Click X in upper right corner to close this window -->
November 2005 Character Quality -- Initiative
The following editorial article was written by Gloria Cooper for publication in The Paris News --
"Many of my officers are meeting here in this boarding-house tonight," General Howe,
commander of 50,000 British soldiers, told Lydia Darrah, the mistress of the boarding house.
"We will be discussing important military matters. See that no one is near this room." The young
woman agreed that no others would be around.

It was three years into the War for Independence, and Lydia was used to such orders. However,
this general was not from the Continental Army. He was an enemy soldier. Soon after the
meeting convened that evening, this daring young woman began to wonder what they were
discussing, and she was not sure it was for the good of her country. Quietly, she made her way
to the meeting room and laid her ear to the keyhole. As she suspected, they were planning an
attack that could wipe out General Washington's army in one quick sweep. Very early the next
morning, she quickly found a soldier in the Continental Army and told him the plot in detail.
Because of her bravery and initiative, General Washington and his men caught the enemy
soldiers off guard and won a great victory.

What did Lydia Darrah do? First, she started with the information that she had. She took it
personally, putting herself in the place of the soldiers, and then she did something about it. This
is initiative. It is recognizing and doing what need to be done without being asked to do it.

When we take initiative to begin or complete a project, we are building responsibility in
ourselves. It takes dedication to keep working when the going gets tough, so determine at the
beginning to complete what you start. Taking initiative is doing something as little as sweeping
the walk, or as large as volunteering to restock the company's storage room.

Here are five keys to taking initiative. Look for what needs to be done. Seize the moment, and
make the team successful. Think ahead so you can avoid major problems, and manage your
time wisely. Benjamin Franklin sums up these comments with this statement, "Work while it is
called today, for you know not how much you will be hindered tomorrow."

As with everything, initiative must be balanced. A job must be done for an honorable reason.
Take initiative for the right projects. Use caution before you begin, measuring all aspects to
ensure that you are keeping within your jurisdictional bounds and that you only do what is truly
important. There is such a thing as over-extending oneself and doing more than is necessary.

The whistling swans are an excellent example of initiative in action. Their survival depends on
their migrations leaving on time, adjusting to many changes, and supporting one another when
conditions get tough. Each member of the flock plays a crucial role in their flight pattern. For
them, initiative is a matter of life or death.

In such a fast-paced world as we live in, there is no place for idleness -- the hour of idleness is
the hour of temptation. Find a way that you can better someone else's circumstances.
Opportunities to live in a worthwhile manner are abounding, so begin something that will be a
blessing to others, and see if it doesn't become something great.
Portions of this article have been adapted from Character First! materials.  For more information about the
Character First! program and resources contact:  Character Training Institute, 520 W. Main Street, Oklahoma
City, OK  73102,  (405) 815-0001. Visit the Character Council of Red River Valley at