You can start this series at the beginning or go back to the last post.

Who do you spend your time with? Are most of the people you know positive and healthy? Do they have character you appreciate and admire? Do they challenge you at all? How much time do you spend around negative, unhealthy people with little or no character, whiners, complainers, takers, users, the selfish and the self-involved? How many of them just aren't really doing anything and aren't really going anywhere?

Who you spend the bulk of your time with, especially your free time with, has an effect on your life in more ways than one. Many people are just another source of distraction. They really aren't “friends.” You're just keeping each other busy.

One of the sad facts of the moment is how few real friends we have. Studies were done in 1985 and 2004. The average number of “close friends” dipped from about 3 down to 2 and the number of people who said they had no one to discuss anything serious with doubled to 25%. Do you know who you would or could really count on?

If your personal life got crazy hard and all hell broke loose, who would you confide in or rely on for help? Would you just be letting it out to someone before you exploded or would you be getting some genuine empathy and compassion or some real understanding from them? Would you even want to hear their “wisdom”? If answering those questions is making you unhappy, it says something about you, the quality of your relationships and who you've been spending time with or investing it in.

Your character matters as well. Although it's nice to have others to count on, it really helps to be able to count on yourself as well. In the classical eras, character was associated with virtue, a word we no longer understand very well. When we think about virtuous people, we think of people who are probably quite religious, afraid of taking social risks or prone to being judgmental. This is not even remotely what it was about.

Virtue, or cultivating virtue, developing character, was all about personal strength. It was about developing the capacity to do what it takes in tough times. You needed it to simply be ready to succeed. Without it it was impossible to be the person you were capable of being. It was about being able to be one of the 300 Spartans, not the “Church Lady.”

The word virtue itself comes from Latin roots meaning power and manly strength. I know that sounds rather sexist, but you get the idea. It wasn't something silly and irrelevant in the real world at all. It was the real world.

What are a few of the virtues? There's courage, moderation, generosity, tastefulness, modesty/humility, confidence, good temperedness, truthfulness/integrity, good humor/wittiness, patience and friendliness to name a few. Each represents a balance between too much or too little of something. Courage, for example, is a balance between being timid or cowardly and being rash, reckless or out of control.

All the virtues are about channeling what you have as a human being, energy and resources, into serving yourself and others. It's about making the most of what you have and even about creating more of it. You may have heard the phrase “Virtue is its own reward.” It might be better phrased today as “Virtue creates rewards.” Virtue, character, makes things possible. It makes things happen. It makes you ready.

Character counts. It really counts in the tough times. Develop yours and you'll find it a lot easier to attract and keep good people around you.

Your happiness is waiting.