“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity leads us down new paths.” – Walt Disney
Over the past 200 years, the human race has experienced a staggering advancement in the fields of science, medicine and technology, which has led to a tremendous improvement in the quality of life.
Two centuries is like a fleeting flash of time when you consider the age of the planet (approx 4.5 billion years). This giant leap forward in human progress started in the 19th century but accelerated in the 20th century. The World’s Fair, which took place in Chicago in 1933, rightly called it “The Century of Progress”.
We can appreciate the improved living standards that we now enjoy by looking back on what life was like around 100 years ago. Living conditions were oppressive in industrial cities, where they were typically enveloped in clouds of black soot and smoke from the factories. Before modern sewage systems and plumbing were put into place, the streets were smelly, dirty and filled with garbage.
Primitive medical care could not cure deadly diseases such as pneumonia, typhoid and tuberculosis – as a result, mortality rates were very high. Life expectancy was 40 years for men and 42 for women, and 1 in 10 children died before their first birthday. There were no human rights to protect people from injustices such as child labor, slavery and 12-hour workdays filled with grueling and monotonous labor.
So what is it that led to the unprecedented burst of growth that moved us away from the dreary living conditions that our ancestors had to endure? The shorthand answer is this: the drive for progress. This drive, combined with other modern values of personal liberty and free enterprise, encouraged innovation, risk-taking, originality, exploration and experimentation, which all skyrocketed our progress.
The idea of progress is said to have emerged primarily in the 18th century, AKA the age of Enlightenment. Movements such as Diderot’s Encyclopedia initiated campaigns against the superstitions and dogma propagated by the religious institutions and monarchies at that time. Power was gradually shifting to the individual, and society was starting to have more faith in the instincts and capabilities of humans.
This new, progressive ideology states that when people are given the freedom to apply their reason and skills, they can contribute towards the improvement of the human condition through advances in science, technology and economics. Providing this form of autonomy will breed experts, explorers and scholars, who can utilize their mental strength and agility to make the world a better place.
I believe that these incredible breakthroughs that we’ve had on a collective level have taken place because we were able to connect with the true nature of the human spirit, which is to grow, expand and better ourselves every single day. When we remain stagnant because of our complacency, we dull our inner light and our spirits slowly die. Progress is truly the elixir that can give us meaning and purpose.
So if being progressive is inherent in our nature and it’s the true essence of who we are, why is it that so many struggle with acting on their aspirations? First, it’s because we live in a world where we’re inclined to dwell on our mistakes and failures and get stuck in the past. Second, people are afraid of the pressures and responsibility that come with growth and expansion beyond one’s comfort zone.
It’s easy to assume that progressive luminaries, such as the Columbus’s, Einstein’s, Disney’s and Gandhi’s, are made of something special and are born with magical qualities. The truth is that the urge for progress is learnable and something that we can inculcate within ourselves if we wish to do so.
A progressive attitude can only work if we have the right intentions and we can manage ourselves on the path towards progress. When we’re driven by love and a passion for our cause, growth is a natural by-product of the efforts we put in. Even in the face of failure and disappointments, progress can still occur if we’re able to learn from our experiences and stay on course with our dreams.
Along with unbridled passion and the capacity to handle potential obstacles, here are 5 more exceptional traits that progressive people possess, which you can cultivate within yourself:
- Curiosity: Progressive people are curious because deep down, they are explorers at heart. They are forward-thinkers, always wanting to learn, grow and expand their knowledge. Even if they are experts in their respective fields, they possess the humility to assume the role of a student and ask a lot of questions in the right learning opportunities. Because of their voracious curiosity, progressive people are always up-to-date with the latest trend, which helps them evolve in their personality and in their craft.
- Persistence: The concept of “giving up” does not exist in the mind of a progressive individual. Neither do their get perturbed in the face of failure. This is because they know what they stand for and they aren’t willing to compromise on their standards and vision. They may find other ways of doing things but will always use their values as a compass to guide them towards success. Their efforts are backed with a solid work ethic and a disciplined lifestyle that provide the foundation for their consistency.
- Optimism: Progressive people look for the silver lining in situations. Because of their positive outlook, they tend to focus on solutions instead of dwelling on problems. They have a “can-do” attitude because they truly believe that they are capable of achieving their desires. In their mind’s eye, they have already seen themselves winning, and even if they don’t ultimately get the results that they want, they’re able to bounce back quickly and frame it as a lesson, which can be tapped into for their personal growth.
- Open-mindedness: A know-it-all who’s rigid in their ways would find it hard to advance in their life. Progress requires us to be open and flexible enough to experiment and engage in trial and error. Asking the right questions and looking at things from different angles will open up new avenues, which we can pursue. If we want to turn average into excellent, we have to be willing to listen to what others have to say and try new things. Asking questions such as “how can I do better?” will propel our development.
- Resourcefulness: In reality, time, energy and money are limited resources. Yet this doesn’t seem to be an issue for progressive people because of their remarkable ability to maximize on what they’ve been given. They have an “abundance-mindset”, which allows them to find and create opportunities that they can benefit from. They are living proof that if life gives you lemons, you can certainly make lemonade.
So the next time you fly a plane, ride your car or open your refrigerator, be inspired by the fact that all those modern conveniences have come into reality because of a spark in someone’s imagination and their drive for progress. Let it be a reminder that whenever you follow your inspirations, you’ll fulfill one of the most fundamental needs of your soul – and that is to evolve the consciousness of your wisest self.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Do you believe that you possess any of the traits of progressive people? If yes, which ones?
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