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What's the most valuable attitude in people?


Photo by Yuri Catalano

This is the million dollar question. And it came to me in the least spectacular moment, a moment so beautifully insignificant that I cannot even remember. Anyway, what I do remember, is that it was connected to the question that when raising a child, what would be the most important attitude to encourage.


In the following I’d like to think about a few and open up for feedback and further suggestions.

  1. Trust - in Yourself and Others (which might actually be two separate things, but at least one is depending on the other) Trust is the opposite of control. While control can lead to envy and fear, trust helps to build confidence and autonomy. We need to trust in others in order to open up and be able to show our true self. If, on the contrary, we are living a life characterised by anonymity or disguise, we will never learn to trust in ourselves either. Trust is a natural enabler for meaningful relationships. It is a rare good which takes time to flourish and is not easy to find in today’s world where illusion means more than reality and hype beats substance. Not without a reason, the World Happiness Report points out trust the as one of the six key variables (next to income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom and generosity) that have been identified to support well-being. And that is why trust is one of the few things where it is crucial to cater for.

  2. Optimism Optimism goes hand in hand with trust. Bigger than the trust in ourselves and others, is the trust in something bigger. Some might call it fate or faith, but in any case this trust is quite similar to carrying a positive mindset in general. We need optimism to be able to experience emotional highs and lows which is crucial for our development. If we generally think positive, it’s easier to survive tough times, which, in return we need to move beyond and get to good times again. And positive thinking is even more powerful. It builds on being brave and empowers us to try. We’re much more willing to try new and challenging things when we believe we can succeed. But the most beautiful thing about optimism is that it leads to more optimism. Positive people attract positive experiences in general and thus are way more likely to succeed and be happy.

  3. Empathy This one is due to my believe that if we all had more empathy for ourselves and others, the world would be a better place. Ideally, empathy is the foundation for respect - and respect is what we need when we want to deal with people successfully. Respect is also a two-way interaction: if we meet others with respect and tolerance, they will do the same. Empathy helps to focus on the positive attitudes in people as well as to be more understanding with the negative ones. It allows us to deal with conflict in a more promising way because we can see both sides and discuss more reasonable. Empathy leads to kindness, and kindness is what we need more of - for ourselves and for others.

  4. The Skill to Reflect Instead of moving on without holding on, reflection enables us to reconsider, to change, to adapt. Not being able to reflect means being blind to external (or even internal) feedback, stimuli or criticism which would actually matter for us. Reflection helps us to change our behavior because we can understand and evaluate the wider implications of what we do. It is the solid ground for interpersonal connection. We need to reflect to be able to say sorry and to better next time. In order to deal with complex or challenging situations, we also depend on reflection so that we can consider the circumstances in a more objective and unbiased way. Without the skill to reflect, we would mindlessly rush through our lives blinded by the past, not being able to learn and not being able to enjoy the beauty of change and growth.

  5. The Courage to Fail Latest research is showing that the brain actually needs errors to reconfigure, hence to be able to learn and adapt. Through this ability, our mind allows us to see the world in a more correct way over time. But for this we have to realize that we were failing (and why) first. Most important is to understand where we made a mistake, how it happened and how we can correct it. This biological trick enables us to get a distance towards our automated behavior in order to try new ways. As Helen Keller beautifully put it already way back: ‘Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do children as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.’

  6. Emotional Competence Emotions are one of the most powerful indicators for our own well-being. They are different from thoughts and in case of doubt also the ones to rely on more. The first difficulty is often to notice emotions and to separate them from the chaos of thoughts in our head. Being able to understand and interpret them in the right way, is the next challenge. Emotional competence requires to learn to accept emotions and to face them instead of neglecting their existence, or worse - to run away from them. There’s a great amount of writing out there about the manifestation of unfelt or unnoticed emotions in physical consequences or external happenings. And I will surely write about this issue myself soon enough. Being connected to our emotions also means to learn to classify different emotions in order to better understand them. Often, our emotions and connected feelings are a direct connection to our subconscious mind which has the power to point the right way - if we only dare to listen.

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