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Characteristics of a Healthy Person
December 20, 2002

"Never respect men merely for their riches, but rather for their philanthropy; we do not value the sun for its height, but for its use." –Gamaliel Bailey


In the Health of Nations: True Causes of Sickness and Well-being (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1987), author Leonard Sagan identifies eight psychological characteristics of a healthy person:

"First, they have a high level of self-esteem, an "inner locus of control". That is, they are confident of their ability to make competent decisions. They do not rely solely on traditional authority for guidance, but are able to acquire and evaluate information and make decisions independently....

"Second, although healthy people have high regard for themselves, they are not self-indulgent or preoccupied with their personal identity or welfare.  Rather they are committed to goals other than their own personal welfare. Goals may be global in scope or quite modest; most importantly, however, they are not egotistical in nature but will benefit others. Healthy people are compassionate, they have a strong sense of community....

"Third, just as people living in premodern society place a low value on health and survival, healthy people place high values on these qualities. Although this is likely to result in certain behavior (such as exercise and diet), the high regard for health may itself be more important to health than the associated behavior....

"Fourth, healthy people are future-oriented -- willing to delay immediate gratification for future gains. They are willing to invest in themselves, particularly through education. Healthy people constantly collect information to improve decision making, to increase security and reduce uncertainty. They are generally well informed and consider it important to form opinions on affairs beyond those that touch solely on private interests.

"Fifth, healthy people are trusting and easily enter into social networks, forming strong and persistent affectionate bonds....

"Sixth, healthy people relish companionship. Yet, because they have a high regard for themselves, they are not uncomfortable when alone; indeed, periods of quiet contemplation and reflection are sought for their soul-nourishing value.

"Seventh, beyond formal education, healthy people pursue knowledge, knowledge of themselves as well as knowledge of the world around them; to understand and find meaning is a basic human need...."

Eighth, a healthy person has a "sense of coherence, a global orientation that expresses the extent to which one has a pervasive, enduring though dynamic feeling of confidence that one's internal and external environments are predictable and that there is a high probability that things will work out as well as can reasonably be expected."

For the characteristics of a healthy leader in early childhood, check out the article, "The Well Director," in the Article Archives at www.ChildCareExchange.com. Type in "The Well Director" in the search tool of the Archives.


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