‘’Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less” – C.S.Lewis
I met a senior leader a few weeks back for a business assignment, where I was presenting my expertise and areas of consulting. He was listening to me intently, nodding his head and asking questions. He was a well-known expert in his area of work and a highly successful professional. As we progressed into the conversation, I noticed a deep curiosity in his questioning and listening, which was absolutely devoid of our status or position. I felt a sense of freedom and relaxation, which is not very usual.
Humility is not difficult, especially when it has to be demonstrated occasionally. But ‘persistent humility’, as I would call it, is extremely rare. I believe it emerges from a mix of egolessness, curiosity and a deep sense of well-being (‘everything is perfect the way it is’).
I have seen many conversations where people start off with a show of humility, but when faced with an egoistic person, descend into either showing off themselves or subtly castigating the other person.
A display of ‘persistent humility’ can also be quite unnerving for many people, as they start imagining a ‘hidden agenda’ or mysterious reason for this refusal to show off.
Interestingly, it is also accompanied by a sense of peace and lack of fear.
Humility is seen as a weakness by many people in the corporate world. In a dog eat dog environment, being humble might sideline us. Yet, being humble can help us to truly focus on our work.
I have seen leaders, who over a period of time realized the insignificance of what they had done, or were doing and started demonstrating humility.
So what is Humility? I believe it is the ability to think less about oneself and immerse oneself in the work at hand. A deep acceptance of reality and a genuine effort to contribute the maximum possible to the present moment.
So, if we do not want to wait to learn the hard way before becoming humble, what are the few pointers (or actions) to help us move into humility in our daily lives?
a. Realize that life is unpredictable and the only constant is change
We feel that bad things will not happen to us and expect the best. Which is good as long as we do not get obsessed with the desired result. Accepting life’s unpredictability is the first step to humility.
b. Accept that our perspective is not always right:
Everybody has a perspective and each ‘lens’ is unique. The other person’s perspective is not the only truth but then is not wholly false. Further, accepting and merging two or more perspectives can add new dimensions to our understanding.
c. Prosperity is fickle minded:
When we keep moving up the ladder of success and face fewer failures, many believe that prosperity is here to stay. Usually, that is the moment when destiny throws a curveball and brings us back to the ground.
Prosperity (or money) is a guest, who likes stay on if served with humility and hard work. He can walk away at any time, usually when unexpected.
d. Forgetting ourselves in our work is the key purpose of existence:
Many of us slowly realize that there are no destinations, the journey is the only endpoint and making it happy is the sole purpose of life. The journey can be happy, satisfying and fulfilling only if we forget ourselves in our work. Victories and failures are mental perspectives. What matters is our engagement in our work. This fosters a deep sense of humility and acceptance.