What are the most critical traits for us to learn and exhibit? As the world’s information continues to hurtle forward at an incredible rate, the ways that we learn, both in structured and un-structered settings, will continue to change.
We all learn in several settings, whether at a desk, on the sports field, in a band, or away from home for the first time. We also learn better through different settings, some are visual, some of us are better with the written word. But regardless of the setting or style you learn best in, here are seven particular characteristics that are valuable in our development, and are important no matter where you come from, or where you end up.
The “True Grit” mindset; the ability to hang in there, tough it out, persevere and recover from setback. This is a master trait that is deemed critical to success in life. Researchers Angela Duckworth and Christopher Peterson simply deem the trait “grit” and define it as such: “Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.” Across many different career fields, grit was regularly cited as a reason that star performers became successful, even more so than more “talented” individuals.
A Sense of Curiosity and Wonder
Our natural, inborn fascination with the world that makes us want to explore, learn and discover all we can about it. We need to encourage freedom from distraction if we are to keep this trait strong. Children are especially talented in finding wonder in the natural world. Mountains, rivers, and oceans inflect such curiosity because they are bigger than we can see with our eyes, and naturally lead to questions of wondering. Research backs this up, as the University of Michigan demonstrated that, after just an hour interacting with nature, memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent!
i.e. “meaningful connection to others”
Commonly seen as a team-player ability, awareness of others, and the ability to read other people’s emotions and connect with them in meaningful ways. Knowing when and how to negotiate, collaborate, and compromise are elements of social intelligence. We’ve all heard of the introvert and extrovert personalities, but there’s also a middle ground which demonstrates the highest levels of social intelligence. Wharton professor Adam Grant calls it the “Ambivert” mindset, because this personality type can best discern when to listen, when to respond, and when to take a stand.
An essential feeling of appreciation for what we have been given. Gratitude is central to a positive outlook on life, and we want to direct a child’s ultimate gratitude to God at every opportunity. Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor at UC-Davis, states that “Gratitude enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms. People are moved, opened and humbled through expressions of gratitude.” An attitude of gratitude must be cultivated though, and should be modeled for children through role models. Dr. Emmons also states that gratitude is a “chosen attitude” and must be willing to recognize and acknowledge that we are the recipients of an unearned benefit.
More than simply “being nice,” kindness involves giving of one’s self — something that is a sacrifice of your time, your effort, your true consideration. We need to be careful that our own acts of kindness are not rooted in the hope of merely receiving kindness, but in the happiness of giving of our self to others.
The ability to regulate one’s feelings and impulses; to recognize feelings and manage them, edit them, and not be run by them. This is also a master trait that is deemed critical to success in life. One way this is shown in development is the ability to delay short-term gratification for bigger long-term rewards. Another way of saying this is that people who exhibit self-control can see the big picture, and realize that the current emotion, whether bad or good, is not in the best interest of the individual or group as a whole.
The ability to see the positive opportunity in situations. Optimism is linked to self-confidence and a positive outlook on life. In fact, having a 3:1 positive to negative thought ratio is shown to broaden people’s ideas about possibilities, open our awareness to a wider range of thoughts… making us more receptive and creative; says UNC professor Barbara Fredrickson. Not that we should teach a unchecked optimism, but the ceiling really is quite high (11:1 Fredrickson says). Some negativity is essential, offering feedback to what’s working and what’s not.
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