Have you ever stopped to think about the qualities you admire in other people?
It’s often said that what we see in others is a reflection of ourselves. But how can that be true if we see someone as disciplined and persistent, but yet we struggle to get out of bed at the same time every day? Although this may at first appear to be a contradiction, I want you to consider that the qualities you recognize in others, but think you don’t possess yourself, are simply lying dormant, waiting to be activated.
We are always choosing, moment-to-moment, how we show up in the world and interact with those around us. Most people move through their lives unaware of the unconscious choices they are making every moment. It is these unnoticed choices that prevent them from embodying the qualities they admire in others.
If you are so used to hitting that snooze button every morning that it happens without any conscious input, you are ingraining the quality of laziness into your character, instead of discipline. If you always get angry when someone cuts you off on the motorway, you are choosing the qualities of anger and resentment, instead of compassion.
I’d like to bring to your attention a handful of qualities that I see, time and time again, in those whom I respect and admire. I believe they are universal expressions of good character, and we all should make a concerted effort to develop and nurture these qualities in ourselves and express them in our lives.
Quality 1: Integrity
For me, this is the most important quality I look for when developing new relationships. It says a lot about a person when they make a plan and follow it through. Doing what they said they were going to do fosters a sense of honesty and trust, a certainty of knowing that their word can be relied upon.
We’ve all met those people who like to talk the talk but fail to walk the walk. Their ego gets in the way, compelling them to say things that make them look good in front of others. In reality, they are unable to support their spoken claims with the proof of their actions. While this person may not consider themselves as being dishonest, this is precisely the quality they are embodying. Most importantly, they are being dishonest with themselves. If you come across someone who engages in this kind of behaviour with you more than once, stay well away. You have a serial bullshitter on your hands.
Quality 2: Curiosity
Genuine curiosity about other people and the world around you attracts new experiences into your life that you might otherwise miss out on. When you’re on the train or tube to work, you’re surrounded by hundreds of your fellow humans. They all have their own unique stories and experiences that could offer you new insight and wisdom. But what do you do? You sit there in silence, distracting yourself from commuter boredom with your smartphone, a book, or newspaper.
One of the prerequisites for developing a deeper sense of curiosity is a willingness to let go of your fear of being judged. Most of us live in fear, consciously or unconsciously, that others will judge us harshly if we say or do something out of the ordinary. To really follow your sense of curiosity you must be able to act on it, even when it’s uncomfortable. On your next commute, strike up a conversation with a person near you. It doesn’t have to be anything of earth-shattering significance. Comment on the weather, complain about the commute – anything that gets the conversational ball rolling is fine. What do you have to fear? Chances are, unless you really hit it off, you will never see this person again. But what if, just maybe, they had some great wisdom to impart, or a profound experience to share with you?
When you’re out for a stroll, if you see someone walk past wearing a t-shirt with a logo or phrase that grabs your attention and triggers your curiosity, it’s perfectly ok to call out to them or tap them on the shoulder and ask about it! Here in the UK people seem to be overly polite and many would perceive a question about their apparel as rude or intrusive. The reality is that you’re doing no harm to anyone. In fact, the magic of being more curious is in the unexpected personal connections you make, or the new places you discover by choosing to do things out of the ordinary. These experiences would not have been possible if you had not chosen to embody this powerful quality.
Quality 3 – Gratitude
The epidemic of depression that is sweeping the world stems, primarily, from the lack of acknowledgement of the value of your life in each present moment, and a lack of gratitude for the totality of your life. This is why the quality of gratitude is so crucial to living a happy life and becoming a better person.
The moment you start to take things like food, shelter and clothing for granted, you develop a sense of entitlement, together with amnesia about what’s really important in life. You start taking things, and yourself, too seriously, letting life’s challenges throw you off your game. Then, when things come crashing down, a lack of gratitude leads you to believe your life is empty and worthless. Not exactly an empowering state of mind to operate from.
Gratitude not only helps you focus your attention on all the amazing people, things and experiences in your life, but it also has a scientifically-measurable effect on your psychology and physiology, that I discuss in more detail here. To summarize, genuine, heartfelt gratitude has the power to change your state of mind and reconnect you to the magic of life.
Here’s a great quote I found that sums up the quality of gratitude perfectly:
“You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: The more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given to you.”
-Sarah Ban Breathnach
Quality 4 – Compassion
“According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive — it’s not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness).”
The Dalai Lama is saying that compassion is a quality that goes hand-in-hand with wisdom. You can’t have one without the other. Have you ever held a door open for someone, and then became angry when they walked right past you without giving you “proper” thanks? True compassion has no expectation of reward, or even a simple “thank you,” attached to it. To expect a reward is to maintain the idea of a separate self and a separate other.
We can develop compassion by understanding the root of our suffering, and cultivating the wisdom required to move through life selflessly. When we understand our own suffering, we can then have compassion for others because we know exactly what they’re going through.
Quality 5 – Honesty
Earlier, we explored the quality of integrity, of following through on your word. This quality requires a component of honesty, but I wanted to address the quality of honesty separately, due to some important differences between the two.
Honesty should be applied in all areas of your life, starting with being honest with yourself. Whether that means facing up to the lies you have been telling yourself and others, having a difficult conversation with your partner, letting a client know you’ve made a mistake, or speaking your truth when everyone else seems to have an opposing point of view, being honest is crucial to the development of good character.
All relationships, especially intimate ones, require honesty as a solid foundation. If you start telling lies or concealing the truth, you will eventually destroy the openness and trust you have already developed or have been trying to build. Broken trust is very hard to repair. What good is an intimate relationship if you can’t share absolutely everything with that person? How is someone ever supposed to know the ‘real’ you if you continue to hide things?
Being honest 100 percent of the time can be tough at first. You might be afraid of judgement or rejection if you find you need to share something that could threaten your relationship with a friend or partner. Ultimately, you don’t have any control over how they will react. If someone can’t handle the truth, or it triggers a cycle of negativity, simply have compassion for them, because it’s their own conditioning that is causing this unpleasant reaction.
Quality 6 – Courage
This is a quality that I respect, massively, in others. Courage is required to step outside your comfort zone and battle your fears. You know it’s going to be scary but you’re doing it anyway.
The great thing about courage is that it compounds over time. When you start applying this quality in your life consistently, you start to gain more confidence in yourself because you know that no matter the challenge, you are always going to give it your best shot. You know that you possess the courage needed to act, in spite of your fears. Sure, fear will creep in from time-to-time, but with enough courage, you can move forward, regardless.
Nelson Mandela was on-point when he remarked:
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”.
Ingredients of a Good Human
All the qualities I have shared with you in this post are, in my opinion, absolutely essential to living a better life and being a good human on this planet. Many of these qualities have been revered for thousands of years in traditions like Buddhism and ancient philosophy, and for good reason.
When you stop to think about how you’re showing up and operating in the world, it’s important to review the qualities you’re expressing. Through this process, you reveal the areas that require more focus and attention. As you move through life, try to find ways that you can act with more integrity and be more honest, compassionate, courageous, grateful and curious.
Sure, there are many more qualities that could be listed here, but I believe these six are universal and are desperately needed to lift humanity out of the dark hole of separateness, depression and anxiety that is so prevalent today.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”Melody Beattie