in Conscious Growth Club. I get to travel a nice amount. And I get to keep doing lots of stretchy personal growth experiments.

And I’m not stopping – ever! I know that my character will always be a work in progress, and it’s fun and rewarding to progress (once you learn how to get yourself to actually change). It’s also fun to keep dreaming up new ways I can train him and teach my character new tricks, like when I got him to go 40 days without food in 2017… or when I had him go to Disneyland for 30 days in a row in 2016. This year I’ve put him on a major training program for amping up his creative output, so he’ll create and publish more this year than any year before.

If you have to live with your character for the rest of your life, wouldn’t it be nice if the experience keeps getting better and better?

Let Me Help You Sculpt Your Character

If you wake up each day with a character you love to play, kudos to you, especially if you didn’t start out that way. We should compare notes.

If, however, your character needs work, then you have two options. Figure it out on your own like I did, which will take decades.


Leverage my decades of acquiring knowledge and experience, including years of coaching people, and join us for the new character sculpting deep dive that we just launched at the beginning of this year. It’s called Stature, and its ultimate purpose is to help you sculpt your character into one that you love playing each day – taking it one day at a time with bite-sized lessons and exercises.

Character sculpting is truly a lifelong process, but if you learn these tools early enough in life, they’re going to save you so many years of false starts and dead ends. I know I can shave years off your learning curve here if you’ll let me.

More than 100 people have already joined in the first few days (135 last time I checked). You can see the current count at the top of the Stature page. How many do we have now? You can be our +1.

During the launch week, we’re offering Stature at a 70% discount from the long-term price, so this discount is only good for about 2 more days: Tuesday and Wednesday this week. It expires at midnight Pacific time at the end of Wednesday, January 8.

So far I’ve published the first 7 audio lessons, and we have full transcripts published for the first 4 of those. We’re co-creating this course together throughout January and February, during which time we’ll build the course to at least 42 lessons (probably more).

Here’s a screenshot of the lessons in our member portal, so you can see what we have so far. You can stream or download any lesson from your favorite device (the portal is mobile friendly). There’s also a workbook to accompany the lessons and bunch of other bonuses and supplementary material being created for this.

Stature Lessons

If you’re ready to dive in with 135+ other people and do some major character sculpting work to create not just an amazing 2020 but a happy and empowering life, you’d be wise to join us for the Stature course. You get to keep it for life and do the course as many times as you desire. My website is a long-term fixture in the personal growth community (operating continuously since 2004), so we have that stable longevity factor going for us.

Hopefully you have a character who’s empowered enough to say yes to this, but if you’re still on the fence, my tip is to go with your first gut instinct.

A recent study reported in the Washington Post today claimed that people make better decisions when they go with their first gut instinct instead of second-guessing themselves. I also asked growth-oriented friends on social media if they make better decisions from gut instinct or second-guessing analysis, and it was abundantly clear that gut instinct was the winner by far – many had regrets about second-guessing themselves and missing opportunities. So if your gut instinct is to join us, then join us.

I also trust my gut instinct, which told me that creating this course was one of the best projects I could do in my lifetime. I’m building a timeless course that will serve people for decades to come. This is just the beginning. I hope your character will join us in this special experience. The energy from the first group of people going through a course is just such a delight to behold.

We’re only 7 lessons in, and many people have told me they’ve cried a good bit already. Come share some tears with us if you’re brave enough. It’s part of the rebirthing process as we say goodbye to our old selves.

Seriously, please do join. Stature will do you a world of good.

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Read Sculpting Your Character by Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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