Posted by: Corina Paraschiv | January 6, 2009

A Lesson in Humility

I was actually surprised one day when one of my good friends told me that amongst the very exceptional people he knew, I was the only one who seeked and listened to advice from absolutely everywhere – I didn’t particularly seek ideas from exceptional people only, I went to school workshops, I learned from a workshop for students failing for insance even though I wasn’t failing at all, because they taught them good time management skills, and so on;  I sometimes looked for kids’ books before starting a research of some sort because they tend to give out all the info in a simplified, abridged format before I head out to the adults’ section, and so on. 

And it made me think — it is true, valuable ideas, thoughts and information really are all around us even though they aren’t particularly tailored for or aimed at us.   I think looking out for things like that is an act of humility; it puts us in a position of “I-don’t-know-but-I’m-ready-to-learn”, and that is a remarkable attitude.  When you have great abilities, great knowledge and great potential, it is easy to fall in the trap of arrogance.  There are however a few tricks you can keep in mind to help you be the humble, intelligent person you aspire to:

1.  If they don’t ask, don’t tell.
You know what you are worth, and pretty much everyone that should know probably knows, too.  So don’t bother trying to show everyone how competent or brilliant you are.  My mom always told me as a child that only the weak feel the need to show they are strong.  The strong ones feel and know they are strong, and so they don’t waste their time trying to convince everyone else about their big mussles — it is obvious to everyone they do have it.

2.  If people don’t see it, maybe they don’t want to see it
Next up is when you obviously do have the potential but a co-worker or someone in your class is stubbornly and deliberately trying to show you they know best.  And it’s ok, many people have that tendency.  Just don’t let it get to you — ask yourself whether this person has strong self-esteem or is depending on your judgement to feel good about themselves.   That could be part of the issue.

3.  Be Emotionally intelligent.
I have a friend who told me once that everyone has a superpower.  What’s yours?  What are the superpowers of people you work or study with?  What about those of your families?  I go through the day trying to pick up on people’s superpowers — because everyone has somsething special they can share and that you can learn from.  “I’m OK and I know you are too” is what you want to be thinking, rather than “I know best”.

4.  Share your Gift
Similarly, if I can learn from others, others can also learn from me.  And it’s not about preaching or anythign like that; just live your life at your very best everyday – you migt inspire or touch some people.  You can try volunteering your time with children, or being a mentor for one, or spending some time doing something you do exceptionally well to benefit your community.  Think of the rainbow fish; people stopped being jaleous of him when he shared his scales.  Plus you as a person will feel much happier in my experience because sharing means relating to people and being part of something bigger than yourself.  There is a great joy in giving.

5.  Challenge Status-Quo
Your quest for being fulfilled and at your best will not end before you die.  So instead of focusing on everything you have done, think, too, of the new challenges you can tacke and of the new skills you can develop.  Don’t compare yourself to others, compare yourself to your potential and focus on how to reach it.

6.  Accept everyone has their inherent logic
Don’t assume that if you are happy, successful, etc. you have found the ultimate way.  Understand people are different – they have diffrent abilities, needs, etc.  And they each have a logic that makes sense to them and in their context.  Seek to understand every person from their own reference frame, not from your own point of view.

7.  Focus on Learning rather than Defending your ideas
Listen to other ideas as a source of possibly seeing what you’ve missed.  Focus on asking questions, on trying to understand the other, rather than on turning things into a debate automatically.


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