Does being humble get us anywhere?

June 6, 2016

In a world that seems to reward those who shout the loudest, humility can feel like an outdated virtue. In fact, it’s an essential quality to cultivate as we try to get (and stay) unstuck in all areas of our lives.

At its core, humility is the absence of arrogance. We like humble people. They’re not trying to impress anyone. They’re at ease with themselves. They can take a compliment without letting it go to their head. They think inclusively. They give people the benefit of the doubt. They share things rather than showing them off. They say thanks, and they mean it.

Humble people aren’t attached to being the best. They know what they’re good at, and what they aren’t so good at. Humility, then, is actually the truest form of confidence. And it’s liberating.

Humility doesn’t always come naturally. But it’s a skill we can practice and learn. Often, being humble simply means taking the time to think twice. For example, look at the difference humility makes in these situations:

Someone does better at something that you’ve always been good at.

  • Instant reaction: You feel threatened and defensive. I need to one-up them. I don’t want to look like a loser.
  • Humble rethink: You see the chance to learn to do it better. It’s not like it’s a contest. Maybe I can ask this person for some pointers.

Someone tells you how to do something you already know how to do.

  • Instant reaction: You feel indignant and insulted. Does she think I’m an idiot? Why would she assume I don’t know what I’m doing?
  • Humble rethink: You put yourself in their shoes. There’s no reason for her to assume I already know this. She’s only trying to be helpful.

You’re enjoying a big success.

  • Instant reaction: You feel proud. Woo-hoo! I deserve this.
  • Humble rethink: You still feel proud — and, you take time to express gratitude. I feel really grateful to the people who helped make this happen. I’ll be sure to let them know.

In the week ahead, watch for an opportunity to practice being more humble. Maybe it’ll happen during a meeting at work, or in a conversation with a family member or friend. Be on the lookout, and let us know how it goes.

Other ways to refresh your mindset:

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