We’ve come a long way this year, and it’s time to look back and see how we’ve grown. Maybe you’ve become an even better communicator. Maybe you’ve learned valuable leadership lessons, or taken on roles that you didn’t realize you could handle.

We can think back and measure our tangible successes. But what about our character? Character is one of the greatest gifts we get from the Toastmasters program, and yet it’s also one of the most difficult to define. It’s something that comes with time and patience for ourselves and for others.

I’ve learned that the most respected and admired members in our organization are guided by their own sense of integrity. It shapes everything they do. How many of us can say the same?

These people continually put themselves through a core values test before taking action. Their values are distilled into four key questions.

Am I acting with integrity? In other words, is this action something that I can be proud of? Would the mentors I trust and admire think this is a good idea? How about if no one were looking — would I do the same thing?

We have so many options when it comes to our behavior. Checking in with ourselves before making decisions can help us make doing the right thing standard practice.

In the coming year, take this quote as inspiration: “Real integrity is doing the right thing knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”

Am I treating others with respect? There’s a reason variations of the Golden Rule are revered among so many cultures. It’s not only a basic tenant of human behaviour, it’s a difficult standard to follow. There are times when we are not acting as our best selves. It could be that we’re stressed, tired, frustrated. It could be that we haven’t yet mastered our communication or leadership skills.

Whatever the reason, though, the simple fact of the matter is that treating others disrespectfully says volumes about who you no matter how articulate your communication skills are. Disrespectful people may get things done at first, but eventually the corrosive power of disrespect eats away at any true authority.

Inspiration for the coming year: “Never trade respect for attention.”

Will what I am about to do help or support my fellow members? This is a sign of good leadership: working and encouraging other people to be their best selves. You know the old saying “a rising tide floats all boats”? It’s true. Helping others shows that you understand that success isn’t something you achieve alone — it requires the support of many people along the way.

Teamwork is especially valued at Toastmasters. After all, this is a volunteer organization. Where would any of us be if our founder weren’t motivated by a drive to help other people? How would this international community have grown and prospered? The answer, of course, is that it wouldn’t — it took the daily commitment of thousands of members doing the right thing every day.

Inspiration for the coming year: “If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you.”

How can I improve? This question is perhaps the hardest to answer. How many of us can clearly see our own faults and have the self-compassion to change ourselves without judgment? Yet the greatest, most inspiring leaders are those who not only see what can change around them, they see what they can change inside themselves.

If you’re stuck in an unsuccessful pattern, take a minute to ask yourself: How am I contributing to the situation? If you had to alter the situation without changing the behavior of other people, how would you do so?

Inspiration for the coming year: “Become what you respect. Mirror what you admire.”

As we set course for the new year, take a little time to reflect not only on how you want to grow your communication and leadership abilities, but also how you can set a new standard for yourself. And remember: “Excellence is not being the best; it is doing your best.”