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Which CASEL Competency is the Most Important?

By: Melissa Ragan, Chief Learning Officer, Navigate360

I was recently asked by a graduate student to weigh in on which CASEL competency was the most important to student success in life. The timing seems appropriate on this SEL Day! My first response was, “All of them!”, but she wouldn’t accept that answer and pressed me to pick only ONE. I panicked and went through each one, analyzing and evaluating which one competency was the single most important.


This was almost my first choice. I mean, it’s said that adults make around 35,000 decisions every day! Some are simple and don’t require much thought. But some are more complex, and if you can’t make decisions, it can be paralyzing. Yet, this didn’t seem like the MOST important one, so I moved on.


This was almost my first choice, too. As Socrates said, “Know Thyself,” and there is nothing more important than understanding one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and values. Still, to me, success in life is about more than just knowing yourself.


Here is another important competency. I know many adults who don’t know how to regulate their emotions, or who have problems setting and achieving goals, or maintaining motivation. Heck, even I sometimes struggle with self-management. But was it the most important one? Nah.

Social Awareness

Empathizing with others, understanding social cues, and recognizing diverse perspectives is more important than ever in today’s world. But could you be successful in life without those skills? Sure, in fact, I can name several successful business leaders who show a lack of empathy. So, this one wasn’t the most important in my view.

Relationship Skills

Through the process of elimination, I selected relationship skills as the most important CASEL competency. When I think about what makes a person successful, regardless of the criteria (happiness, career, wealth, education, etc.), the one thing that is a constant is relationships with others. Building and maintaining positive relationships, having communication skills, and being able to use conflict resolution skills are essential for anybody to achieve success – whatever their marker of success is.

Of course, there is no right or wrong answer, and I still maintain that ALL the competencies are important and work together, but what do you think? Which CASEL competency do you think is the most important?

Melissa Ragan - Chief Learning Officer

About the Author

Melissa Ragan

Melissa Ragan is the Chief Learning Officer at Navigate360. Prior to joining the company, Melissa worked as an educator before moving into curriculum and professional development for large educational publishers. Most recently, she developed social-emotional learning (SEL) programs for middle and high school students, authored SEL Professional Development for the United Nations, is part of the UNESCO working group for SEL, and is the co-author of the forthcoming book titled The Social Emotional Classroom.

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