In the earliest days of MakeLifeClick, we spent time exploring the 7 values that underpin the community. These are:

  1. Trust
  2. Humility
  3. Honesty
  4. Kindness
  5. Appreciation
  6. Courage
  7. Curiosity

We explored each of these in season 1 of the podcast – you can listen to the final wrap-up episode here.

Alongside the podcast, members of the community wrote some heartfelt posts, expressing what these words/values mean to them.

Over the next while, we’ll be sharing some of these. Here’s a piece by Mary, exploring Humility…


Picture of a person's reflection

When you see the word humble in the media it is rarely a compliment. It might be an association with poverty – “they came from humble beginnings,” or perhaps a description of a person who has admitted they have got something wrong, made a mistake.

American politics has showcased this a lot recently, regularly alluding to the idea that, “nice guys finish last”. How, it is suggested, will a humble person ever amount to anything, if they don’t put themselves first? It is as if, in a culture steeped in self-promotion, that to openly care about others is to appear weak. Some even go so far as to suggest that not always putting yourself first is giving up, that humble people are taking the easy route, not brave enough to fight the good fight.

And yet…

In my experience practising humility is hard, really hard.

It is far removed from the doormat character we might see portrayed in a film and it definitely is not the easy option, it takes energy and determination. So why bother?

More than anything humility requires a deep sense of self awareness. It means knowing our own weaknesses, our own triggers, and also our own skills and capabilities. It is not about doing down our own value, far from it, but about recognising that others have as much value, and, the really tough one, that we are not always right, no matter how much we might want to be.

It means recognising that learning is lifelong and that while we may know some things, even many things, the world is far too large and complex a place for us ever to know them all. It is being comfortable with that and having the self-confidence to hold on to our views, even our firmly held beliefs, lightly – prepared to alter them as we learn more.

It can be tough to admit we have got something wrong and I’ve yet to meet the person who tells me they enjoy apologising to others. Yet humility sometimes requires it, with the reward being not just the wisdom gained from learning new things but often a deepening sense of trust between ourselves and those we apologise to. The willingness to listen, put aside egos, acknowledge errors, and understand a different point of view has been key in resolving many conflicts around the world.

“The first thing is to be honest with yourself.

You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself.

Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, and humility.”

~ Nelson Mandela

Admittedly we can’t all be global leaders, nor would I want to be, but we do all have a sphere of influence, at home, at work and at play. If we stop and think about those friendships that matter most to us we realise that they are with people who make us feel really listened to, who spend time getting beyond the superficial and remember what we have told them.

Listening is key to humility. Accepting that everyone has something to teach us, even those who are vastly different to us, or those we find hard work, leads to a far greater understanding of the world and its people. Gaining new perspectives, while sometimes painful to do, makes us wiser, more empathetic, better partners, parents, and friends.

Learning from others also makes us more able to find creative solutions to problems, so much so that a couple of years ago Edward D. Hess, a renowned expert on high performing humans, published a book entitled ‘Humility Is The New Smart’. In it he explains how as tech becomes ever more capable, humans need to excel at critical, creative & innovative thinking, all skills that machines cannot do well. He considers being humble to be excelling at the best of what makes us human; not self-effacement but having an accurate self-appraisal, committed to listening, learning, and remaining open to new ideas.

Maintaining an attitude of humility can be especially hard in some work environments, particularly with the kind of colleagues who view every situation as having losers and winners. I know from experience that the temptation in those scenarios can be to go into meetings with a pre-conceived outcome in mind and refuse to deviate from it. The wiser thing, the humble thing, is to go in with a willingness to listen and to value learning and making the best decision far more than a notion of winning. That can be stressful, but happily scientific studies have found that humble people handle stressful situations better than others, which combined with humility increasing levels of gratitude means humble people have been proved to be both happier and healthier in the long term.

We live in a constantly changing world that can present a wide array of challenges, particularly this year. Sooner or later all of us fail at something, or lose something important to us, such as a job or relationship. If our self-worth is tied to this then our self-esteem will plummet when we lose them.  Humility helps to protect us from this, by reminding us when we fail that there isn’t anything wrong with us, we are simply human like everyone else.

Choosing to adopt a humble approach to life frees us from all consuming self-focus. It makes us a better friend, a better colleague and ironically often far more likely to bring about significant change as a result. As the African proverb says…

“If you want to go far, go together.”

Humility is an attitude, a daily choice, and something I’m still working on. I don’t always get it right, but my life is much the richer for it, and for that I am very thankful.

~ By Mary

About the Author: Team MLC

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