Around every new year, our focus tends to be largely on self-improvement. For example, how to be:
- bigger, better, richer
- more muscular
- more disciplined, and
- increasingly successful.
But what if we concentrated on what already makes us unique, valuable, and remarkable?
So instead of thinking about what we could be or do in the new year, to think about what we are and what we have inside of ourselves.
Doesn’t it feel a lot less intimidating to see yourself (facing the new year) from a “glass half-full” perspective?
With this in mind: I asked a number of colleagues and personal influencers to share what they consider to be the most remarkable human characteristics or abilities. (I even added my two cents’ worth.)
These characteristics are what we carry in our toolkits where ever we go.
Here is what they had to say (mostly in their own words).
ONE. To relate and bond with others
Andrew Westover – Educator, Scholar, Advocate (Los Angeles)
Our capacity to meet one another, to build and sustain relationships, to live, to hate, to question, to love…the ability to bond.
Edward Chamberlain-Bell – Freelance Writer and Radio Presenter (Johannesburg)
When I consider the people who inspire me the most, it is not the rich, famous, powerful, celebrated, beautiful or most accomplished, but the most compassionate.
You don’t need to be an Einstein, Yates, Gates, Jobs, Kardashian, Clinton, Obama or Madonna to impress me.
In fact, those who impress me are the seemingly “unremarkable” individuals that distinguish themselves from others by being consistently compassionate to the people around them. Their actions inspire others to do the same.
While simple random acts of kindness may go largely unseen, they are never forgotten.
Extend your compassion to strangers, animals, the environment, the unseen and the unknown.
Most importantly, remember to extend compassion to yourself.
TWO. Compassion (continued)
Jarrod Eder – Youth Pastor, View Church (Cape Town)
To find genuine compassion in a person is to find a gift.
It quickly becomes clear that compassionate people are not solely for themselves but for others.
In our “selfie society,” we need people who can engage with love and have genuine compassion for others – who can provide hope for those around them. For those who really need it.
Fergus Ashburner – Clinical Psychologist in Community Service, Forensic Mental Health (Cape Town)
The capacity to reflect on your thoughts, actions and experiences is linked to psychological well-being.
People who self-reflect are also more likely to have empathy for others and compassion for themselves.
Self-reflection allows us to make meaning of our experiences (historical and present, thoughts, emotions, and behaviours) and use our understanding to live better lives.
No-one said that the on-going process of self-reflection was easy – especially when we are required to face the shortcomings and mistakes of both ourselves and others.
Self-reflection remains undeniably well worth the effort of continued cultivation.
Hazel Kurian-Frank – Counselling Psychologist and Creative (Johannesburg)
Resilience is the ability to “bounce back” after a fall, although I prefer to see it sometimes as people soaring back up, much like a phoenix from the ashes.
When I think about Malala Yousafzai, Aung San Suu Kyi, the way the world seemed to come together against a few after the Paris bombings, our very own Madiba – how can one not think in near mythical terms?
The thing I especially love about resilience is that anyone, anywhere can embody it.
FIVE. The drive to know more
Fred Walter – Clinical Psychologist (Johannesburg)
Built into all of us is the desire to investigate, understand, and with that knowledge repair what seems broken, improve what no longer serves us and to invent new solutions to old problems.
It is hard to imagine a history without the likes of Freud (“Our actions are not always conscious.”), Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone), Thomas Edison (inventor of the light bulb and phonograph), and Marie Curie (who discovered polonium and radium).
These individuals are held in high esteem and epitomize humanity’s collective drive to understand – upon which subsequent improvement and creation are based.
Humans understand and modify the world inside and around them on variety of levels – personal, professional, practical and philosophical.
You do not need to be a world-famous inventor to successfully understand and make useful changes to your own life and those around you.
SIX. Bringing the imagined into being
Laura Bradfield – Astrologist, Reflexologist, Aromatherapist, Writer and Jungian Thinker (Cape Town)
The invention of extraordinary things rests on the inventor’s ability to imagine their inventions.
Art, writing, machines… The machine I am using to type this is remarkable and all due to the human imagination.
So while I think animals possess the art of imagination, perhaps it is the most remarkable human characteristic to actually bring the imagined into being.
SEVEN. To be complex
Dirk de Waal – Line Producer (IDOLS South Africa), Creative, Masters student (Johannesburg)
To be honest
To be real
To be considerate
To be (again)
To be beyond yourself
To be aspiration-able
To be (AGAIN)
So often we lose sight of our strengths and inherent abilities – especially when faced with seemingly overwhelming tasks.
Tasks such as “taking on” a new year, returning to work after a much-needed holiday, or embarking on journeys of self-discovery and growth.
When emotionally down and under the influence of self-doubt and criticism, take a moment to reflect on what you bring to the table of your life.
Now it is your turn to share what you feel is the most remarkable human characteristic or ability.
I look forward to reading your responses.
Happy New Year!