Pride, gratitude and compassion reduce the human mind’s tendency to discount the value of the future.
Our research also shows that when we make people feel grateful, they’ll spend more time helping anyone who asks for assistance, they’ll make financial decisions that benefit partners equally (rather than ones that allow profit at a partner’s expense), and they’ll show loyalty to those who have helped them even at costs to themselves.
What my lab, and others, found when we looked at pride was similar. Making people feel proud — not arrogant, but proud of the skills they have — makes them more willing to wait for future rewards and more willing to take on leadership roles in groups and work longer and harder to help a team solve a difficult problem. Likewise, when we make people feel compassion, they’ll take on the burdens of others, spending more time and effort to help get others out of jams and ease their distress.
What these findings show is that pride, gratitude and compassion, whether we consciously realize it or not, reduce the human mind’s tendency to discount the value of the future. In so doing, they push us not only to cooperate with other people but also to help our own future selves. Feeling pride or compassion has been shown to increase perseverance on difficult tasks by over 30 percent. Likewise, gratitude and compassion have been tied to better academic performance, a greater willingness to exercise and eat healthily, and lower levels of consumerism, impulsivity and tobacco and alcohol use.
Cultivating the social emotions maximizes both our “résumé virtues” (those that underlie professional success) and our “eulogy virtues” (those for which we want to be remembered). In nudging the mind to be more patient and more selfless, they benefit everyone whom our decisions impact, including our own future selves. In short, they give us not only grit but also grace.
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